Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

Dear Uppity “Christians.”

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

-Mattthew 7:5

I’m no theologian, but I am an excellent observer.

The last time I checked,  Jesus  didn’t win people over by  criticising, converting, or shaming them. In fact, He did it by being the human embodiment of radical love! I cringe every time I hear a Pastor proclaim He(or She) is going to reach the world outside of the church walls. Because, more often than not they don’t. The funny thing is, a highly criticised person like Kanye West is more effective then the modern church. Today’s culture doesn’t hate Christianity. What they hate are holier than thou people telling them how to be a  good person without actually being an example of one.  If you want to change the world  go  out  into your community and be an example of who God is, rather then just talking about him and telling people what’s wrong with them. Prior to the stroke, I never went to church,  didn’t actively try to fulfill  a set of rules to be  a good person, and was more concerned with living my life. However, if you’re a legalistic externalist Christian  you’d know this  behavior would disqualify me from going to heaven. Right?  BUT IT DOESN’T!    I can confidently say that I’ve had a firsthand encounter with God and He saved my life even when I was unconscious and didn’t know my life needed saving. I don’t call myself a Christian, an Atheist, or even a good person. I call myself a student. Because,  I’m still learning, you’re still learning, we all are. Therefore, don’t assume to  be the master and tell people what to do with their lives. Just show them love. Why?  BECAUSE LOVE ALWAYS WINS!

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!

 

 

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.

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“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

Transient.

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“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
 
 

Off to see the Wizard

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“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” -Eckhart Tolle.
 

The last thing I remembered was struggling to get up off a floor that I had just fallen down to. Eventually exhausted, I drifted off into an unconscious state. This is  how I was found,  only later  did I feel very lost. The next instance that I was conscious for, was waking  up in a hospital bed about 650 miles away from the  NewYork hotel bathroom floor I had fallen on. I was in a rehabilitation  center after having had a massive stroke at 28 years old. Suddenly, I was thrust into a deep darkness that I felt there was no escape from. How do I get back to NYC and when!?  This is all I asked my Parents about. Well, I’m still in recovery but my mind and  my outlook of the future are  not so bad anymore. In fact, there has been tremendous recovery because I got my mind and emotions onto a better train track.  So, how do you  divert  your path after near imminent disaster? First of all give it time, nothing worth having(or achieving) happens instantaneously. Secondly, welcome as much positivity into your  life as possible. Once you have taken time, and ingested a heavy dose of positivity you can begin steps to clean up the mess after the storm. Also, be on the lookout for any signs of progress however small. This will fuel you onto your bigger goals. Because, long term goals are made up of many short term goals.  Give yourself grace, not everything will be perfect, moving forward not backwards is key.  Not to mention, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Recovery from any disaster is a process. Finally, work SMART, and ask yourself if your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time measured. All these things will help you rebuild your life after you’ve suffered a setback, whatever it may be.

bleu

I get By

AskingForHelp

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” -Orson Welles.

With an over two month inpatient hospital stay and constant therapy or doctor appointments upon discharge, my social life was dead on arrival. Not to mention I was practically on house arrest, not being able to drive anywhere. This just added to the great sadness that plagued me; a culmination of living upside down in a world that was not of my choosing. This “new world,”  lacked the independence I had once known prior to the stroke,  possessed no social life, and  had way too much parental supervision for my liking.  I often found myself alone making up things to keep busy and to keep sane. Luckily,  growing up as an only child provided sufficient training for such circumstances.  Living in  a constantly moving world and being so unusually busy myself, friends were a rare sight. However, despite all of the hurdles there are those wonderful souls who have stepped forward and really offered their time and support. These humans are what I like to call rare birds, that stand out in an overwhelming flock of conformity and status quo. They are colorful when things are dull, different when things are uniform, and most of all  compassionate. I’m happy that  along  life’s rocky road  I picked up these hitchhikers and can call them my friends.

Whats more, these  passengers I have  procured aren’t the type to bail out as soon as the car breaks down. Instead of looking for another ride, they patiently wait and help me while I try to fix  mine. For years now it is on these little pebbles  of good moments that have  added up to create a road  I am able  to move forward on.  It’s not only  good company, but it serves as therapy too!  It has improved my soul, AND aided in the recovery of my brain. Therefore, these rare birds  are certainly more then just flights of fancy. They also serve as part time therapists and free of charge no less! You can’t beat that. It  is often that when life beats you down  that  these birds will rise up to meet and surprise you with their goodness. Because, it is when you find yourself in the dark that you need to be reminded of the light. This was(and is) especially true in my case and perhaps yours too. It seems the things we need most will find us when we least expect it.

cheers!

bleu
 

The pleasure principle.

 

“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 have  in 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 or  non optional. Often, I am  stuck 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 were  just 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 event  previously so inconsequential, was now a reason to get up. I began to structure my life around the  goal of getting better, rather than work.  My new career was  to be a reconstructive surgeon on the body of  my own life. Suddenly, I  legitimately  yearned 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’s  beneficial 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 of  crossing 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 tasks  propelled 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 reason  you shouldn’t quit  putting in the work.  Because the work you put in will amount to what kind of life you experience.

Never give up!

bleu

What do you see?

“The most pathetic person in the world is some one who has sight but no vision.”
― Helen Keller.

When you look at something, what do you see? Do you see what’s on the surface, the physical, the flaws,  the beauty, or the potential?  In my experience, if you can supersede your natural instincts and look past the obvious that’s when forward motion in life occurs. It’s easy to see an obstacle that’s been placed in front of you by life, and perceive it as impossible to surpass. However, there are those that see what is possible instead. Whether it’s  being born with muscular dystrophy, losing an arm, or becoming a full time model(and actress) in New York even though you were born by society’s standards as irredeemably ugly, anything is possible! What these three women embody is the ability to overcome and look past those barriers with true grit and vision. It would’ve been easy to give up  and let the lemons they’d been handed slowly dry out their resolve and souls in the process. Instead, they used those very lemons to quench their thirst. Who says a deficit cannot be turned into a spring board? Also, who concluded that a “big,” problem could not lend you the very strength you need to overcome it? That’s the thing, no one. Which means, with the right  vision you’re free(and able) to overcome those obstacles. For every problem there is a solution, and in some cases multiple solutions. Born ugly? Move to New York and  shake up the conformity in the modeling industry. A shark bit off your arm while surfing!? Well, just learn to balance, continue surfing, and go on to win multiple surfing contests. Were you born with a debilitating disease and wheelchair bound? Well, it doesn’t affect your face so go to an open casting call for Diesel and  become the face of their new campaign. You see?  In each unfortunate circumstance they went against their natural instincts. Their perceived handicaps, were just that perceived, not permanent.  If we had microscopic vision we’d see that all matter  around us is made up of  atoms and molecules that are continually in motion. That means things are constantly moving, and there is no reason a circumstance should put your life(and goals) at a stand still. In fact  things cannot help but move, and that includes moving forward! Therefore, don’t let  a perceived obstacle stop you dead in your tracks. As evidenced by the Ladies above(Jillian Mercado, Bethany Hamilton, and Lillian Gaydos) the only obstacles are in our minds.

Cheers!

bleu

Adversity University.

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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” – Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor.

The most important choice you make every day is your attitude. Your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances. Joy is  mind over matter. How we feel isn’t determined circumstantial. It is perceptual. Our feelings are determined by our subjective focus. How you feel is the result of what you focus on. The same adversity can affect two people very differently. I often wonder how someone else would do in my circumstances, but I have hardly anyone to compare myself to. However, I’ve surmised that what poisons one person to death, sweetens the other person’s spirit. This would explain how  someone could manage to survive an atrocity  like the Holocaust. When I experienced my own holocaust in the form of a massive stroke, I had to choose. Either let it be a catalyst that began my downward spiral or fight. As it turned out, although I felt hopeless the latter was much more appealing than the former. Although I had plenty of very patient therapists and encouragement, ultimately I was the only one that  could do what needed to be done to improve myself.  The same goes for many different things in life, it is you that has the power to choose and get better. Therefore, I would encourage you to do what is needed to move forward, no matter how hard. Because, as I have seen some significant physical improvements, it’s well worth it!

to you and yours,

bleu

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