What Dreams May Come

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”  -Tom Wolfe.

Most of the time, we can control  what drops into our subconscious at night, no  more than we can control the weather.  It has become apparent therefore, that my brain still lives in New York City while my body is about a 9 hour and 27 minute drive away. Because, on most nights you can find me and Mr Sandman still haunting the subway. While mentally I’m more than capable of masquerading through Manhattan, physically I have some serious work to do. It’s funny that even after a massive brain attack, such an assault cannot erase things like…. 1 Why you never get on an empty subway car (something awful is likely inside) 2  Navigating the  subway is not that scary( although it’s helpful to know the difference between express and local trains!) 3 It’s likely that locals will never agree on which  Borough is the best. And finally #4.  New York City may very well be the last bastion  for the American Dream. Why?  Quite simply because the other “kids,” I met there were chasing such impossible dreams as  getting my body to  transport itself into the middle of Times Square. However, you know what? They did so without giving one iota of attention, to the naysayers who said their dreams were  impossible. Oddly enough after the stroke happened to me I have more in common with them then I did before!  Even though  prior to the stroke I had been sharing the same physical space,  I wasn’t in the same headspace. According to the dictionary, the definition of headspace is the unfilled space left above the contents in a sealed container. I think it’s rather important to fill that space with things that lift you up rather then bring you down. If living in the city of dreams(and often hard knocks) taught me anything it’s that you are far  more capable then you think! Attitude definitely dictates your altitude. So, don’t let the words  or ill intentions of other people, crash your plane into the ground.   

Shoot for the moon!  
-XO-  BLEU

Blur

“Whether you think you can or you can’t you are  right.” -Henry Ford.

Perhaps when you wake up from a coma, not only are you seeing the world with new  eyes but the world is seeing you with new eyes as well. After a traumatic brain injury,  once the fog of confusion lifts, you  eventually realize there is no use in looking back only forward. Because, you are no longer who you used to be, so rather than  chase the same dreams ,you invent new ones.  In many ways reality becomes “unreality,” as you keep hoping it’s all just a bad dream that you’ll wake from. The problem arises when it   becomes apparent, that in fact this is your reality. Daydreams, imagination, and fleeting entertainment become your modes of escape. However, when those things end you have to drop back into waking life and  take action. Just make sure you’re moving in the right direction, and not just treading water spinning memories of what you believe your life was supposed to be like at this point in time. Sometimes, in fact, most of the time. Our life story is not linear.  Indeed, after the stroke  occurred mine became somewhat circular. I had to relearn walking, talking, eating, and I’ve fallen short  in my attempts like a toddler often does. But you know what? Now rather then such things  being a setback it’s more of an annoyance! It’s annoying being reminded that there’s still so much work to do. Not only on  myself  but in seemingly every arena outside of  myself  as well. At times it’s like putting back  together a shattered mirror. You just need to get everything to fit correctly, so you can see yourself  again. Until that point there are small pieces of you everywhere that are incomplete. So,  all you can do is carefully collect each piece, inspect it, repair the damage, and then place it back into it’s correct position. In stroke recovery and traumatic brain injury recovery this takes years. However, no day spent on self improvement is wasted. A day becomes wasted if we give up on trying to move  forward. Therefore, never let your spirit become idle my friends.

Stir things up!

Discovery

“Life is too short to be at war with yourself.” -unknown.

After  a traumatic brain injury  our souls tend to get lost in the fog. Actually,  after any serious trauma, every person  needs some time to get a strong foothold on reality once more. However, with strokes and injuries of similar circumstances there can be personality changes.   I remember my Mother saying “You’re still there!” As I giggled with joy at the fact, She had recognized in me  a character trait that had been unchanged by my stroke.  Much like Robin Williams is not recognized by the lost boys as Peter Pan; I had to let my personality shine through so I could be recognized. I was so afraid that besides stealing my life circumstances the stroke had taken my personality too. I spent a great deal of time questioning the what-ifs, buts, and making excuses. Such self doubt led to me over explaining my intentions and questioning myself.  Resulting in a further retreat of my personality. It was when I finally let go, and receded into peace while my circumstances washed around me like water; that I was able to find my way   through the fog of such a traumatic event. If only I had learned to let go sooner, how much further along would I be now? I was clinging to life as it  was, rather then how it IS. Accepting your circumstances doesn’t mean you’re going to settle for being stuck, quite the opposite! Instead, through acceptance comes peace and THEN the real battle can begin.  We all have a variety of battles to fight on our individual paths through life. However, that fight becomes much more difficult when your own ego gets in the way. When you finally embrace the path you’re walking, it is then you can choose which way to go. The fun part comes, when you realize that can be ANY direction.  As a survivor of  a trauma you have been given the tools to write a new book.  I only advise to aim for that book to be on the best sellers list.

The Formula.

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” – Gerard Way.

I’ve been asked on many occasions, how I’ve dealt with a landslide of changes and perceived losses  yet continued to move forward. That’s just it, perception. All of the things that were uncontrollable for me, could happen to anyone, but then again most people don’t have massive strokes in their twenties. As rare as such an event is(thankfully) it’s just as rare to survive it. Besides the initial question of how such a thing could happen, the question became what to do when it does. I have been  attempting to answer that question for the last five years. At first  it was just a matter of survival. While I don’t recall my time in  intensive care my family certainly does. They and the medical team were fighting for me at the time. However, now that I’m able it’s my turn to enlist in the battle for myself. As I have steadily made physical and cognitive gains, many people are impressed. However, what they don’t fully realize is that anyone can achieve what I have, including them. There’s a formula.  Once I became more fully  aware of what had happened to me I became deeply depressed. Except at some point I knew that I couldn’t let that depression be a road block in my recovery. After all, I was in the fight of my life! When push came to shove, I wasn’t going to let the stroke continue to push me down. Certainly it did while I was still in the hospital. But now,  I felt an obligation to getting my life back.  It’s funny that after you’ve been railroaded, a great determination is built up in you as a result. I simply used  this determination to kick some proverbial butt. Along the way I have set some lofty goals for myself. Even if I fail, I will have failed  above other people because I’ve set the bar so high. In the last 1,825 days following my stroke I’ve met and had the pleasure of working with some of the most amazing individuals. Besides, the stroke really showing me what I’m made of, it has unveiled a different side of life. The side we often don’t notice and the places we oft ignore. It is in these places I have found beauty, love, friendship, and thankfulness. A lot of the formula boils down to gratitude and acceptance.

 

Practice gratefulness!

 

 

Happy Holidaze.

Love is a strange emotion. It is ever evolving. Lust is transient. With time, one realizes that love and togetherness are two different things. Very few people are lucky enough to experience the two emotions simultaneously.” -Randeep Hooda.

Happy Holidaze everyone! I hope today’s blog finds you swell. If there’s one thing people enjoy during this bustling time of year, it’s unity and community. However, my inquiry is, why make this an annual event? While the Christmas season is important, aren’t the people you love special 365 days of the year? One of the important lessons that nearly dying has brought me is that time is of the essence. While I was in ICU in a  coma, unbeknownst to anyone my Father had been listening to a voicemail of me singing him happy birthday, and when He thought He had accidentally deleted it He sobbed, thinking He might never hear my voice again. That story was so touching, I am now utterly joyful to sing him happy birthday every year that I’m with him. That little tidbit only reveals the kind of heart that our immediate loved ones have toward us.

You can easily fill up your days with tasks, but you cannot create more days on the calendar. Therefore, besides  the things you have to do to  live in this wild world, try to fill your free time with things that are meaningful. Because our existence on this plane should  help us to grow as people. You can’t do that with your face stuck in social media! I advise some face time  away from the  screen with people that help you grow. As difficult as some people are to deal with, deal with them because the challenge they present actually helps you.   Understand that other people are like water that rushes around you and shapes who you are. This happens in nature as well when rocks are reshaped by the river running around them.  The different currents result in varying shapes, just like  different people you encounter shape you. Lest we forget, the water never breaks the rocks down, only reshapes them. If you’re  running into people that tear you down rather then build you up,  jump into another river!  After all, life is  too short to spend it with toxic people. If  I’m going to go out, I’d rather go out with a bang then be  a slowly smoldering heap of dark smoke. When you spend time with healthy individuals, they will exert light  into  your life  and thus you’ll go out with a bang rather then a dull thud.

Cheers!

-XO Leah-

 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

You’ve always had the power dear, you just had to learn it for yourself,”  -Glinda the Good Witch.

This post will not be as long as my journey after stroke. Much like Dorothy’s house was picked up in a storm, my life too was hauled off. Except, it was by a stroke rather then a fictional tornado. 

In surviving the fall from the sky, I seemingly eradicated the grim reaper much like Dorothy’s witch. In my travels since emerging from the wreckage, I too have been periodically tormented by fear. While fear is not easily destroyed by a bucket of water as in the film, it  can be destroyed by dousing it with its opposite.  The substance of love, hope, kindness, and healthy support.  You  must ignore that nagging voice in your head that insists everything will go wrong, you won’t be able to achieve your goal, and life is just happening to you. That’s a funny thing because you have the ability to exercise your will and build the road that you desire. The fear you encounter while working  away on your goal can be diffused by declaring the opposite of what it’s trying to  convince you of.  In fact as you follow this path treating yourself with love, and receiving  it from others, you’ll stumble across some breakthroughs. Not only will you experience breakthroughs, but you will also meet people to help you  of an excellent caliber. People who possess hearts full of love, have infinite patience, and a true desire to help. You won’t meet these people while following the path of least resistance. As it turns out after surviving the equivalent of a thousand foot fall from the sky, you can learn to walk again(literally) just as a bird with a mended broken wing will eventually spread its wings and fly. Life doesn’t happen while you stand back and watch but when you press into it, even if it pushes back. Most of my success has happened when I dove into something head first. If you’re afraid then do it afraid! You’ll be surprised by just how much your capable of. However, if you let the fear lay a brick wall in front of you rather then a road you’ll never know. So as the song goes…. “Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road, follow, follow, follow, follow…. And I’m pretty sure there are no lyrics  concerning  coming to a halt.

Cheers!

bleu

The Second Life is a Charm.

swing

“First, I have to thank God for giving me the gift that he did as well as a second chance for a better life.” –unknown.

I’m only 33, but I’ve lived two lifetimes. Currently I’m on my second. In the first one I was a fiercely independent twenty something living in New York City, keeping busy, and working in a promising professional career.  It was the beginning of my “adult,” existence. Living in a tiny room  that I rented in a nice apartment in the best city in the world. I had a 401k  under my belt, and nothing but big plans for the future in front of me. But of course, as they say  “ Life happens while your busy making other plans.”   And in my case, that saying proved to be true. Because I unexpectedly had a massive stroke and all those big plans suddenly fell through. In my second life I’m now a fiercely independent thirty something. Living in a pretty house in the woods, trying to figure things out, and life this time around has a lot less noise in it. However, despite my first go around I’m still making plans but they’re in a different vein. Rather then building on top of what I already have, I’m in the process of rebuilding.  I used to despair over the loss of my former plans, but slowly I have begun to realize that in the new plans I can do anything. It’s similar to the joy I felt in moving to a new neighborhood where nobody knew who I was. I could go to the grocery store under dressed and not run into a soul I knew. The freedom of that was rather nice. Except, this time around that new neighborhood is practically the whole world. After the stroke I was thrust into a new plane of existence. I had a past but it did not define me, in fact I could choose to omit the parts of my past I did not favor. After the stroke it was as if most people were meeting me for the first time. There were no expectations or preconceived notions. I could tell them what I wanted and in being able to choose the past I liked, that eventually also meant I could choose whatever future I wanted as well. The massive stroke cleared the game board of my life so I was now free to set it up again how I liked. This by no means has been easy. In fact it’s the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I am just now beginning to see the freedom in what I previously thought was a death sentence. My future is still bright, and this one single event does not  hold true for every area of my life. Because, although life is short there is still plenty you can do with it. Therefore, aim to live yours to the fullest.

Life is a gift, savor the unwrapping of it!
bleu

Make Gratitude your Attitude.

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Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie.

As seen through the lens of a near death experience, you have no real problems. Paralysis? That’s a problem. Being stuck in a wheelchair for awhile(permanently for some) that’s a problem. These are just a couple of the problems I had after the stroke, and although the wheelchair is a thing of the past(see here) I still have many mountains to climb as I move forward in my recovery. Most of these mountains are things people take for granted. Like, gainful employment, driving, and generally living an independent lifestyle. If anything, that was my modus operandi before the stroke. I’ve always been and am fiercely independent and some would say stubborn. However, like everyone else I took my independent existence for granted. Imagine losing your lucrative job, nice NY apartment, a significant other, and waking up incapacitated in a hospital in one fell swoop? That is the reality(or more like un-reality) I woke up to in 2013.Many miles away from where I had built my home. As I grappled with my daunting circumstance, I often asked my distraught Parents to take me back to my apartment in NewYork. However, that was not to happen because I didn’t yet fully comprehend what  had happened to me. Fast forward to 2018… Today, I stand here having completed years of therapy and hitting some pretty big milestones. After climbing all those mountains, taking things for granted has generally been beaten out of me. In light of what could(and what did) happen, I have no problems. I had money in the bank, great health, and love before the stroke.Yet I still have them after! Although, maybe not in the capacity that I would like. Regardless I have them. Thus, I am working away  like a little construction worker rebuilding my life  after pouring the foundation of regaining basic skills. I have had to get back to eating solid foods, re-learn how to walk and work on social skills in order to function normally again. Although, it’s still a work in progress, aren’t we all? I figure, as long as you’re still alive you have a reason and a purpose to be here. Therefore march on brave soldiers!

bleu

Transient.

Mandala-001

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” 

―  John Lennon.

Do you know what a mandala is? It’s an intricate design made with colored sand created by Tibetan  Monks. Each one holds a different meaning and at the end of a certain period of time, the monk who created it(taking hours and days) destroys it. Why?(here)What is the lesson we can draw from it?  It is one of the impermanence of our existence. Although short, it’s important to make something as beautiful as you can before it is wiped away. This speaks to the temporal state of life and is wholly encouraging. Because, since things are generally temporary, this also means there is no way you can be stuck in bad circumstances forever. In fact,  it is assuring to know that there is an end. One can draw an admirable parallel, that despite these monks knowing their creation will eventually be destroyed, they painstakingly create it anyway. As easy as it would be to make one in a hurry or be lazy about it, they choose to break their backs(and maybe cross their eyes) over the intricate design of a mandala. These humans don’t simply give up or  become laissez-faire about it but rather, the opposite! No endeavor is neglected in spite of its impermanence. In the midst of struggle this creation and symbolic destruction of a mandala brings hope. It points to focusing on the positive, creating  something beautiful while you can, and the eventual  end to  a bad situation. In that vein I’d encourage you to “ Make something beautiful while your here, because it’s temporary.”  Use the  bright colors  that dwell in your  heart   to make a beautiful pattern  with your life.

don’t forget to add color!
bleu
 
 

The invisible Equator.

equator-photo

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”

-Frank A Clark.

There is a line that runs across the globe of my life, and you can’t see it. It’s  the day of October 12th, 2012, a space in time that has forever separated  my life into a “before, and after.” Well, the before and after the massive stroke that is. Everything gets compared to and measured against this timeline continually. The closer I can get to the before measurement, the better. I used to think that my life was the most valid on the before side of this line. However, as things improve the after side isn’t looking as doomed. If you’re a psychology buff as I am, you will know that we often misremember our past as well as our futures. This has been proven by numerous studies. In my search to nullify my own psychic pain from all the struggles of recovery I have discovered this fact, as well as the fact  that 85% of our worries do not come true (read here).Combined, these two mental objects set in the landscape of time have helped  the “after,” side of the equator  become as sunny as South Florida. The blindfold blocking your mind from this view is that we often believe our futures will be like our present. We can let bad circumstances settle upon us and bury us, or choose to be enlightened  by them like a flint being struck against stone. When push comes to shove, those bad circumstances have to go!  Your life is as valid as you choose to view it. Surprisingly, all those traits that doctors worried the stroke would take away have survived. I’ve just had to work very hard to uncover them. The point being, that no matter what the tragedy, few things can take away your spirit.  My personality has not been lost(or re-shaped) by the seven blood clots that threatened to make me brain dead. Rather, the human spirit proves to persevere.

fight on!
bleu
 

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