Life is full of little setbacks, but thankfully there are just as many gains. In 2012 I suffered one major setback. Ever since, through one gain at a time, I’ve been chipping away at what was a huge block in the road. By making the decision to carry on in the face of adversity, and achieving little gains, that block is turning into a pebble. When I first woke up in the hospital I perceived this giant roadblock to be immovable. There was a giant road sign next to it that read “YOUR LIFE ENDS HERE.” -But- I didn’t take into account one important factor. And that factor was, as any physics professor could tell you…. An object of large size is easier to move with a force that’s strong enough to oppose it. In other words, I alone was not strong enough to face the ramifications of the stroke. However, when I had the right group of supportive individuals with me I could better recover. After the fog of confusion and agitation lifted, I was better able to understand my situation. At first, I felt that my life circumstances were insurmountable, but as I continue forward(with a strong support system) I’m discovering that the gains become larger and they happen fairly quickly. Of course, I would LOVE everything to go back to the way it was prior to the stroke in a days time. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day was it? To cultivate a remarkable life you have to go about it in extraordinary ways. There is no shortcut to the finish line. In the end, the best views come after the hardest climb.
“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.
“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.
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.
“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!
“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!
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