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.

 

For Freedom

The day is coming! I have been following instructions and doing the exercises, making sure to tell my caregivers and therapists what changes I sense in myself no matter how small. I continue to go to their carefully crammed in appointments for me, even though while I’m there I compete for their attention with a handful of others that are always scheduled to be their at the same time, so I never really have their undivided attention to take care of my recovery.

I suppose that if I allowed myself the twisted luxury of being negative about all of this, I would have plenty of fuel for the fire of self pity and weaponry to lash out at them for not giving me the attention I am due when showing up to an appointment with them. After all, it’s  fairly safe assumption that if a patient has made and kept an appointment with a doctor, that appointment is supposed to be there for the patient that made and kept that appointment. No? But I choose to see these appointments that turn out to be overbookings as an opportunity. You heard me right. Why would I not want to determine my own health and well being in spite of what my caregiver is able to do for me? I don’t go to these appointments for their sake after all; I go because it is for my benefit! So I had better make it for my benefit at all times, whether the caregiver is spending all their time with me or not.

Just yesterday, I was busy working on a machine for leg lifts to build up strength and duration in my weakened leg. As I was busy doing my routine, I was able to overhear a priceless conversation. The whole time I was working on my routine, a gentleman who had the look of a lost puppy had been sitting on one of the stretching beds and watching what was going on. Finally, in the open format of the gym that is a part of phsiotherapy, a therapist came over and sat down beside him. His questions were simple and pointed. He asked, “Why have you been sitting here and doing nothing? Do you not know what you need to do?” The patient responded, “I was waiting for someone to come over and tell me that I should start.” Really? Apparently he knew what to do, and that he was there to do that very thing, but he needed someone to come and tell him to start. The flash of guilt went through me very quickly as I had come in, looked around for my physiotherapist, and when I didn’t see him I had started my routine without being told. No excuses, no fear, no holding back doing what I knew I needed to do for myself! I can absolutely take charge of doing my part in the process of regaining my health. I don’t need someone else telling me that I should do things to restore my health. I am absolutely able to simply get at it!

When my therapist finally found me and came over to talk, he said this to me. He said, “We have been talking about what it is that we provide for you here in the rehab ward, and it isn’t much anymore. If you can recreate these exercises and routines for yourself in a home gym or at a local recreation center, then there is no more need for us to have you come in here. We can become a resource for you when you need us. You are basically doing your own thing here anyway.” This is all music to my ears… my team of therapists set free to help those that don’t realize that they are driving their own recovery and instead need coaching and encouragement to do the very things that they KNOW will do them good. And as for me, well I can have more freedom to do those things as well, but freedom to self determine when and where I do them. It may be very soon that I will be free of appointments at the hospital, but with the continued privilege of making appointments of my own choosing so that I could go to my helpers and get expertise from them as needed.

I like it. I like it alot!

44 – Transformation – Don’t Be A Dick

I once worked for a man who ran chuckwagon ponies and every summer he would go to every rodeo he could to race those ponies and his chuckwagon for the thrill, for the prize money, and frankly mostly for the huge drunk up that would follow each race. I was his faithful squire, driving to the rodeo grounds after many a weekend and searching for him among the piles of horse shit and hay, I’d find him and gently protect his throbbing head as I lifted him out of the place he passed out and walk him back to the truck for the trip home. That was of course after I made sure that the horses were taken care of and fed, and that all the gear had been loaded up properly so that the precious cargo would make it safely back to the stable. The comedy show (for me) would start when I would drive up to the house to unload him, and his wife would come out in all her stereotypical glory from working in the kitchen to lay on the tongue lashing as thick as could possibly be done. If you watch any TV show or movies about drunken cowboys coming home, this is where that script was developed. I wish I could remember even half the lines. They were beyond Mastercard…you know…. priceless!

After I would drag him home and get him to be taken care of by his wife, my job became the horses and gear. But I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that those horses came first, and my very status in the eyes of my boss depended on knowing and doing everything I was supposed to for those horses. There is an irony in the whole situation. I never grew up around horses. We never owned a single horse on our farm. So everything I learned about them, I learned from my new boss. The grooming, the feeding, the bridling and hitching, all of it new to me and I learned the important differences between husbandry of cattle and other farm animals and that of chuckwagon ponies. Horses have not only physical attributes, but unlike the very limited “personality” profiles you would find in cattle, and for sure in chickens (that’s another 6 beer story for sure), horses are each as individually different as people. And one character in the pony corral on this team stood out above all the rest.

Dick was a character. Knowing my boss, Dick got his name because he earned it. Scrawny and small, this little character was ounce for ounce the most animated of the bunch! He was always the one screaming in the barn, pounding his hooves as I would get the feed ready, chewing the boards around his stall and generally disturbing the peace at every occasion. If I didn’t know better, the rest of the team seemed to always be looking at him and thinking the general thought, “what is your problem bud?” None of the other horses would be making any fuss. I will never forget the day that sealed the deal with me as far as understanding why Dick got his name. It was a regular feeding, with the exception that the team was getting a new high energy feed to get ready for a big race. Because it was a new feed, my boss was there doing the feeding. As he moved up beside Dick to put the feed into his manger in front of him, Dick hauled off and bit my boss right on the most tender part of the back of his arm. Right on the tricep. What would have melted most men to a puddle of sobs simply enraged my boss, who swung around with one of his large enclosed fists and clobbered Dick on the nose so hard that at first his knees buckled and then he reared up and pulled so hard that he tore his halter and escaped the barn with my boss yelling profanities and running after him.

After the noise and confusion settled down, I had a chance to fix the broken things (it was my job). When the opportunity came up, I asked the boss, “Why do you keep such a problem animal on the team?” It was then that I received the best lesson in cowboy logic that I’ve ever gotten. This is what he said (and I’ve left a few of the cowboy flowers he loved to make a bouquet out of when he said something passionately…or just always). “That little shit of a horse is just what the team needs. He’s smaller than the rest, but doesn’t know it! And he has so much G.D. attitude that even though he should be slower, he’s the one who gets everybody so riled up that they wanna run. Damnit, he’s so skiddish that he runs away when he farts. If I didn’t have him on the team, the rest of them would be such lazy bastards that I’d be last every single race! I need him on my team.”

In a society so fixated on transformation and a jealousy of what others are and have, we’ve forgotten that we should value differences and uniqueness. Am I saying that we should all be Dick’s and hurt those around us while we constantly create drama? I think you missed the point of the story if you feel that’s what I said. We should look for ways to find everyone a place to contribute to the team. And as far as each of us as individuals, we can be less concerned about transforming ourselves to what we feel others expect of us and draw on everything about ourselves, even that which we feel is not good, and channel it for the good of the team. The whole act of getting into the newest workout or latest health juice that will transform us often starts from a place way different than it should. Being dissatisfied with yourself is far different than wanting to make the best of what and who you are. I’m all over that. That makes sense. But too often we just want what we don’t have and what we think someone else has. We toss aside a real hard look at ourselves, doing our best to be honest about what we have that could be used for good. Take a good look at who and what you are and be okay with making that work for the good. Forget about transformation!

And remember, we aren’t animals, so we don’t need to be Dicks.

Intro

Thanks to a great friend, this page was developed so that I could share a little more fully the story of my journey through stroke and recovery. I’ve gone back and written about the events before I started posting on Facebook. I want to let those who have asked know about how it started. These parts are written from the perspective of looking back. The posts I wrote on Facebook have been filled out a little more, but left in the present tense as I wrote them then. I hope that these things help you relate to what was happening and what I was going through. This process has helped me work through all of this changed life I’m living right now. May it encourage you, help you to pause and think, and maybe even inspire you to something new or great. All I know is that I’m making the best of this. Hopefully you can too. The thread of my recovery will be under the heading of “Alternate Routes”. If you want to read in order, you have to go to the bottom of the list and read up, sorry. I am also very open to comments, so fill the comments section up. You can also sign up to get new posts as I write them.

43 Life As Therapy

Today was yet more learning in the ever present quest to recover what I lost in the stroke. I’ve always had weak shoulders. They are able to come out of joint at a sneeze. Some of you will remember that I used to be able to pull my shoulder out of joint at will. In fact, back at Gull Lake in 1988, I did a “stupid human trick” one night in front of the campers where I took off my shirt and as I held my hands together, I put my arms right over my head and touched my butt without letting go of my hand hold.

This special skill of mine is now the very thing I find myself working against every day. It’s a problem when my muscles are weak and can’t keep everything where it needs to be in order to avoid damaging stuff. I wonder if I could extort something nice out of my older brother Terry who was convinced he was the initial cause of this issue? He has never forgotten grabbing me by the hands and swinging me around until my shoulders popped out and me screaming because he hurt me.

Other than the exercises to resolve this issue, my Occupational Therapist determined that as for my left side is concerned, I have regained about 85% of my gross motor skills and because I was completely unable to do any of the fine motor skills activities when I left the hospital as of October 4th, it was easy to assess that I have gained back just under 50% of that type of function. I’m still very clumsy with small things, but I’m really starting to pick up on getting things done. Part of why Occupational Therapy cut me loose today for a follow up in January is because life has become much better therapy than what they can do for me in the joint. So one less twice weekly appointment to go to. It was determined that I will still benefit from the regular input of my physiotherapists until I start seeing much more improvement in my shoulder strength. But as far as the strength training in the gym, they have let me come in and do my exercises on my own. I won’t look a free horse in the mouth. Off of tax dollars I’m able to walk in to my appointment at the hospital rehab unit and use a fully equipped gymnasium for free. And as of today, I just went in and started my workout without having to check in. My coach comes and checks in with me every once in a while and offers pointers and reminders from time to time. Most of what he tells me is stuff I remember him saying right up front; but since the model is for much older people who have stroked much worse, they assume I forget.

There are really cool programs that I could get involved in at various rec centers in the city. And I qualify for disabled discounts. But even with the discounts, the most accessible and convenient ones for me are the most expensive… of course! If I wanted to, I could ask my doctor for a handicapped tag for the car and park in the handicap stall when I’ve already worked the crap out of my leg and find it hard to walk. I may still do that, and use it only when I feel the need. All of you can be jealous of me at Christmas time when you have to search for an hour for a parking stall and I can hit up the one close to the door that’s open. Hehe.

The only way things could really be super sunny is if I had full time income to go with all of this. I still don’t know where I’m going to go with that, because my Mexican ways are very strong at this point, and I need my afternoon siesta. I don’t mind that at all, but I’m sure any employer would look at me sideways if I were asking for that right up front. I also have to factor in that I have good days, and then I have bad days. I can see how the cycle goes, and if I have some pretty heavy days with lots going on, I know it by the end of the day and need to shut down early. I’m sure the wind will start to blow soon. Or at least I hope! And then my little sail will pull this rudderless ship towards somewhere new.

In closing, I will issue this apology. First of all, a blog allows me to say quite a bit more than if this was simply a Facebook post. Secondly, the typing with 2 hands is also an excellent way to gain back my fine motor skills, so I just keep going. There, that’s my apology. I hope you’re okay with it.

42 Celebrating What I Missed

Last night was a celebration of the trip to the Rockies with the OKM grade 12 class. The potluck for students and parents and chaperones was a really cool event. The attached video is the group I was supposed to be with. For now, I’m really excited that I’m alive to see their videos and pictures of their truly amazing adventure! For those who are interested, they are hiking around Ball pass, Egypt lake, and over the continental divide just north and west of Sunshine Village ski area.

https://youtu.be/hxE2-HvDfaE

41 Workout Plans

The snow presses down the mountainside in a valiant attempt to remind us that winter is coming.

And then the sun struggles to shine through the clouds for the rest of the afternoon. Kind of confusing. Oh well, par for the course of my life right now.

In physiotherapy this morning, I found myself responsible for my own advocacy once again. It’s too confusing to explain how it works there, so I’ll abbreviate for you. It seems like every time I go, I’m being tested to see how much I can handle. What came out today was the reason for this. I keep progressing. You heard that right. Every time I go in, I’m further ahead than where they expect me to be, so they re-test me to see where I’m at.

This might seem good, and don’t get me wrong, it is good. And I’m glad that I’m moving forward. It’s just that physio is not that useful for me. In my quiet contemplation on things just yesterday, I realized that I had been walking so close to the edge of “I just don’t care anymore” that I needed to get away from there! There’s always a danger of slipping over that edge if you keep walking so close.

So I made this issue abundantly clear to the physiotherapist who is working with me and he offered to start working on some next level stuff for me.

The main concern for them when dealing with stroke patients is that in the process of injury to the brain, there is almost always a loss of self awareness and being able to set reasonable limits. My roommate who was given an exercise and obsessed on it for 20 minutes straight until he dropped his affected arm and couldn’t find it anymore (it was still attached but he had no concept of where his arm had gone once his good hand was no longer holding it).

I didn’t lose that part of my brain. Just one more thing to be thankful for. Maybe by Thursday they will have a workout plan that doesn’t keep me so close to the edge of “I just don’t care anymore”. That’s a hopeful thing to look forward to.

40 Job Seekers

Enchanted breeze in the tall trees.

After church tonight I went out on the deck for a while to listen to the wind sing through the huge conifers in our back yard. It even looked like it was snowing for a while but that was just the needles falling off the larch as the wind plucked them off in great big swaths. I could have watched longer with the help of the landscape lighting if it wouldn’t have been for the distracting little masked bandits who were rearranging some of the lights a little further back in the property. They must have been looking for a job, because one of the little buggers managed to remove one of the bulbs from the lights. Must have been warming their little thieving paws in the light!

I was thinking to myself that if road rage is a thing, why isn’t life rage? You know, when someone in front of you is doing life so slow that it kills you to have to deal with the pace. Except that I’m the guy in the “life” in front of everyone else and I’m getting in the way. For those on my friends list that are from Carbon, and reading this post, it would be like having to drive behind Ted Schmidt, tempted to pull out and pass, except that he had a habit of calling the cops on people who didn’t obey all the rules.

It’s not that I mind the slow pace and being able to take in as much as I can around me, “smelling the flowers” and listening to the wind blow kind of stuff. It’s more the fact that I have a new speed limit that doesn’t allow me to really speed up if I need or choose. Recovery comes, and everyone seems so encouraged to see me back up and running. Still, the adjustment to new feelings and aches and sometimes pains. There are times it takes all of me to focus on just keeping going with all the stuff that could pull me down. I’ve sharpened the ability to hide as much as possible and let others see only the good stuff. I try to keep the stuff that drags on me hidden away. Most wouldn’t want to be confronted with it anyway. It would make them feel uncomfortable and shy away from socializing.

Balance will come back again. Hopefully not too many young punks will pull out and pass me because I’m too slow. Hehe. I have some feelings stirring as to what the future might hold, but I’m still waiting for that wind to blow on my feeble little sail that I set up as my engine quit. I know its wrong, but I still long for some amazing affirmation of where next like someone having a dream or a vision of what I should do, and it lines up with what my dreams are as of late. But alas, I don’t know that wind has that much certainty in its direction.

I will keep on showing up every day for what the day holds, and be pleased that I have a day to enjoy. The thought of what I could have lost is never far from my mind. I’m glad that life goes around me. It gives me extra incentive to get up to speed.

Well, let’s see what the week brings. And lets look for the good in life, as well as looking for the good we can do.

39 Miscalculating Politics

Social media is sometimes the cruelest of places. A real face to face not on my Facebook “friend” list and I were having a conversation just yesterday about what gets said in any social media forum. His suggestion was that if a person were to take the very same words that are said on the internet, and spoke them in front of a crowd of people, there would be much more grace, forgiveness, and effort put forth to hear and understand. I respect his opinion much more because of what he teaches at post secondary level.

Cruel words come quick. Personal attacks happen in an instant. And I admit that sometimes, if spoken to me, I’ve been able to “turn the other cheek”, and sometimes I have not been as magnanimous as I would like to think I am. Man it can get personal quick! Instead of being a forum where challenges of ideas are welcomed, these “interaction” spaces have become minefields. And sometimes they done get blowed up real good.

I said it earlier, listening seems to be a problem. For that matter, graciousness and forgiveness seem to be a problem. It’s a common line that we wait to interrupt and speak our piece instead of listening to what’s being said. We have come to the point where we will only hear what we already are in agreement with. There may be a few exceptions to this, but usually they are the “friends” that don’t say much of anything on any topic. Probably the smartest of us all.

I’ve never seen any of my Canadian “friends” be even half as passionate about the Canadian election as I saw some get about the American election. And that’s most of what almost everyone is talking about. And it’s caused some grief. I miscalculated people’s stake in a foreign election. Especially since this country doesn’t seem to get near as passionate for our own politics. Maybe we have the same kind of issues here and they will come to the surface now that our neighbors showed us the way. If anyone is still reading this, there may be some cringing at the thought. The fight has the potential to divide us too. What are you willing to “let slide”, and what will you possibly be willing to fight for? Even if your “fight” was as quiet as the act of choosing and secluded in a voting booth?

I can only imagine the thoughts in the voters mind with the choices presented to them. The issues that the media have made that choice about before and since could not have been the issues that many were voting on, or the pundits would have been able to call it. Although the racists and bigots have come out of the woodwork, emboldened on the one side, the arrogant progressives have had entitled crybabies come out of their ranks doing their worst as well. SOME on both sides have their rivals painting with broad brush strokes, but that’s the fools way out of the discussion. The media seems to be doing its best to keep those narratives going. What purpose that serves I’m not sure.

I still feel like talking about this, and if you choose to see things differently, well then welcome to the discussion. But if your waiting to interrupt and or respond instead of discuss and listen and you turn to unfounded insinuation or personally degrading me or anyone else, I can’t guarantee that I will be able to overlook it. I may say something back.

And if you’ve made it this far, I would like to say that I sincerely didn’t intend to come across as arrogant or self centered by sharing my own personal story since I experienced this stroke. I got accused of trying to make myself sound wise and insightful in what I share, as though I am better than others. And I didn’t intend that if that’s the way it’s been coming across. I do intend to keep sharing, if not for any other reason than since I started many of you have encouraged me to do so.

I still love the lot of you, and forgive me as I learn to navigate this openness in this format. Blessings.

38 Circle Flies

SHAME on you Hillary supporters!! Hopefully the opening line caught your attention but didn’t turn you off and you read on.

The “progressive, liberal, open minded, forward thinking” folk are all posting woeful posts about America electing a misogynistic, bigoted, homophobic, islamophobic tyrant as president. You’ve forgotten a really important point. A vote is always people telling you what’s on their mind. But no one seems to be trying to figure out if there’s a message behind what was being said.

I recently spent a bunch of time in rehab with a bunch of other stroke victims, many of whom had less than perfect ways of communicating. They were left with words that on their own were jumbled, or skewed, or yes, sometimes downright rude or shocking. I watched nurses with their own agenda hearing what was being said but not even trying to hear what the patient was trying to say. I had nothing but time, so I used to look for ways to understand what was actually being said. The message was always there if I spent the time digging.

I see a population pushed to the point of utter frustration so they used the only message they could (as imperfect as it may have been) to send a message. Now it is up to the so called “open minded, progressive” thinkers to try to figure out what was being said, not simply put off this message as the out workings of mindless flawed fools!

I’d be so disappointed if none of the Hillary supporters read this and responded. Otherwise it’s a message that falls on ears connected to voices that would have chimed in with this message.

P.S. I’ve heard circle flies are never wrong.

Later That Day

It’s official! I did the testing and was given the all clear to drive once again. I even got the chance to help the doctor remember which foot you need to use the accelerator. Thankfully it was only momentary confusion.