Who am I now?

I’ve watched the series finale of “Bones” more than once over the past week. It was a well-done end to a long running show, but that isn’t what made me want to watch it over and over again. The main character, Temperance Brennan (Bones) suffers a head injury during the first few minutes of the episode and what follows echoes so much of the last year and a half of my life that the words she spoke made me cry. Tears of understanding, tears of empathy, but most of all tears because the writers of the show were able to put into words what I’ve struggle with for so long – losing an ability that makes you you and the fear that it may never return.

I’ve had many times in my life when I’ve felt lost, like I wasn’t sure who I was or where I wanted to go next. Times when I struggled to find purpose and belonging, to feel as if the fight forward was too hard of a struggle. I’ve gone through pain, loss and utter despair. But until last year, I never realized what it is like to lose the person you were.

I won’t go into details, but I was in a car accident and hit my head. What went from people (doctors included) telling me that things should go back to normal within a couple weeks has now turned into more than a year and the phrase, “back to normal” being replaced by, “different than before, but still functional”. The fear that I will not return to myself is a real one.

I loved cooking. I loved coming up with new recipes and sharing them with you all. I loved being able to look through cookbooks and magazines to get ideas and knowing how to pare them down to single size servings. I miss being able to have two pots of the stove at once – stirring this while browning that. I miss being able to follow a recipe without having to check off steps. I miss knowing that what I am about to eat won’t taste disgusting because I added something twice. I miss cooking making sense.

Bones feels this same loss. While working with her team she says, 

“I remember the day each of you was hired. I remember the name of every victim I’ve ever identified. I remember just how meaningful this work can be. But I don’t remember how to do it.”

That’s how I feel about cooking these days – I can remember cooking a recipe, I can even tell you the steps I need to follow, but I when I go to actually do it. It is a weird feeling to know that you are able to do something but just can’t figure out how to do it. There was a day when I actually boiled broccoli dry (and burned it badly) because I was struggling to thicken a really simple pan sauce. It was something that I never would have given a second thought to before – it all just came naturally – but now I was stuck with the smell of burning broccoli and a really runny sauce.

It’s hard to feel like you have lost who you are. My crazy good memory is gone. I can no longer close my eyes and recount almost word for word a conversation from years ago – instead I struggle to repeat a sentence back to you or remember a list of 5 words. Along with losing my cooking skills, I’ve lost so much more of what made me me. This is another thing that Bones struggles with in this episode, and she puts it very well when she says,

“So much of my life, my intelligence is all I’ve had. I may not have had a family, but I understood things that nobody else could. My brain, the way I think, is who I am. Who I was… I mean, if the thing that made me me is gone, who am I?”

I still struggle with that question, “who am I?” and trying to figure out how to take that person back into the world. How I defined myself is no longer the person that I am and I’m not sure how long it will take to figure out the person that I am now. I hold out hope that I will regain some (I understand it won’t be all) of what I’ve lost and I hope that one day I can return to cooking great meals and sharing them with people, but for now, I find grace in knowing that even if I can’t be who I was, I can be who I am now.

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