Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Two years on...

Today is a special day of sorts around here, as it marks two years since I had a stroke*.

I could look at it as a crappy thing. After all, I still deal with a bit of background dizziness/light-headedness that makes me feel like I've had half of a beer on an empty stomach. I also tend to freak out every time I get a headache, wondering if it's just a headache or something worse. Come to think of it, I freak out over everything, because you just never know.

Despite it all, I simply can't look at it as crappy at all. Sure, big health scares decades before the actuarial tables say these things are supposed to happen to you aren't something anyone looks forward to. They rock your world and make you feel like you're done, like you're compromised from here on out. They colour your life going forward and take away another chunk of the kind of worry-free life we all had as kids and had hoped to hold onto in adulthood.

But the universe has other plans. And while I had no control over the accidentally torn artery that prompted my little life's detour, I could certainly control how I behaved after the fact.

So, the good news:
  • I appreciate life a lot more now than I did before. Maybe I took days, moments and people for granted before this happened. Not now. I try to squeeze more happiness out of whatever I may to be up to at any given moment. Sometimes it looks silly to others - like when I decide to explore the cheese section at Loblaws - but that's all part of the live-and-don't-just-survive ethos that now dominates my life.
  • I prioritize things better. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about what others would think - even if they never returned the favour. Now, I focus on the important folks and ignore everyone else. I hug my family a lot more, and often find myself just staring at them and drinking in the fact that I still have them. It's rather freeing, as deciding where to spend time, and with whom, is now much simpler.
  • I've been able to spread the word about stroke prevention and awareness. I used my work as a journalist to veer off from the tech beat for a bit and talk about the things we should all know. Because a little knowledge can make a huge difference, and if it plays a part in one person's life, then it's worth spending the rest of my own life continuing to shine the spotlight.
  • I'm better at what I do. This may sound a bit odd, but I'm pretty sure this experience turned me into a better writer and journalist. Maybe it's because I came so close to losing the basic ability - which was probably the scariest aspect of all - but I now find myself thinking about stuff longer before I pick up the pen or turn on the mic. And when I do get going, it somehow feels better, as if I'm more on my game than I ever was before.
  • I'm happier. Sure, I'd rather not have this fear lurking in the background, but that's the deal we all have when we're mortal. I'll take this over the alternative any day.
I have no idea what comes next. I eat right and do everything I can within my power to minimize my risk factors, but I'm not so naive as to believe that I'll ever be completely out of the woods. But I'm not the only person on this planet whose been through stuff. Everyone has something to worry about, some amount of craziness that they've got to deal with, and whining about it never did anyone any good. And if you look around, there are always plenty of people around you who are infinitely worse off than you'll ever be.

Which begets the way I choose to live: Say thank you for what you have, stop complaining, put your head down, and move on with the business of living.

So today, as I celebrate two years gifted to me by forces infinitely more powerful than I'll ever understand, I'll do what I've done every day since that warm summer night when everything changed: Suck it up, move forward, just be.

Your turn: What are your suggestions for leading a more purposeful life?

* If you're just joining us, this entry explains what happened. This one explains a little more. As does this one. I also shared my story with Canada AM (video here). What a crazy experience.


Unknown said...

Carmi,I feel for you hun....I too have faced those very fears...I have learned to control the panic attacks,but one always has that fear when certain aches happen within your body....My life style is limited now,but I am grateful to be alive and taking in the simpler things in life and appreciating what I have...A loving family support is priceless..Cheers Carmi on your new journey through life for that is what it is.....we are making different memories just at a slower pace...Be well...:)

Somewhere round about said...

hmmm......i make the very most of every single day.
one thing i have learned now...finally.... is that life sometimes throws a curve ball.

so grab life while we can

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I have come to realize, that there is a reason for the tragedies we experience.. God does have a plan for all of us... too bad, we have to go thru devastating things in order to get that 'aha' moment.. When I lost my spouse, it seemed to be a domino effect.. within a 5 yr. span, (after he died), my grandmother, brother, husband's aunt all passed... From 2001 till the present, a lot of close relatives have gone.. Learned a lot about what I can endure and what my kids have endured.. I agree w/you on appreciation of life and cherishing each moment.. I too look at things differently.. More closely, instead of just glossing over... I can't believe its been 2 years since your medical issue... Its the outcome that's important.. You had your 'aha moment'... :-)

photowannabe said...

Fear can be debilitating but as you said, You Choose how you are going to live life ..forward.

I like the way you are looking at your life and your family is reaping the benefits of that.

Keep on keeping on.


Unknown said...

Carmi: I'm grateful you are still with us, my friend. You're too young and have far too many gifts to share that make the world a better place for the rest of us who admire you!

I guess I'm happiest when I am engaged helping kids who need a positive advocate, and who need to be recognized and understood. ;)

Your best post to date!

Gilly said...

I think at long last I realise yesterday has gone,tomorrow hasn't got here yet so today is what we have and to make the most of it!

And the other thing is that we are responsible for our own lives and the way we live them, not the lives of others. (Children excluded, of course)

And I'm really glad you are still with us, Carmi!

Neilson said...

Sept 2000, after being married only a few months, my wife at the time had the same type of stroke. Her tear was from a sudden head movement during a tennis game. She couldn't move or talk for 4 weeks, yet was fully conscious. She communicated by blinking. Brains are amazing though and today if you met her you'd hardly know she had a stroke. Although she works hard to hide the things that are still hard for her. We're no longer married but remain good friends. Getting through that time showed us a lot about ourselves, our friends, and about life. It was very hard and presented lots of challenges, but it's also brought about some good things that very much match those you outlined. Life is what you make of it. Learn how to be present and genuine are some of the best lessons I learned from the ordeal.