Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Friday April 16 – Reinvent Being

As I drive to Halifax, I think. Every drive that I have done to or from Halifax without you or the children in the car… I think. I used to listen to the radio. I was a hard core CBC fan. I loved talk radio. Since your stroke, the white noise of the car allows me to keep my mind working on the things it needs to work on.

Today, I think about people and when a person becomes a patient. Not just a patient in the casual sense, but a consumer of intense medical therapy, like you. When a patient is always on the receiving end of care and is unable to give, it takes part of you away. You receive but you don’t give. Normal relationships do not exist in a hospital setting. This is something that you will have at home. Healthy two way relationships with people not only give to you but also receive from you. This is healthy and necessary to living.

Caring relationships go both ways. That is what gives us a purpose in life. Caring for others. It’s biologically programmed into us because we are mammals and we are a social species. To remove half the caring out of a relationship makes it an aberrant relationship … unhealthy and unrewarding. This is what you have experienced with a few exceptions in your hospital stay.

Objectively, I have tried to measure the time that you are depressed. My best guestimate is 40% depressed and 60% normal, although there is a lot of variation. I wonder what your measure will be like when you become surrounded with people who you can care for.

You said you need to redefine your roles and restore relationships with the people in your life. Reinventing yourself will help you climb of your dark hole. In time you and your community of family and friends will help you reinvent yourself. Perhaps that’s the difference between survive and thrive after a stroke or any life altering event. Survivors just get through the course. Thrivors reinvent themselves to get through their ordeal and in the process they not only inspire their own recovery, but they also inspire the people about them.

If this is the case, maybe I should call this part of your story: How My Town Healed My Family

Few years ago, I remember reading about a young woman who had a stroke. She was a young mother. She struggled with her recovery while being a mother to her pre-stroke children and her post-stroke children. She thrived because she had a strong sense of what her role was. She was needed. She knew that she needed to care for the most important lives in the world … her children. I thought, at the time, that it was interesting that a simple and strong biologic instinct of motherhood trumps the damage that a stroke can inflict. Motherhood gave her a reason to make a recovery.

Does the same work for fatherhood … I think so.

We had talked the other day about the reinvention and whether it is a ‘do over’. I expect it is in a small way but it’s actually better then that. It’s a do over with the benefit of hindsight. Life experiences are part of the fabric of your being – who are now isn’t who you were yesterday or on August 30. The advantage of re-invention is that you get to cherry pick the best roles and gifts.

You can get all cherries and no pits – what a great deal. It’s almost enviable to have this gift. Most people would love to have a do-over and yet still have the wisdom of their past experiences. Many would want it but they are not willing to part with the comfort of what they know so they choose to continue without emotional and spiritual growth. With you this was not a conscious decision, it was made for you, and your world was torn away from you. Now you get to decide what you are going to take back and what you are going to leave.

In a small way, this apples to me too. I have had some layers torn away from me. Now I get to decide how I am going to be after this stroke. Before the stroke – I had a lost sense of being – I knew my roles; mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. But I had lost sight of what life is about. I thought that life was about doing. It’s not. I have learned rather slowly that life is about being. I had forgot how to be. How to be human. A human being … and part of a larger biologic being … the human race.

When I get to the hospital, you and your psychologist are deep in discussion. At the end she highlights some of the more general advise. “Exercise and good nutrition are very important, they help clear your head of toxins that impair your thinking.” She said and then adds, “Cigarettes are not going to help you.”

On the car ride home, you start the ‘I want to smoke’ rant – I shut you down. The car ride home was quiet … you sulked. It was a very long ride home.

In the past few months, I have noticed that the e physical barriers you have identified that have stopped you from smoking have been very convenient. At the same time, I hope that you don’t see all physical barriers as insurmountable. That would certainly derail your recovery.

Tonight, Terry and Chris G came over. You shared some guy time with Chris and Quinn. The three of you tried to watch baseball. The Angels vs the Bluejays. You had a lot of difficulty following the game. It’s strange. You know the rules. You know the strategies. You just can’t enjoy the game like you used to. Maybe it’s a concentration problem. Maybe there is more to it.

You will have a lot of physical barriers to over come. The trick is finding the right motivation to overcome them. If necessity is the mother of invention then frustration must be the mother of motivation.

I pray that the desire to smoke will not be as strong as the desire to relearn baseball or effect a good recovery.

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