“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!
“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.” -unknown.
I have come to the conclusion that I likely won’t meet a massive stroke survivor like myself, because most of them die. It’s a sobering thought, but true. For so long I longed to meet another stroke survivor like myself. However, most people that have a massive stroke do not survive. This leaves me in the minority. While lying in bed and contemplating my search, which has spanned the better part of five years, it hit me. “ You won’t meet anyone like you, because they’ve all expired.”
This leaves me to travel a lonely path, one that has not been traveled before. As much as I want a mentor to tell me what to do, alas that cannot be so. This is all together frightening and exciting. Because, like a free form jazz musician I can go anywhere within my realm. Rather than take advantage of the freedom, I worried for a very long time that I was playing in the wrong key. Was I too loud? Was I too soft? Would anyone understand what I was trying to convey? After struggling to play along with blank sheet music, I was forced to start writing the song myself. Before I was discharged from the hospital , a round table of doctors told my Parents that they had no idea what my future held because they had never seen anyone survive what I did. Most of the time I live in a space of unreality, where the stroke does not exist. However, in those spaces where reality does break through, besides feeling nausea I know I cannot remain idle. Despite the predilection to want to curl up into a ball and let the rest of the world fall away, that is not an option for me. Why? Because when tragedy strikes, the only way out is through.
March on brave soldier,
“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.
“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats.
This is a short post about a subject that is far reaching into our personal stories.The invisible lines that intersect our lives and bring us together with various strangers has always fascinated me.
To think, there was a time when you didn’t know that your best friend or significant other even existed. What was going on in their lives before you met? More importantly, why did you meet? Because, as we all know, each person that comes across your life via an invisible thread has an impact. Each impact, whether good or bad slowly molds you into what you are at this moment in time. It’s as if you’re a planet turning through space that gets struck by various comets, leaving indents upon you at various depths. While some marks are shallow, others are deep. As we take stock of these interactions, often we focus on the negative ones the most. However, there are as easily more positive interactions than negative, if we only shifted our perspectives. Why not resolve to build someone up that you come across rather than tear them down? After all, it is the highest skyscraper in the city that stands out the most. Be the architect of that monumental steel giant that withstands time in the city of your life and others.
leave a positive impact!
“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.
“For contrary to legal precedent, women are considered guilty of incompetence until proved otherwise.” -Amelia Earhart.
For some time my life has been dictated by the reference point of before the stroke versus after the stroke. The closer I came either physically or mentally to being like myself before the stroke marked improvement and progress. No doubt that is a clear indicator of recovery after such a horrific event. However, what if the stroke wasn’t so much a detriment but something like a flint against which you sharpen a rock? I had become that rock. Therefore, rather then pretend that the stroke had destroyed me, why not see that I was very much still “there?” In personality and physically. If a city can be rebuilt after undergoing a round of intense bombing, then why couldn’t I? In this process it has been imperative to stay positive and be around others who are. Because, sadly as I have experienced first hand, there are more people out there that want to extinguish your light rather then feed the fire. Personally I am frustrated by the reference point, as I’m sure so are other stroke survivors. To be compared to ones self and trying to outdo it, seems like a cruel sports event. Being stubborn and ambitious, I naturally try to outdo myself(and others) anyway. Not only is that the natural human inclination, but this was something different. I was being measured against myself and asked to meet the expectations of others. Naturally, this turned into walking a personal war path to prove any naysayers wrong. Maybe you haven’t heard, but anyone who tells you your aspirations are impossible is a liar. After all, if it can happen to anyone why not you? Winning the lottery, finding great love, traveling the world, and full recovery after a stroke. I believe all these things are possible to those that deign to dream them. However, don’t insert a wishbone where a backbone should be. The people that will emerge after a tragedy and that should be kept in your atmosphere, are the ones that build you up rather then drag you down. When it comes to the naysayers, learn to protect yourself from them and relish the moment you inevitably prove them wrong. Because, if you remain focused on the finish line rather then the hurdles, you will.
Love and light!
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve.
There will be times that being strong is your only choice, no matter how weak you may feel. On the days that you’d rather climb into a hole and hide away or stay in bed, you will have to get up. Because, your very life and future depend on it. Time waits for no one. As much as you’d like to hide from bad circumstances, you can’t overcome them by staying under them. Instead, you have to get over and through them. This requires pulling up your boot straps and trudging through the emotional and sometimes physical muck. When you have a stroke(like me) and your arm stops taking functional orders from your “damaged,” brain, you have to go to physical therapy. Where, inevitably all the movements asked of you will just highlight your problems. Rather then give up and cry, you keep going to physical therapy anyway, no matter how bleak. Why? Because if you give up, you may stop just short of your breakthrough. If history and the passing of time have taught humanity anything, it is that nothing is impossible. The very word itself says “I’M possible!” Therefore if you want the future that you dream of, you can’t let a lack of hope steal it away from you. Tell that constant nagging voice that tells you, you can’t that you CAN. And furthermore, that you will thank you very much. The hardship you endure going through the muck, is far less then the price you’ll pay by giving up. To overcome the hurdles and avoid hitting them, keep your eye on the finish line. Just imagine all the great stories that would’ve been lost, had its hero given up before the final scene. When
you experience a truly terrible hardship, it makes you realize how good you had it prior to said hardship. There are people everywhere that remain entirely unaware of how fortunate they truly are. No matter your current problem, believe it or not, you may be one of them. For example, while getting on the scale may reveal you’ve gained a lot of weight, somewhere else in the world a child is likely starving. So, those extra pounds? Not such a bad problem to have! When we are so closely facing an issue, it’s difficult to zoom out and see the big picture.
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.
“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!
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”
― Chuck Palahniuk.
I have always felt a little out of place or like an observer of this great big fish bowl earth, that’s teeming with life. This was especially true after I was injured and found myself displaced from where I had been thriving in New York City. I woke up at the bottom of a pity pit in a hospital rehabilitation center in my home state, back where I started before I moved away. I had hit a snake in life and slid right back to the beginning of the game. This couldn’t be more true since I had to relearn basic life skills that I had at one time already mastered. You would think a clean slate would be a good thing, but not so in this case. I had witnessed all the dominos I painstakingly set up, tumble down at the push of a bad life circumstance. I would soon be tasked with rebuilding it and that’s what I am now, a full time construction worker. The sixty four days I spent in the hospital and even more before that saw me inching towards the starting line. Although I had a supportive crowd cheering me on, I had lost my “tribe.” A group of fun like minded people that helped motivate me to be better were missing from the hospital setting. Therefore, I went to many therapy appointments(after discharge) with a different kind of tribe. They weren’t bad just fellow people that were hurt like me, so it was dark and depressing in that village. I missed the glittering happy atmosphere that I had been used to, since it lifted my spirits. Although, I certainly tried to get back there with weekend workshops like Blogcademy.(Glitter!)However, after two days of sunshine, on a Monday I had to return to that same dark village that was therapy; never was the importance of your atmosphere so obvious to me. Since then I have stumbled unexpectedly into members of my tribe(like this)which always makes me feel much better. Each day as I run into these like minded individuals and recover more, I can see the entrance to my village getting closer and closer. Never take for granted or underestimate the importance of being where you feel you belong, it will save your life!