Twenty Lessons I Have Learned
...upon Experiencing A Stroke at Age 45
- I now know that if I’m alive enough to complain, I HAVE NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.
- When I ask, “How long is this recovery going to take?” I just have to say, “SHUT UP SUSAN!” I’m recovering and improving, so how can I be so impatient?! There was a time when I never even knew if I’d EVER get better.
- I found that if I’m starting to pray for the characters in the soap operas on TV, I’ve been ISOLATED too much and they are becoming too REAL to me! I need to get out into the REAL WORLD more!
- Complaining about typical life (or worrying about it!) such as too much traffic, high cost of movies, being put on hold too long on the telephone, bad weather, etc., (or boredom). These are LUXURIES compared to being obsessed about my mobility!
- To pick out and purchase a new walking cane is a PRIVILEGE – as opposed to spending my life in a wheelchair.
- If I’m aggravated with my child’s noise level (Kyle is 6 years old now), messiness or intrusion on “my time” – I could be REJOICING that we are so close to each other again – because there was a six week period when I was in a rehab hospital and was SO HOMESICK that I would have given ANYTHING just to wipe my little one’s poop or vomit or pick up all his toys!!
- I am PERFECTLY IMPERFECT, just as I am. I was kept alive for a good reason, and to waste my time with over-concern about my condition is so self-centered and EGOTISTICAL!
- PRAYERS MOVE MOUNTAINS! I may be shoveling as much dirt as possible (regular medication maintenance, better diet, regular blood work – I now know the difference between good & bad cholesterol; as much physical exercise as possible, 10 hours of sleep at night, etc.) but GOD is moving the MOUNTAIN – I am not getting better ALONE!
- LET TIME TAKE TIME! For instance – after 2 ½ years from the date of my stroke, (my left arm and hand had almost NO FUNCTION) I re-learned how to tie my shoes with two hands!! The top of my Christmas list to Santa included a new pair of tie sneakers to use when I “walk” each week in the local gym. I started an indoor walking club with my church at the community center in Verona when weather is inclement during lunch hours when the gym is not used. How amazing it is to be a stroke survivor and PRESIDENT of our walking club at the same time!
- Every birthday is a GIFT! When I could have perished at a younger age, the advancing years don’t look so bad! Facing my MORTALITY has completely changed the way I look at life!
- Showering independently (or getting my hair cut, etc.) is a CELEBRATION, not an ordinary event, as with the rest of the world! Because at one time, when I first arrived home from the rehab center, a complete stranger who became very near and dear to me – had to be hired to come into my home just to bathe me!
- STRANGERS have been most helpful – there are ANGELS AMONG US (especially when I’m not too shy to ask for help!).
- MY SENSE OF HUMOR is critical to existence and recovery. I remember standing in a Starbuck’s lobby, waiting for my husband to bring the car around to pick me up at the doorway (too cold to go out) when a customer came in for coffee. I felt so stupid just standing there doing nothing, that I said to him, “Welcome to Starbuck’s!!” and he burst out laughing (we both did!) as he asked me if I was the official greeter for the store’s customers. I replied that I was the “welcoming committee.” Little did he know that I was self-appointed! It made me feel so useful and social again. LIGHT HEARTEDNESS IS FAR BETTER THAN GIVING IN TO DEPRESSION!
- An ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE pervades my existence now. I notice such small things that most people take for granted: a hard railing well built (I always then give a prayer of thanks to the conscientious builders), less stiffness upon sitting longer (in a movie, for instance), using a public restroom all by myself (my dear husband had to enter and help me in Ladies’ Room at first!). SMALL IMPROVEMENTS are very BIG to me. It is WONDERFUL when life is looked on with INTENSE GRATITUDE!
- I have learned so much about my self and others:
- I am patient and tolerant, and I don’t GIVE UP or GIVE IN easily! My stubborn Irish heritage came in very handy!
- OTHERS CAN LIVE WITHOUT MY HELP for a time. The world did not stop revolving without me being present in it for a while!
- My husband has learned to cook (some!), take care of a young child, bake (some! – while the kitchen becomes a disaster!!) make beds, clip coupons, go to school meetings. Load and unload the dishwasher – all because I NO LONGER CAN DO EVERYTHING MYSELF (perhaps I was disabling while enabling all along!). Now, he has a new feeling of self-esteem and usefulness and he can better appreciate the world of a stay-at-home mommy (YIPPEE FOR US!!!). My prayers have been answered!
- What really matters is on the INSIDE of a person – not the costume of a body we wear! My ATTITUDE, PERSONALITY, SPIRITUAL NATURE and SENSE of SELF and PURPOSE in life can NEVER be TAKEN away from me unless I willingly give them away!!
- Recovery comes like waves to the seashore (I am a JERSEY GIRL!). Sometimes it’s high tide, sometimes – low. Sometimes there’s an undertow and sometimes it’s just quiet, serene and peaceful. But the OCEAN NEVER DRIES UP! (and sitting on the boardwalk or pier affords just as beautiful a view of the water and horizon as a walk along the shoreline (and no SAND BETWEEN THE TOES!!). Someday, I WILL WALK on the beach again!!
- Slowing down allows me to SMELL THE ROSES IN LIFE! Small steps are VERY BIG!!! Just try to waltz – you know what I mean!. Sometimes just getting to and out of my back door are BIG EVENTS!
- There are other people who suffer from illnesses and hardships that are far more grave than a stroke.
a. I know that if someone had to be affected by a stroke, I am so grateful it was ME and not one of my CHILDREN WHO BECAME ILL. Stroke can happen at ANY AGE to ANYONE!
b. I was chosen for this, and this was CHOSEN FOR ME (so I could learn the lessons I needed to learn in my lifetime)! My “computer” crashed for a time, but the system is being RE-BOOTED and should/may be up and running well soon (THANK YOU, LORD!)!!
20. Finally, “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why, can’t I?” I CAN and I WILL NO MATTER WHAT! Just like the Little Blue Engine that could…”I THINK I CAN, I KNOW I CAN; I KNEW I COULD!!” I AM A MIRACLE!!
Love and peace to you all, Sue Bernard and Family
P.S. It is a daunting responsibility to be a “MIRACLE,” but I feel SO SPECIAL because of it!!
Special Note: Santa – my husband – gave me a brand new pair of AVIA TIE SNEAKERS for Christmas! They’re BEAUTIFUL!! AND SO AM I!