A year to the day after I suffered a stroke, I finally felt able to share the experience in writing (original blog entry here.) It took almost no time at all for the responses and comments to begin pouring in. Emails from others who have been there, Facebook comments from friends who had no idea, messages from friends who were there that night and since, and tweets from others who wanted to ensure no one's eyes remained closed.
It's all a little overwhelming, but in an incredibly good way. And while I slowly absorb the reality that our impact on others can be even greater than I once thought possible, I feel an even greater responsibility to somehow take the experience and make it my own.
Someone asked me why I waited so long to share the news. I don't really have an answer to that. I didn't keep it a secret: Immediate friends and family knew what had happened. I also reached out individually to others as I felt comfortable doing so - often meeting for tea nearby or a phone call if they lived further away. It wasn't always easy: How do you just drop something like this on someone you trust and respect?
Even if there is a so-called "right" answer to that last question - note: There isn't - it wouldn't make a difference. In the end, every conversation was tough to prepare for, to have, and to mull over afterward. Make no mistake: I'm glad I approached them. But at the same time I wondered if I was burdening them with this, if I was causing them needless worry. I'm glad to be surrounded by the kindest, most caring support circle imaginable, but the last thing I ever wanted to do was add any more to their plates than they already had.
And as the year came to a close - I won't be calling it my new birthday or anything silly like that, but the day and time will always resonate in my mind - the writer in me felt a growing need to somehow turn the various verbal discussions into something more tangible, to take what had up until now been something abstract and make it, I don't know, official.
For reasons I'll never be able to explain, I feel better when I take major life events and wrap words around them. It makes them real, tangible, relatable, and I can then come back to them later on, which always seems to make me feel better.
In the end, I probably could have done a better job managing the communication stream around my stroke. But I'm guessing there is no messaging template for anything like this. It's not like I had a litany of previous sudden major medical events to learn from. And to a certain extent I have to accept that we'll be figuring this thing out, haphazardly, for the rest of my now-changed life.
But the thing that matters - indeed the only thing that matters - is that I have a life to begin with, one that isn't terribly different from the one I had before. Which means I should have enough days to pick up the proverbial pen and bite off another piece of something that will never stop serving up new learnings, new ways of doing this life thing a little better than I had been doing it before.
I won't ever say I'm glad this happened. It would, after all, be nice to live without that overriding fear that hangs over my every waking moment (and probably my sleeping ones, too.) But I'd be missing the point of it all if I failed to appreciate the blessings inherent in being given another shot.
Maybe we can't appreciate it until it's almost snatched away. Maybe we have to feel what it's like to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole before we truly value what we've been given in the first place. I'm not entirely sure I understand any of this any better than I did before a tiny tear in an artery caused so much upheaval for so many. But I promise to continue trying to figure it out, and I promise to continue to cherish those who've been part of this unpredictable journey.
Thank you remains inadequate. But please know how thankful I am. Both for simply being here, and for everyone who surrounds me and my family.
More to come...
Update - 10:50 a.m. - I'll be live on-air with Adrienne Batra on Toronto's NewsTalk 1010 at 11:45 a.m. to talk about my experience. I admit it'll feel a little funny not talking tech - and instead turning the lens inward for a bit. But I'm OK with it if it helps fuel the greater good. Maybe there was a reason for this after all. Hear y'all in a bit...