“There are no pleasures in a fight but some of my fights have been a pleasure to win.” -Muhammad Ali.
Sometimes, the greatest pleasure of your day is a cup of coffee in the morning.In coping with life after a near death I havein no way minimized my expectations or goals, but I have simplified what brings me happiness or fulfillment. When your life gets put on pause(or seemingly rewind) during a recovery from something like a stroke, jumping in the car to go and do what you please becomes impossible ornon optional. Often, I amstuck at home, in therapy,on errands, or in a doctors waiting room. When one’s freedom is seriously compromised, you begin to find it in other places. Many of these places werejust passing moments before the stroke, but now they have taken center stage. The little things became my main thoroughfare.For example, the promise of a good breakfast was all that could rouse me from my bed on many days.An eventpreviously so inconsequential, was now a reason to get up. I began to structure my life around thegoal of getting better, rather than work.My new career wasto be a reconstructive surgeon on the body ofmy own life. Suddenly, Ilegitimatelyyearned to fight the hectic city traffic again!A two hour commute home after an eight hour day, was a dream compared to what I faced during the early days of recovery. How little we realize what a gift our lives are when everything is going to plan. In order to feel just as productive and accomplished as I was previous to the stroke, I shifted the types of things I wanted to accomplish. Now completing a list of chores became fulfilling. Not to mention it’sbeneficial therapy! Folding hordes of towels with one arm works on a myriad of physical skills. Many that will naturally benefit me, all in the process of doing a mundane chore. Never underestimate the value ofcrossing things off a to-do list, no matter how simple it seems. Making up daily work for myself has saved my sanity, contributed to further recovery, and given me a sense of accomplishment. Once I realized that many mundane taskspropelled progress,they became par for the course. We don’t always need to do show stopping things in order to feel good or create value.It is what happens behind the scenes that creates a stellar show. The world normally sees the finished product without witnessing the intense work that it took to get there. It is for this reasonyou shouldn’t quitputting in the work.Because the work you put in will amount to what kind of life you experience.
“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”- Hans Christian Andersen.
Every time I shed a little responsibility I imagine a pair of scissors cutting the string to a tiny man that’s holding me down. This makes the shedding of unnecessary belongings and responsibilities a lot more fun. My inherited beta fish died, not much sadness there… *snip snip*! One less thing to do. After nearly losing everything(my life included) material possessions suddenly became unimportant. I now view the accumulation of things as a burden. If I’m going to buy something new I get rid of a few old things to counter balance the amount of things I own, simply because you can become a slave to inanimate objects fairly easy. Not to mention, I evaluate each new purchase with one question, “how will this add value to my life?” If it doesn’t, I don’t buy it. Since life is fleeting I’d rather fill it with experiences over things that I have to pay for and then subsequently take care of. Give me a tasty gourmet meal over another tee shirt, an outing to the movies over some more expensive makeup, or a Broadway show instead of a birthday party and gifts. Why? Because lovely memories are a much greater gift then more material belongings. The object of the “game,” is to cut away as many strings as possible.
Granted, this doesn’t mean you should shirk all reasonable responsibilities, just that due to consumerism we add so many more unnecessary ones. In an already over burdened existence I find relief in cutting the strings. I believe you will too, so considerminimalismand find freedom! Get out your scissors,
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him.” positively. -Bob Marley.
Whether you’re considered an artist or not, we all create something. What ever that something is, be it cooking, painting, playing an instrument, taking care of a loved one, or simply doing your menial job well, all of it matters.Ensure the legacy you leave is one of love,hard work, and one that leaves an indelible mark onthose aroundyou. Even the most simple tasks done well cangive a sense of pride. Since I have not been able to work in my busy fast pacedcareer since the stroke, I’ve learned to channel that energy elsewhere.Now I put much more care and effort into everyday tasks. None of which are recognized on a stage, by the public ,or sometimes even my own family. However, when I know I’ve done somethingto the best of my ability or taken extra care, I’m satisfied. Because, whether it’s folding towels, washing dishes, or organizing my desk, I aim to leave a trail of excellence, and that’s how I’ll be remembered. No job is too small,ortoo big.When you start by tackling the “small things,” with ease, the big thingsget a whole loteasier. At one point I struggled to even dress myself, it was utterly exhausting! Afterwards I felt as if I’d just had a work out and be angry at the fact it took so much more effort then it did prior to the stroke.As I lay huffing and puffing on my bed, my Mother assured me with a laugh“It’ll get easier.” And you know what?One sock at a time it did. Now it takes me no more effort then it did before to get dressed. Atone point I balked at therapists who assured me doing the dishes would pay off. Even though I once thought all these menial things made no difference, I was wrong. By starting with washing one dish, putting on one incredibly tight pressure sock(with one arm), foldingthat little washcloth, and organizing a drawer… Those things have now become getting fully dressed with ease, doing full loads of laundry, ALL the dirty dishes in the sink, and organizing an entire office. Since I have discovered this secret of starting small,I’m continually up to something. After all,every Neil Armstrong has had to start training down on earth before they cantake their first steps on the moon.
“Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach.
As with every new year we get a clean hopeful slate on which to scribble our aspirations on. Many resolutions are made, but notoriously not kept. They begin with a vigor only to be abandonedhalf way or later on. Why? Do we have short attention spans, lose focus, get tired easily, or just make goals up for fun?It’s likely a small amount of all of those but mainly what we choose to focus on. Are we keeping our eye continually on the prize and remaining positive or letting fear and doubt creep in on us? Many times in the pursuit of happiness we need to build adefense wall up against fear and doubt. This New Year began with me down in the trenches and feeling hopelessly sad. However, as thenew days of January began to pour in, I shifted my focus and the gloom lifted. I had to consciously choose to look at the bright side of the coming year. Even in the little things like a great upcoming film, phone upgrade(I love new gadgets), or paying down my debts. Those are all good things to look forward to and helped nudge that gloom on it’s way right out of the door. Today, I am hopeful about the future because I’m only seeing the good things. I have eliminated watchingreading or listeningto negative content. Cutting out as much negative(or dark) noise from your reality is crucial. Just like advertising can subconsciously and subtly have an effect on you, so can the negative influences in the world around us. Therefore, keep it light! You may have to cut out a show or certain music, but the resulting clearing of air and your mind is well worth it. The effects of being choosey about what you let in arehuge. Don’t accept those negative things(or thoughts) through the gates of your mind. Be a vigilante! Stop those thoughts from entering before they even begin. Better yet, negate those negative thoughts and give them a dose of their own medicine. When you hear a voice that whispers things like “Your never going to get there.” or “ It’s not going to happen.” and “Why even bother?” Declare out loud the opposite of those statements. After all, even Michelangelo’s masterpiece the David; was formed by diligently chipping away at a massive block of marble. Not to mention, marble is one of the hardest rocks out there. Dare I say it’s difficult just as your circumstances or goals may be. Except, Michelangelo persevered and look what He accomplished? A timeless and breath taking masterpiece! In the same way make your life a David.
“A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”
― Theodore Roosevelt.
Every day we choose to move forwardwith hope,with determination, with perseverance, and tenacity we havecasted our vote. Because, not every election is political. Many times we need to vote for ourselves, our future, our dreams, and above all choose life over death. Throughout my recovery I have had to choose between giving up, giving in, or, giving it everythingI’ve got. When faced with insurmountable circumstancesthe struggle and the “race,” is very real. What you decide to invest in or votefor, will determine the direction in which your life goes. However, in order to win or finish the race, you cannot quit running. No matter how you feel it will do you wellto get up and face the day anyway. Whateverplace you’re in there is always a chancefor progress. The gains are not always instantaneous but with diligentwork they will soon become evident. Therefore, have heartand ignore the naysayers! My friends, you’ll blow right past them by maintaining your focus onyour main goal. Whether it be the oval office ortoattain your dream, both are achievable. Just as sure as the sky is blue I believe you can do it. More importantly, do you believe in yourself? The indomitable human spirit is capable ofamazingthings Ipromise you that. Therefore, get out of bed even though you’d like to hide in it because your resolve feels weak.The vote you cast in yourself and for your future, will give your feet a strong reason to hit the floor every morning and get moving.
“I refuse to let others walk thru my mind with their dirty feet.”
I’m a walking contradiction, a conundrum even to myself. For I have everything and nothing at the same time. At the onset of myordeal(the stroke) Imissed out on a few social engagements, a tropical vacation, a raise, my apartment in Astoria Queens was no longer, andI lost the job I had been working when the stroke occurred.Oh, and I woke up back where I started before I moved to New YorkCity and physically worse for wear. To add insult to injury my boyfriend also broke up with me. This all accumulated into a waking nightmare. As if life isn’t hard enough, my blood and brain had conspired against me. I rarely(if ever) have written about how I felt after waking up in the hospital in my home state; but its safe to say complete and utter loss while in a black abyss. Ican recallmyself loudly and randomly letting out screams of emotional pain in the rehabilitation department. However, there’s a catch because, better a delaythan a disaster. Also, it didn’t hurt that Iam surrounded by an incredible group of family and friends; who helped me through my pain, and very often their own. At this point and especially in the hospital, most would concurthat I had lost it all and nothing remains. Even as I am writing this with one hand because my left arm is currently paralyzed, I know I haven’t lost it all. In fact just as the night is darkest before the dawn in nature, so is life sometimes. Indeed the days are getting lighter as time passes. How could they not!?You see I have everything because, I’vebeen instilled with an indomitable spirit, the determination and perseverance to succeed, andthe wisdom to recognize tiny daily miracles. This all adds up to my main goal, numero uno… which is to get back on the tracks my train was derailed from.Each one of us encounter disasters in life, but with the rightglasses on we can still see the light in the darkness. There is never complete darkness in nature or in our lives. Even when we imagineit to be so, the reality is that it is not. I can honestlytell you that it does get better. Except, there is one thing…. No matterthe mountain, you must never give up!
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”- Abraham Lincoln.
In the ever present stay calm and carry on posters they forget two words, and on. Therefore, they should readStay calm and carry on and on and on! Why? Because we arecreatures of great resolve when we’re pressed against the grind stone. Everyone struggles at some point, and no matter what it it is every struggle feelsdaunting and like it is specifically yours. However, there are many people struggling with the same thing, it is your reaction to that struggle that makes it individual. Not to mention, our struggles have a funny way of making us strong where we once were weak. At times when your looking for answers in the midst of trouble you are met with silence. Yet we mustn’t forget that when you’regoing through something difficult, the teacher is quiet during the test. Even amidst the silence youare not alone. It is within these hardships that our determination and perseverance really shine. I have been asked how I am able to continue and remain so optimistic in a situation many would find bleak. The fact is, I remain optimistic because Ibelieve there is more to this world then only what I can see. There is no solid explanation forour existence, just as there is no solid explanation as to how I survived death.One can only assume that there must be a teacher out there helping me(and you) along the way. It is because of thiswe keep on going and do not faint or crumble at the first signs of trouble. Rather, we buckle down to withstand the storm and reach our goals that lie just on the other side of them.
“Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?”
― Scott Turow, Ordinary Heroes.
Stories of triumph, stories of success, and stories of dreams coming true. These are the kinds of tales that keep us alive and keep us going. For me, these stories were a life boat in the middle of a dark and stormy ocean. The stories you and I tell ourselves make a tremendous impact on how we feel and in which direction we go. The difference between a good story and a bad one canput into motion either success or failure When every avenue seemed bleak, I could always pullpositive stories from my memory library to serve as an escape. My current life circumstances(post stroke) were a sinking ship of titanic proportions. However, reaching back into my memory banks, I could pull a story from a happier time. Without these invisible books I was headed for the bottom gasping for air, another casualty of life’sbad circumstances.While these books seem imaginary, the life lines they offer are very real. These stories told me I could accomplish my dreams as I had before, that the impossible was possible(as possible is part of the word itself) and gave me a reason to get up in the morning rather then languish in bed. A good story will motivate you and give you confidence, while a bad one will take away all of your hope. Do you suppose that thelegends of our time told themselves stories of failure?I’m certain it was just the opposite! I posit they reassured themselves that their mountains could be conquered. In this way we need to do the same thing. Whatever your goal, tell yourself that you canand thenpull examples of all your past successes. The longer you ruminate on past or current(perceived or real) failures, the longer you’ll remain in unwanted circumstances. By dwelling you effectively anchor yourself in shallow waters. Therefore, use positive stories toputthe windin your sails and venture to deeper waters. It is there you’ll find more to explore and myriad possibilities. Furthermore, surround yourself with people that add to the positive stories rather than help anchor you in shallow waters.
“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” -Steve Jobs
For most of us themoments in our lives blur together like water color and form one large painting. It’s easy to forget that a lifetime is made up of a series of separate moments. It’swithin these moments that what makes life worth living can be found. It is also withinthese moments that we can forget where we are. Not recognizing this, we take a lotfor granted. One of my biggerfrustrations was the realization that like many of you, I missed my moment. Before my life was inexplicably changedI was letting everything blur together. If I had but for a moment stopped to consider my circumstances I would’ve been filled with enormous gratitude. Not unlike Scrooge on Christmas morning when He realizes He is alive and the valueof that life. It’s a wonder that more of us aren’t skipping down the street showering gifts upon everyone we come across. Because, quite simply had I realized the magnitude of blessings that I was living in, I nevercould justify being sad(or selfish)about anything. In fact quite the opposite, I’d be that annoying overlygiving and happy person all the time! How little do we know what a gift our lives are. Even now, though my circumstances are lessthan desirable I am still blessed. When in times of self pity, I often consider those less fortunate than myself. While I was in my little corner of the world being angry my left arm was paralyzed, there was a young man(I met him) wishing He had an arm to feed himself with. Because by a freak accident He hadbecome quadriplegic.Many years ago I scribbled the quote “The best thing to do with the best things in life, is to give them away,” on my bedroom wall. At the time I didn’tknow how true this was. Had I known how truly fortunate I was before the accident, I think I would’ve very well done this!After all, you can’t take all those prized possessions with you. You can always makemore money but you can’t awaysmake more time. Therefore, use your time well, and value experiences over material possessions. While I was bed ridden and trapped in ahospital, my previous life circumstances seemed like a dream. In many ways they still do. Little did I know at the time, that Iwas livinga dream!And somewhere in the world, your life is like a dream to someone else too. Maybe at one point like me(but hopefully not) it willseem like a dream even to you. All I wanted in the hospital was for my life to be the way it was. Tothinkthat I ever spent even a day of it depressedor sad was a travesty. Because, in comparison to my current positionthe girl I had been had everything and then some. She was physically able to do everything, had an incredible job, lived in an amazing place, and most importantly was independent. From where I was standing,or rather, laying She was all I wanted to be. I used to gripe about the traffic, now simply driving at all would be a hugejoy. I lived for the weekends when I wasofffrom work, now I’d happily put in extra hours. Sometimes I wished I was somewhereelse, but now I’d do nothing but take in my present surroundings. The point is, I had it all and didn’t realize it. Even now, you have it all too, even though you may notthink so. I promise you do.
― Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom.
Today, a newrecord was quietly accomplishedin a corner of the globe rarely heard of. Three once unrelated strangers gathered in friendship, and oneamazingpersonal journey was thrusted ever forward to the “finish line.” While the rest of the world hummed along minding its own business, I was excitedly(and happily) checkingone more daydream off my to do list.Just like most personal goals it was of little importance to everyone else, except in this particular case Iwas accompanied by others that understoodthe importance of such a day. Many of us are skilled at rationalizing our way out of doing something. When in truth, we need to be rationalizing our way intomore things! There is no reason you cannot accomplish what you dream of. As they say, where there’s a will there is a way.By working through seemingly insurmountable circumstances with gritted teeth and a rock solid resolve, I have found that to be absolutely true. You see, what we aren’t told enough growing up is that we can do anything.Be weary of those who tell youany different. Ultimately, the people that believe in you as much as you believe in yourself, will walk right alongside you during the race.
above: My two pillars of support during the race Early on(when I was injured) there were questions of my ability to walk well again if at all, and much less trek a mile! However, with tremendous support and blessings I’ve done just that twice now. Both times were events that originally had been dreamed up in my mind.
above girl in tutu:Tropicolor, color run. the happiest 5k on the planet!
EvenifI completed each goal slowly, the point was to complete it at all and soak up the fact that dreams do(and can) come true. Especially when you put your best foot forward and your mind to it. Therefore, be careful of what you tell yourself and who you listen to. Because, whatever words are spoken get eaten up by our heart. Certainly, your heart deserves only the best things that life has to offer, so don’t let it consume words thatwill harm it!Find windto carry you where there is none, and fly high even when others want you to stay low.