Walk on

There are awkward moments in recovery. Any recovery. With all the craziness happening in the world the last while, especially politically, and my tendency to want to get drawn into it, I knew I needed to walk away and just get out. Besides that, the weather has been fairly nice here and it just draws me out of the cocoon I like to be wrapped up in. It’s more comfortable that way.

My awkwardness starts with the coordination I’m trying to regain, and not knowing when it is me and something else at play. The magic of brain injury is that the result of the injury doesn’t neatly line up with where the injury occurred. The muscles are at the extremities, and can be seen and felt in a real sense. We know when they get sore or tired or seem to be causing pain. But when they aren’t working properly, it’s a real kicker to follow the chain back and associate it with a brain function that you can niether see, or feel, or sometimes control.

My walk yesterday was on a little trail along a creek that runs through the city, but it comes from a far edge of the city and winds its way through. There are literally houses right at the entrance to the park where the trail starts. It seems to be popular with locals from the area to walk their dogs. No one seems to have told them that when their dog craps on the path, it’s a good idea to pick it up so that as it freezes in the snow of the trail, other dogs don’t come along and dig it out to eat it. Poop popsicles may be a big seller at the pet store. I don’t know.

The issue for me was the nice weather. Most of the time it is considered a really good thing to have nice warm weather to get out and do stuff. However, the weather here is just right to keep the snow on the verge of melting most of the day so that when I was walking, there was never a time that I felt sure about where I was stepping. I had to watch others who were on the trail slip and slide around without grip to know that it wasn’t just me who was experiencing this phenomenon. A short walk became an exhausting walk as not only the challenge of coordination was at play, but the uncertainty of every step. There was a rock down by the waterfalls to sit and take pictures which become my stable perch for a while so that I could regain a sense of control and especially rest my weary legs from the work of stabilizing an otherwise wild walk. Of course there is a trade off for sitting on a cold rock… that being the acquisition of 10 foot home rods. May I suggest that will be the opposite of a poop popsicle?

Metaphors give lots of things for my mind to do whether I ask for them or not. Removal of the ability to have firm footing while we walk our journey not only tires us out, puts us in danger and frustrates our progress, but it literally means we have to take some time on a cold rock and the grief that that may bring also causes it’s share of discomfort! Sit on that metaphor and rotate. You can take that metaphor as far as you want to go. I know I did.

We are all sick of the state of affairs in our world today. And yet, unless you are willing to sniff unicorn farts and climb rainbows, I haven’t met anyone who is willing to back away from their ideals and actually try to understand the other side. Trump seems to be a pill that has brought out the worst in everyone. Maybe that’s just what the doctor ordered? In order to fix any disease, it helps to know what that is first so that you can see it for what it is and get to the root of the problem. I am more and more convinced that the problem is not “out there”… the problem is “in here”! In me!

And so with the problem being in me, causing all the grief with my own walking, I know that especially now, especially now, I need to get out and practice self control, and on a wider spectrum I need to practice life in this way; “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8

High Five

I just spent a couple of days being a chaperone for my sons basketball team at a tournament in Salmon Arm. The chatter in the car on the way was in some ways amusing, but I was impressed with how they were so excited about the actual tournament. Seems like every time this particular school in Salmon Arm puts on a tournament, it is a great time and the team really enjoys themselves. It is sometimes no small task to win the hearts and minds of teen boys, even though they may be old enough to be on the edge of that teenage mentality. These boys were bordering on the edge of adulthood. I only knew a few of them on a very surface level, and after a car ride there with a few shuttle trips around town and a trip back to hometown Kelowna, it would be unfair for me to say that I really got to know these guys on a deeper level. However when it comes to knowing people and understanding them better I think it can be safely said that going from almost nothing to something more is generally a really good thing.

Sitting back and taking the role of observer is a fun position to be in as well. When you can be quiet and the yourself is a small part of the equation, others themselves have more room to fill in the space. The trick is though, they have to reveal who they are. And that takes time for trust to build. It took long hours of sitting on bleachers, being there with and for the team to wait for their game time and their chance to do what they have been practicing to do. As a parent of one of the team members, it is of course easier to cheer for my very own flesh and blood than it is for the rest, but they all have their parts to play and their strengths and weaknesses. They at times laid back and seemed to coast, and at other times dug deep and pushed as hard as they could. They made it exciting to watch, executing passes and handling the ball like well oiled machines, taking advantage of the moments when other teams let down their guard or seemed to be doing the kind of coasting that they did at times. There were moments of silliness, too. My favorite part (and of course it’s also because it was my son doing it) was when  some pure cheekiness took place out on the court.

Play had stopped, and our team was to gain possession of the ball under their own net. Something had happened with the time clock or something, and the play stayed haulted for quite some time. My son was under the net, waiting to be handed the ball when play was to resume, but for some reason, the ref was just standing there holding the ball with one hand and had his other hand raised in the air the whole time. All of a sudden, my son looked at the ref who had his hand in the air but not really paying attention to him as he stood beside. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he turned to the ref and high fived his raised hand. No reason, just seemed like a fun thing to do. The ref smirked at the quirky unexpected gesture while those in the stands that saw it had a chuckle. It was an intense game against a worthy adversary, but at that moment, everyone who saw the gesture realized that even though fur was flying in the game, and the boys were putting in their all, at least one of the participants was there to make even that fun.

There are lots of times that we all seem to get so wrapped up in the intensity of life that we forget to look at anything about it as fun. I guess it’s all about balance as well, because fun can be as much of a distraction as it can be a life giver. Let’s face it, sometimes we need the distraction of fun to deal with the intensity of life, making the intensity of all of it somehow more bearable. Livable. Able to be endured. But at other times, we use it to keep us away from the intensity and we don’t face up to things that we need to face, allowing us to avoid finishing well. Sometimes it isn’t even the fun itself that is the problem; it is how far we take the fun and going to the point of letting our “fun” activities cause danger for ourselves or others or taking the fun to levels of self harm. That’s going to leave a mark.

These blog posts are about stroke survival and recovery, so what does this all have to do with the purpose of this blog post? Well, for starters, stroke survival is also intense. Especially if you stop and think about it and take the time to recognize that things could have turned out worse. Recovery is even more intense that the survival, because every day the fight to gain back what was lost is there in front of me whether I want it to be or not. No escape from the recovery means that there is always a temptation to find escape in something else. How many days in a row can the average North American push themselves to greater things without wanting a break? I’ve had to see what taking a break from recovery actually does…. the hard way. It seems if I let up on the stuff that I know I need to do, it causes some real setbacks. And that’s just the mind and body stuff happening without any of the external things that can happen. I’ve written about the new enemy I discovered when my truck broke down and I sat in the cold for a while. That fight took me by surprise, so it had a wake up call effect on me that I won’t soon forget. I’m also fighting some stuff that is purposely inflicted on me for my own good. The reference is to the stinkin’ meds that I have to take as a part of betterment of health and self care from this point on. Wouldn’t you know it, but finding the right dosage of some meds can have negative effects on my body as well. I had to tell the doctor the other day that one of the meds he changed to a higher dose was causing some grief. It was the first time I recall a doctor apologize for inflicting deep misery on me. That sent me off on a tangent of trying to think of other situations in life where we subject ourselves to misery with the expressed purpose of doing ourselves good. Health and physical fitness are the focal point of this kind of activity.

I thought that doc and I had figured out the meds problem, but it looks like we have some changing to do. In the meantime, I will look for the moments in every day when some unsuspecting ref is standing there with his arm raised for no apparent reason, and slap a big old silly high five on him just because. Have fun. Don’t take it so far that it stops being fun anymore. High five!

Hats Off Respect

I don’t care what anyone says, the smile inside a disabled man’s heart is bigger than any man’s heart who is able bodied and shovels a driveway. I am smiling big on this one! It gives me pleasure whether it is pasted all over my goofy face or not! I shoveled our driveway without any help, and in reasonable time as well.

I’ve been thinking about this new label I have through all of this injury business. “Disabled”. Some will be offended that I think that way of myself. Not because they don’t like the fact that I am working on embracing that label, although some would struggle with me “trashing” myself in that way. It’s the others, those who have already spoken their small minds about the issue and told me that I am making a bigger deal out of the fact that I am injured and “disabled” than I should. I’m not really all that disabled; at least I don’t make that label justifiably in their minds anyhow.

Yes, there are some folks who are really pedantic asses and think that they alone have a grasp on how to “label” everything around them with much more justification and righteousness. Now before anyone else who feels that I am talking about them and wants to pounce back and set me straight, I will admit that I am NOT as disabled as many. It is by the grace of God and my CHOICE to fight back every day against the injury. I choose to heal. I choose to overcome my disability. Unlike able bodied and minded individuals who choose to opt out of ability. They actually have the ability and choose to opt out in some way or another. It then becomes their choice to reclaim their ability. Case in point – If you are physically fit, trim, sharp minded and socially apt, you can choose to stop exercising, put on weight, stop using your wits, and make a social outcast of yourself, but it is your choice. Sometimes it has little negative affect, but other times it goes too far and causes problems. You may then choose to gain strength through exercise, lose weight through diet, exercise your brain and so on in order to reclaim what was yours all along.

Injury is another cat from another bag. Once that sucker gets let out, there is no telling how it will tear you to shreds and take away something that you didn’t want to give. Cats get mean when they are smacked around in a bag and then let out. I actually can claim to know this for fact, in case anyone would like to argue with me on that point. For those who are injured, the smile of the heart is bigger when they gain something back that the injury took away. The wounds go deeper when the injury is caused by someone or something else, and it was no fault of the one injured. Those deep wounds take some time. And effort! And that makes me respect those who have disabilities. Every day I know what it is to choose to fight back against what was taken, and get it back. I have great role models, like the neighbor across the street who is a quadriplegic in a wheelchair and sometimes seems to be racing me to finish his driveway before I do, shouting that he feels sorry for me because he has an advantage getting done faster with his motorized chair. There’s the young man in rehab who fell out of a tree and broke his neck and had to learn to walk all over again. He’s no longer in the rehab ward because he struggles every day to get back what he lost and he worked things out! And there are plenty more who blaze a trail for the rest of us to follow and be encouraged.

Hat’s off to those who fight to regain what they lost, especially those who lost due to no fault of their own. I deeply respect and admire you for the everyday effort that you put in making things work better for you. I am a privileged individual stroke survivor. I can work hard enough to erase the effects of my injury completely. I work towards that every day. That’s why I can smile at a shoveled driveway that I did all by myself (send hero cookies to my home address, please). And to those who fight to regain what was theirs all along by choosing to get healthier, challenge their minds, patch up awkward social situations, etc., a tip of the hat to you as well. Choosing not to let go of the good that is yours if you choose it. RESPECT to all. Peace out!

The Good With The Bad

The other day I wrote a story about getting stranded by the road. I went on a bit. Today, I’m going to talk to you about drugs. Which are good and which are bad.

Before Christmas, I was at the doctors office for presription refills. (Does it ever feel like I’m turning into my grandma, with a constant obsession about medications). So doc and I have a little chat about the state of affairs in the country of Darcy. He tells me that we need to do some experimenting to find out where my dosages are optimum for the desired affect on my body. So just a little background, my cholesterol wasn’t an issue, except that I’ve had a stroke. In my case, his advice is to get rid of my bad cholesterol as much as possible and lower my risk to as low as it can go. So what he had me do was double my doses and see how it went over Christmas.

Since my mom and my dad didn’t really care, I went with the doctors advice and took double the dose. Over the next couple days, the stuff kicked in and had it’s affect in my system and I became very aware of what was going to be the new norm if I kept doses at that level. I began to feel like someone was beating me with a big ugly stick every day. My muscles were achy like I had a bad flu without any of the other symptoms. Then my joints kicked into high gear with a choir of complaints. I kid you not, my joints were howling like a pack of wolves on the hunt. It got so bad with the joint pain that I had trouble kneeling and moving my knees. My arms joined in, presumably because they felt like they were getting left out on the party. I grit my teeth and forced myself to do as much as possible, but there wasn’t anything that was easy anymore. I couldn’t even enjoy scratching my own ass. And I love scratching my ass!

The real scare for me was when I was growing weaker. I was having to be cautious of going up and down stairs like I hadn’t been since I first had a stroke. I was also beginning to slur my words much earlier in the day as I had to work so much harder to say what I wanted to say. It would have been so convenient if I would have been doing some heavy drinking over the holidays so that fewer people would have suspected. But I wasn’t. In the back of my mind, leaving it unspoken, I was fearing that I was reverting to my initial state of ability right after I had had the stroke, or that I was having another stroke. There are these fears that crop up in the mind of someone who has sustained an injury, has worked so hard to make a comeback to greater ability, and then sees all of the things that once were and are now back again.

I’ve realized something very important over the course of this little drug experiment. I’ve lived life having very little fear of anything physical that could have zapped me like this. Close calls just seemed like a game to me before. I’ve been hit by a truck twice in my life and for the most part was able to walk both encounters off. Yes, I had a bit of a limp both times, but the trucks got the worst end of that negotiation in both cases. The first time, I was racing on my motorbike to go back to the grain bin to help my father with the clean up. He and mom had already finished and got to the same blind corner I did at the same time. Partially loaded grain trucks are fairly unforgiving, but I managed to bend the bumper and the only reason the blood was spraying all over the place as I flew through the air into the hay patch was because the truck hood crumpled up into a sharp point and gouged a part of my finger out. I still managed to console my screaming mother in the truck while flipping wildly in the air. I yelled, “I’m alright” to calm her down. It didn’t manage to have the affect I wanted though. She cuffed me on the head when she ran over to me in the alfalfa yelling, “How do you know you’re alright while you flying through the air you stupid kid?” She was right as usual. Mom’s are always right. This injury was the only time I “broke a bone”. The metal had gouged so deep that it took a part of my finger bone so the doc said that I had to wear a splint, even though the bone wasn’t cracked or really broken.

The second time was a little more fun, and only proves that you can get stupider as you grow older because you still haven’t learned you lessons. I truly thought I could jump up on the hood of the truck and roll off like in the movies. It would have worked too, if it wouldn’t have been that my truck driving friend thought it would be funny (I hope that’s why he did it) to speed up last minute so that my jump wasn’t high enough at the right time. I ended up denting that hood in ways that are hard to accomplish with other means. I think I still feel that charlie horse sometimes.

The point with these stories is that I used to live pretty wildly, and close to the edge. Not much would phase me, and if I was afraid, I did my best to stuff that down and go for it anyways. But the stroke, the drugs, this new shot on life… it’s changing me. I hold railings now. I spy ice on the driveway as I’m shoveling and watch it with contempt and a measure of loathsome respect. After my incident with the my truck the other day I am much more cautious of cold. I never thought that cold would be something that would make me think twice about going out. I have to measure out my days in accomplishable tasks as they accumulate. I can’t push myself to just bull through and make what needs to be done happen anymore without paying for it for days. And it’s hard for me to even recognize what all will be something to be cautious of when I’ve never lived that way before.

Since I stopped taking that crazy pill (the doc said I should stop taking it and try another), my strength rebounded overnight! And I don’t have anything more than regular old guy aches and pains in my joints and muscles. I can once again walk long distances without having to spend the afternoon in bed. Those were some BAD good drugs. I’ll hope that they new pills will accomplish the good stuff without bringing on the bad stuff. Coming back from the dead has given me new hope. And hope is most always an excellent thing.

Some Days

Somedays!

This is a unique time of life that I find myself in, recovering from a stroke, still kickin’, and marking the start of a new year right about now, I’ve had some “intentions” about my days ahead. I vowed to myself that I would take whatever any day threw at me, because it would be better than having no day at all, especially because I escaped my injury with less loss of things that are important to me than most who shared time in Rehab while I was there. So many people have looked back on 2016 with utter contempt, recounting all the things they lost personally, as well as how many celebrities were lost and how sad that made the year. I’ve even seen social media posts that give the finger and show outright contempt for what was last year. I also lost much personally, but there were so many good things about 2016 that I have chosen to dwell on those things so that there would be as much positive as possible to dwell on. You know, positive energy attracts positive energy. Rewire my mind to focus on as much good and positive as possible. It’s a really utopian outlook on what actually happens some days. But it’s a really popular notion that a lot of people adhere to.

Now reality. Even trying to reframe everything as a “challenge” fails in the face of really compounding calamity. There has to be a point even in the mind of a utopian dreamer that events cease to be “challenges” and switch into downright nasty mode! They are no longer just a hurdle to be jumped. The nicest word I can think of the circumstance to be referred to is trials. Maybe tests. But make no mistake; they are at a level beyond challenging! Running a marathon may be challenging, but doing so if you have a prosthesis like Terry Fox, we’ll that goes beyond a personal challenge. I think you might get the picture.

And then for me came the other day. On the stage that day was the set of an epic battle for my attitude, which had the potential to skew my attitude for the rest of the year. (How do you see beginnings? Are they the sign of things to come?) There was a coup. An attempt to set me up for that darting eye, keep my head low so it doesn’t get knocked off, prepared for the next big hit at any moment watchfulness and expector of bad things kind of year. Not everything bad that could have happened came to pass, but enough that some serious questions could be asked. It was a Schleprock kind of day. If you ever watched the little dude on the Flintstones back in the 70’s, you are at least familiar with the saying “Wowzy wowzy woo woo.” His day was calamity from beginning to end. The little rain cloud over his head followed him wherever he went.

My day started plain enough. I actually got up in reasonable time to make the day a good and productive one. I even got some facebook time in on the toilet while I was attempting to void my bowels (“sittin’ on the shitter” for my friends of the redneck and construction site persuasion). Hey look, it’s the new form of reading material for 2017. Anyways, there was no slipping and falling in the shower, no nicking myself shaving, no burning my hands in hot running water. All I knew about the day was that it was colder than the average day here in the Okanagan. Minus 23 doesn’t come along that often. So we Okanagians take note of that stuff. My video that I posted was about a task that I was setting out to do. Borrowed stuff needs to be given back. Even on cold days. But cold days and challenges have never deterred me before! Diesel trucks take some time to warm up, so I went out and jumped in the truck and turned it over. Seemed to be able to turn over, but just wouldn’t stay running. Finally the battery gave out and I had to set up the charger. It didn’t take much of a boost to get it going, so I let it warm up for a bit and hit the road to the north end of town.

I got to the place I was going and shut the truck off without thinking. I was back out in 60 seconds, but there was nothing when the key turned. Dead in the water. With a poor me look on my face and a timid voice, I asked for a boost. As it turns out, that was the catalyst for the agency van to be started, and it needed a boost too. At least the issue was with more than me, and I could feel less like a beggar and a bother on a freezing cold day. I don’t know why, but I didn’t even check the voltmeter, and what was happening without my notice was that the charge was dropping lower and lower. It was when the truck started sputtering on the hwy that I first took notice. Funny lights had shown up on my dashboard and insisting messages were brightly shining. It’s a diesel, it will run without battery power, but the electronic control of everything obviously wouldn’t. I was bolting for home…but so far away. Finally, I decided to see if it was a simple thing like the alternator belt. Walmart has a huge parking lot and that’s where I headed. Nope, not the belt. And it was still running with the odd sputter at higher speeds. That’s when my mistakes compounded and I made a bad decision. Off on my way home again, I barely got out of the parking lot and I lost power completely.

A turning lane is an entertaining place to have a breakdown. People don’t seem to understand that 4 way flashers actually mean there is a problem and that they need to go around. Cold weather, on hold with BCAA so that a tow can be arranged and the incessant option being given to leave my number to be called back got the better of me. I took the option to leave them my number taking note that I was not to call again or I would lose my “priority position”. That was after about 45 minutes on hold which actually started at 12:26 p.m. There was no heat from the stalled truck and it was cold outside. Cold was creeping in ever so slowly, and it was getting to the point I couldn’t take it anymore. Not even for the entertainment of watching people come right up behind the dead truck, wave their arms and shout profanities at me could I stay any longer. I was cold. It was when I finally decided to make the trek to the Starbucks in my rearview mirror did I realize how terrible a decision it was to wait as long as I did. Because of my stroke, my body doesn’t handle cold like it used to. I was literally so stiff that I could hardly shuffle across the seat to climb out the door, but the personal tragedy/comedy was just beginning.

Finally, I got myself over to the door on the passenger side so I could safely exit the vehicle, but as I put my weight on my feet, I recognized that this little walk was going to be quite the show for everyone watching, and quite the challenge for me to accomplish. Control of muscular function goes out the window on muscles that have been stroked, so it was an Igor lope that moved me down the sidewalk towards my much warmer target destination. By the time I got to the door of Starbucks, my jaw was chattering so violently that I just about dislocated it, and I couldn’t control my left arm. I craved a hot drink, but as I approached the till to order, I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to actually give my order, so dragging my left foot, fighting an uncontrollable left arm, and clacking my teeth so loud that everyone in the joint was looking at me, I hobbled off to the bathroom. I wonder what they were wondering I was up to in there as they saw this spastic, teeth chattering weirdo hobble off to their bathroom. I didn’t even look at the door to see if I was going into the “correct” bathroom for my gender, although it seems like only an old guy with antiquated sensibilities would even care in this day and age. The warm water started to settle things down a bit even though I had to fight my left arm and push it down into the sink to get close to the water. Once I regained my composure and a little bit of control, I went back out and ordered myself a London Fog. It’s not coffee because I’ve never gotten into coffee in the middle of the day (one cup in the morning for breakfast and done) and London Fog is the most pretentious drink I can bring myself to order at a Starbucks.

People watching is an entertaining pass time when you have nothing better to do. Every once in a while, someone would come in that I couldn’t resist watching and taking note of. Lots of people are strange, not just the 52 year old guy with a wild snake for a left arm and clattering teeth under a frost bitten red nose poking out of a face half hidden by a stupid looking toque that I couldn’t get to cover my head properly because I was shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t believe that BCAA hadn’t called me back yet. It was now late enough that Sharon would be home from work and wondering where I had gotten to. So I sent off a text and let her know that I was stranded on the north end of the city. After a lot of back and forth about calling BCAA again, I finally dialed them up and got the same message to wait. There were options to ask for help online. So I tried that. The system kept rejecting my membership number as not valid. Another option was to do the same thing through the smartphone app. Stubbornly using Flintstone technology (Blackberry) means that there is no app for my phone. Since my phone was dying, I had Taran deliver my charging cable to me while he was on an errand. At least the Starbucks staff were now warming up to me and smiling in my general direction as my body was no longer jerking and looking as awkward and things had settled down.

Finally at 5:30 I made the plunge and dialed up BCAA to try and get through, or die in Starbucks on hold. At 6:30, I got through. My original call had been totally lost in cyberland! When I explained my situation, and told them about the fact that my battery was now dead with no flashers, I was blocking traffic in a turning lane, and I had been stranded the whole afternoon, the tried to do their best and send a tow as soon as they could, but no one who could tow a one ton truck was available. At around 7:00 that evening, an apologetic tow truck driver showed up to get me the heck out of there! I was just glad to finally get some help. Fatigue was rolling in heavy on my entire body. I was fading fast from the epic muscular control battle, the stress of not knowing whether to call again and lose my place, the worry of someone not paying attention and driving into the back of my abandoned vehicle that no longer had flashers going, and every little detail of the day. I’ve always wondered about people that I see walking down the street that look like spazzes! I don’t have to wonder anymore. I can live it and wonder what other people are wondering about me.

I know it’s a long story, but I felt I had to tell it. I had no idea that the life of a stroke survivor could be as interesting as it is. And you know what? I never knew that intentionally working towards trying to view everything in a positive light would be this challenging. I’m still choosing to look for the good in as much as I can. It makes the life that I’ve been given much more bearable. Still, the right is reserved to draw the line and say that the challenge has just gotten nasty!

Stage left

Every day there is much to be learned and taken in so that it can be put to good use. Whether I’m saying it out loud or just thinking it these days, I’ve been giving thought to something Socrates is attributed with saying. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t know that I would agree with this statement so much, however. It’s probably the “not worth living” part that gets to me the most. Even if life is not the greatest, if there is pain or sorrow, significant loss or heartache, no matter! I just don’t want to think of life as not worth living. There is always of something of value that you can find in the minutes, hours and days of our lives. For what I’ve been through in 2016, I can see now some things that have made all the difference. We look for the hope in everything, and then life has value and meaning. With hope, much can be overcome. Hope is such an important thing. Do you have anything realistic to hope for? To hope in? I would say “unexamined” or not, without hope there is trouble. I’ve reestablished my hope in the reality of the eternal, and that gives each day the perspective it needs.

Personally, I’ve come to the end of this year and now I’m staring down another one with some new labels. Maybe I never envisioned myself wearing these labels, but I am nonetheless.

Stroke Survivor – now that’s a label that took me by surprise. It’s a humbling experience to add the “survivor” part onto that label. Lots of people don’t make it out the other end of that hammer mill let alone in a condition where recovery is a very good or likely prospect.

Brain damaged – implied by the fact that I had a stroke, but it’s part of what came along with the stroke. Here with this label, I can be so very thankful that the damage was limited to the areas that can be re-routed and re-established. The time to do that and the work that it takes is more fully understood with every day.

Disabled – albeit a temporary disability, I have to fight every day to gain back something I had going for myself pretty good. I was no dancing genius, of Usain Bolt, but I had enough get up and go to function quite well for what I felt I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t need to back away from anything I wanted to do. That has changed to the fight to get that level of ability back. If I back away now, it just becomes a goal for the future.

Career Changer – Precipitated by the fact that many of my physical abilities will be hampered by stroke recovery, I had to embrace the reality that I won’t be doing the exact same thing as what I’ve been doing. It is no easy task to give up doing the things that you have been working at building as a business for almost 3 years. The worst of the matter is being lost as to how to make the new me work like it needs to in order to actually feel like I’m accomplishing what I would like to. This will take some time to get used to.

I was able to keep some labels that are outside of the hope part of things, but are powerful in how they encourage me anyhow. They are well worth mentioning.

Husband – It’s pride that has us guys in a provider role, feeling we can take care of all the stuff that comes along in life and being able to take care of it. All I have now is that I “chose” well (truth is, even there, she chose me and I came to my senses over time). My wife is the most amazing spouse I could ever imagine. In the times when I was in the scariest place, where the damage had taken over much of what I could do physically and made it as though I was frozen and unable to function, even her touch was healing and comforting. It was like a warm blanket was gently draped over my weary frozen shoulders every time she came near and touched me, or massages my aching hand and arm. It absolutely cannot be overstated how wonderful and healing her touch was to me. There is something amazing in the touch of a loved one. We rob ourselves if we shun loving touch.

Father – This label is one that gives me much joy. Five children is slightly more than the average. We have seen 3 of those children grow up to be awesome adults. This is always good for the heart. And the 2 who remain at home are going to be equally awesome! I can’t claim very much involvement in the good that has come of them. I wonder if other parents feel like this…shocked that the fact that you didn’t know a thing about how all of it would play out and having no previous skill at doing what it would take, but thrust into the fray all the same and demanded to do your best. Parenting is a humbling and scary task!! Thank God for all the good ways that things worked out.

All of these labels are either inescapable or self derived. To end off one year and roll on into the next with those kind of labels aren’t a problem if embracing the labels means you can make the most of life. I’m not bothered by labels…like I said at the beginning, there are some that if I had a choice to go back on and not end up with, I would give it my best shot! But rolling with them is the only way forward, so the best way I can see making labels work is to dig out the best in each of the ones that I acquired over the year and get into that as best I can. I think that allows me to avoid the label I may still choose to avoid. That label is “Quitter”. I won’t be that. I won’t choose that. Time to get rollin’ again. Exit….

Throwing Babies

I hear so many people wanting to be done with 2016. It seems to have intensified lately with the loss of celebrities. There is much being said about how hard the year was, and how much we lost and generally disliked the things that happened throughout the year. On the one hand, I relate to the sentiment and look back on a year that included some significant challenges for me personally. Some significant losses. They are indeed things that if I were able to choose, I would probably take a pass on. I would literally do anything I could to go back on some things some days because they have brought about significant challenges and pain of various sorts in everyday life. Who in their right mind would sign up for anything like that? Maybe it should be me. Maybe I should welcome it all.

You know, it’s easy to see the parallels with this and the posts I often see that give the boot to the week, or even the day.

done with today Maybe we are doing the moment, the day, the week, the year all wrong if we can’t handle it anymore? I think back to an interview I heard  with Marc Garneau (the first famous Canadian astronaut) make about his upbringing and how it prepared him for going into space. I can’t seem to find the transcript to the conversation I heard of him in the particular interview this was a part of, but his answer went something like this. (“When I was growing up on the farm, my father used to send me out to work the fields with the tractor, and all I had to use when and if anything broke was a crescent wrench and a screwdriver. Whatever situation came along in my day, I had to make do with what I had to fix whatever broke in order to finish the job. I had no choice but to finish the job.”) He went on to say that there was absolutely no choice but to finish the job when he was in space. You don’t get to just quit! Unless you give yourself that option. Then you can quit on absolutely everything at any moment of time and at any stage of the process. I know I can’t allow myself to see it that way. And I also know that I had better find a way to make peace with the fact that I don’t always get to choose.

Throwing out a moment, a day, a week, a year, an opportunity, a baby with the bathwater… there was something valuable in the stuff we want to get rid of it and we let it all go because it was too mixed together, it seemed to be so rotten, or dirty, or difficult, or overwhelming. I am so thankful that my brain injury happened. You heard me right. I AM THANKFUL for my stroke! It gave me the chance I needed. Not everything was taken from me. There are still many things that I was left with. And maybe, just maybe, there was a really important baby in the bathwater that was being poured out. Or thrown out. The truth is I lost too much of what I didn’t ever want to lose. Choice was not a part of the process. On the other hand, the loss of things has caused the pause. The pause that lets me look at what I have to work with and what I can do about that which I face. Again, I cannot look at what I don’t have and simply forget about all the things I have. Whatever is left is how I do the moments in front of me.  And Lord willing they will turn into days, and weeks, or years, or the rest of my life.

Let me borrow some language from one of those “click bait” headlines that seem to be everywhere. What if I were to tell you that everything you ever thought about the year being so bad has nothing to do with what happens in the year, but how you end up dealing with it? In fact, you will never know that you can deal with it in an amazingly powerful way until you go at it with whatever you have at your disposal and don’t give yourself the choice to pack it in. There is no other option. Take the gift of having a life to live no matter how it comes at you and no matter what else may seem to be happening all around you! Life can’t suck until you say it does. Life can’t suck until you let it. And there is no such thing as impossible any longer. Take what you get and let the point of that be that you are still getting. You still have what is right in front of you. And that ought to be amazing enough to forget about wanting to be done with it. If it isn’t, there’s more to talk about. And more to learn. Save the baby.

 

BEST EVER

I’m excited! Are you excited? This Christmas is exciting and new and so very wonderful! There is so much gift to be absolutely excited about. Sooo much gift. Now, I have to admit that I’ve pretty much grown past the stage that I stare at the carefully wrapped boxes under the tree and wonder what I could have gotten as a present. I didn’t really do that as a kid, but I was always excited about the gifts, like anyone would have been as a kid. Do you remember your most amazing gift ever? I remember the year of the amazing gift as a kid. And as far as being an adult and receiving an amazing gift, well I got my Christmas gift early this year. It just so happens to be that I get to enjoy this Christmas at all. Every day has become a gift that I do not take lightly or flippantly, because I could have been robbed of the experience. So each day is a reminder of how fortunate and “gifted” I am. Pun intended.

Our entire tribe will be here at our place this year. All five of our kids (plus one more, Kylie’s boyfriend) get to make their way to where WE live this year as opposed to us going someplace else. That is a gift! The older kids that are coming here have become amazing people in their individual ways. That is a gift! We are being thought of by so many as I fight to regain what I lost in my stroke. That is such a huge gift! And it continues to go well… so well that I forgot my abilities and tried to live like nothing had happened not so long ago (details are on a facebook post, so if you missed it make a comment and I’ll tell you  more). Even though the fall set me back a bit on my left side, it seems to have been limited damage and I’m healing just fine. That’s a gift! I have had time to really reflect on a number of things as I have been unable to distract myself with looking for the kind of work that I used to do. Scary sometimes, but that is a gift that I’m coming to terms with. My awesome wife works with me at whatever level of any activity that I can muster. Encouragement and compassion in her steadfast character are an amazing gift! Along with my wife are 2 amazing young gentleman who are supportive and helpful and understanding as well. I can’t imagine what it takes to do that for a father recovering from a serious injury. And they too are a gift!

But this year more than in quite a few, my excitement over gifts is really intensified over THE gift. The big one that got this season rolling in the first place. I am marveling at how the wrapping was so unassuming and totally camouflaged in a package that looked so “normal”. And in a place so unexpected. And dangerous. Only God was powerful enough to find a way to make the whole scenario work out the way it did. The way that God came to earth was so far fetched that it was almost unbelievable. Maybe that’s why even those who were trying to put an end to God coming to earth couldn’t get it quite right even though they were told how it was going to happen. And when. Well in advance! God coming near! Emmanuel. Talk about laying it all on the line! Amazing. A near creation experience. And thank God it went beyond the near death experience! Amazing! Because that gift wrapped in so vulnerable a package eventually went on to conquer death. Amazing. BEST! GIFT! EVER!

Allow the season to as it reminds you of THE gift, remind you to be a gift to others. I am so grateful for all the gifts in my life! They make every special day even more special. Now go look and see what gifts are around you too. And celebrate the BEST. GIFT. EVER.

 

 

The battle of the mind.

Long slow days of recovery, all for the sake of gaining back the ability to do a full days worth of output. meeting the rigors of the employment world. Up until this personal challenge, I always admired the notion of battling against our challenges and overcoming victorious. It has such a ring of nobility to it to imagine the scene as a soldier in a battle with a sword and shield, swinging powerfully and accurately, taking down mostly hapless foes who flail their sword and don’t have the affect they were hoping for because of your skill and experience. Kind of like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, or Mel Gibson playing William Wallace in Braveheart. Yes their battle is fierce, but they overcome, with blood dripping down their face and their lungs heaving great gasps of air as they come to the end of the fight and look around to survey the ultimate disaster they perpetrated on their enemy.

The scene changes quite a bit if it is a man in a dark room getting punched in the head and he can’t quite figure out which direction it’s coming from. I don’t know of any skill or weaponry that would be successful against that kind of fight. It’s all pretty one sided. Pretty much have to take your head shots and see if you still end up on your feet. It’s easy to imagine the fighter sitting in the dark and at least feeling sorry for themselves in silence if not sobbing and crying out for some sort of justice in the fight. Okay, I’ll admit it… there isn’t much sobbing and crying out in my case, but there is a temptation to feel sorry for myself and to wonder about justice. I have to make that a short lived idea, because another hit is coming, I just know it. There was a joke told at our wedding reception about me having half a mind to get married, and apparently that’s all it took. I’m used to bulling through a varied bunch of physical pains to accomplish life, but this kind of battle is all in my head. And I’m doing it with only a portion of my mind.

First of all, it was my brain that got injured, so while it is healing, I still need what little was there in the first place to function on a moment to moment basis for all the regular stuff that needs to happen. Add to all of this the fact that perseverance is a mental battle, and that’s what I need to overcome the small physical pains and moreso the unruly body that is no longer doing what I want it to. As if there isn’t enough for my poor little brain to do with all this, learning about what is going on in there is essential to keep this recovery going at the pace that it has been. On some days I pat myself on the back for being able to pull off the largest amount of focus I have ever had on any one topic or task at a time. On other days, I spend the bulk of my time collecting tiny little fragments of that same focus from the stupid little tasks where I left them as I abandon one thing after another in the state of “blown mind”. Of course along the way I think I am getting so much done. But looking back it seems like there is next to nothing to show for.

There is so much appeal to me right now to have a simple mundane job doing a repetitive task all day every day. I’m sure that I would end up making it look like Laverne and Shirley on the bottling line, daydreaming as the task at hand whips by at an unaltered pace. On the other hand, maybe it’s my desire and practice to keep my mind active that keeps me from going stark raving mad. I guess I’ll never know, and only you poor suckers will ever be able to tell whether I’ve gone mad or not. Daily gains in movement and strength are enough to distract me now. I’ll just busy myself with mouse moves and that will have to be okay.

It’s to the point where there feels like there is always so much that I want to say, but then when I actually get to writing it, I fail to be able to put the sentences together for this blog. Without having the luxury of muttering to myself all day long on the jobsite or maybe say the odd thing to a person working on the same site, I have to be content with keeping that stuff to myself. So the blogging takes the place of real life interaction. Thanks for listening.