I miss the person I used to be.
There I said it.
You might know the person I used to be, but I remember her. I might appear to be totally thriving, have everything and be living an amazing life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty darn great most of the time. But, I’m not the same as I was and at times I mourn that ‘energiser bunny’ girl I used to be.
I know it’s hard to separate my injuries from the natural process of ageing and mostly I love the stability and maturity that comes from being almost 40, no more do I stress for days over little upsets and I make decisions with so much less emotion and haste than I used to. It’s also nice to have the experience of your own life and your equally mature compatriots to inform your life. Other than the extra kilograms and sagging, getting older is great.
But, for me, age is not the only reason why I’ve changed of course, having had a brain injury at age 30 I know I’m not the person I was in my 20s at all.
The times I really feel this are at conferences, on fast-paced holidays and when there’s a big deadline. Last week we had our Hillsong Conference at the o2 in London and I was part of a team of volunteers serving 20 000 people. It was an amazing time, not least of all because Europe is in a mess and needs unity, I think even an atheist could see the benefit of a gathering of united people from 70 different countries somehow. It was an inspiring time, way more inspiring than I actually expected and I was in awe of how many talented, committed passionate people I rub shoulders with in my life.
But, the thing is, conferences and such really take it out of me.
I love them. I love the teaching. I love serving people who really need the few days of encouragement. I love learning. I love having my world expanded.
Case in point, in my 20s I hardly had a relaxing break when I was living in NZ as I normally used my holiday leave to go and attend various conferences. Possibly because I was single and had no one to go on holiday with, but mostly because I loved them.
Now though, I find it hard.
I woke on the second day with a migrainey headache and my whole body in pain and I only got worse as the conference progressed. Nothing I took worked to get rid of it and I woke on the third morning unable to be of help to anyone at all. I drugged myself up, almost puked on the way in on the tube and tried to hide in a dark spot to at least get a bit of the teaching. I’m glad I did and I’m glad for understanding people who rescued me when I was in tears about to go home and found a spot for me. But, I was embarrassed, I hate letting people see me in that state for some reason. I know I shouldn’t, it probably helps people understand what I periodically go through and comprehend that even though I ‘look fine’ (that old chestnut) that I can be feeling anything but on the inside.
I know this is pride talking, but it’s still hard. People can say the wrong thing, with the best of intentions. Learning how to let those wrongly timed comments go is one of the challenges of having a disability or illness isn’t it? I know I must, that it’ll eat me up and make me bitter if I don’t and I try to gently educate anyone who’ll listen or read my Facebook posts instead. I think I was muttering about the spoon theory (google it) incoherently on Friday to a poor girl who was helping me, she probably thought I was high. 🙂 I especially try to do express what it’s like to have a disability for those of you who aren’t able to express how you feel as well or to as wide an audience.
My big battle over the conference though, was battling the feelings of inadequacy surrounded by so much talent and achievement. I had a little moment in the innovative Spheres segment, when Tedx style, a bunch of incredible people from our church world got up and talked about their careers and how they see they serve God in them. There was a dancer in the West End, a guy who survived 9/11, the guy who’s designing watches to provide education for children in South Africa. Even watching good friends rock the back stage logistics with a smile on their face was inspiring (though I did let guilt I wasn’t doing it myself set in) I loved every minute of it, but boy did I have to still that little voice inside of me telling me that I could never do anything so world-changing, that I am too old, too disabled, too whatever. I couldn’t even serve properly in my little way, after all. I’m proud to say I did manage to shut that voice up and I only let it affect me long enough to jot down a note to remind me to blog about this. But I’m not saying it’s an easy voice to quiet and it’s harder when you hear that voice echoed by people around you too at times.
I went into conference with big questions for God about my career, my future and what I’m meant to be doing with my life. I can confidently say I came away with some answers, but this required a little bit of faith and a lot of being open to the teaching and what He was speaking to me. And some big dreaming, which I’m challenging myself to do now conference is over.
What I know is that I’m not the girl I used to be, but God is going to use the girl I am now. He’s breathing into me some big dreams and ideas and I have no idea how some of it will work, but I’m going to trust Him that He has it sorted. I may not be able to do some of what I used to be able to do, but I’m going to focus on what I can do. And really, that’s all He asks of me isn’t it?