And it seems like a long time since I've posted about anything positive. So I'm going to post an essay that I wrote, in 2006: "Wishes and Choices". It's about how I was feeling about my recovery process at the time.
"Wishes and Choices" is still true...mostly. I'm a less little naive now. I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason, but, to quote Tom Lehrer: "Life is like a sewer: What you get out of it depends on what you put into it." I'm much more accutely aware now, however (not only because of my experiences but because of many, many discussions with others much smarter than I, not to mention hours and hours of having CNN on in the background in my apartment) that "stuck" isn't always a state of mind, that "staying positive" isn't as easy as everyone makes it sound, and that sometimes even working your hardest just isn't enough...particularly for groups existing in a social system that's stacked against them in multiple ways.
I've grown up a bit since I wrote "Wishes and Choices". I hope I'm a bit wiser...and that my writing has improved at least a little bit!!
But my main impetus for writing "Wishes and Choices". hasn't changed. As hard as it's been to get here since the stroke, I wouldn't change what happened. It got me here, to my 250th post, didn't it?
And I like being here. :) Thank you all for being here with me.
(Oh, if I ever reprint "Wishes and Choices" anywhere else, I'll find some way to say what I want to say without using "inner voice". A promise to an editor friend.)
Wishes and Choices
I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason. Even “bad” things.
So, one day at Penetanguishene Rehabilitation Hospital, I declared to the social worker that if I had to do everything over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d have the surgery, definitely. I’d have the stroke. Definitely.
Well, that’s more written on stone on some days than others.
Some days I can’t help thinking that it would be nice to have three wishes to put towards restoring my health. Or even one wish.
I’d have to phrase my one wish very carefully.
Should I wish to be healthy again? All things considered, I am fairly healthy. The arteriovenous malformation is no longer a problem. My seizures are more a nuisance than a health risk. Despite my weak left side, I’m actually more physically fit than I was before the stroke.
Should I wish not to have a weak left side? That still leaves me with a seizure disorder, which makes me unable to drive. Losing that freedom has affected me, in many ways, more than the weak side. Not being able to drive is a huge hassle, especially living in a rural area.
Should I wish that I hadn’t had the surgery? That would leave me with an AVM in my head, making me a ticking time bomb. I would have almost certainly had at least one other bleed, possibly causing the same neurological damage as the post-surgery stroke did.
I should maybe wish that there had been no complications after the surgery. That would be the wish, I think...no stroke to cause a weak left side, no scar tissue to cause the seizure disorder. Brain surgery seems scary, but is more routine than people think. When it goes well (which is most of the time) people aren’t even in the hospital all that long. With a routine surgery, I could have gone home in a week or so, recovered for another three, possibly been back to work by July. Life would have gone on.
Would I have met some of the strongest, gentlest, funniest, most loving, resilient, intelligent, determined and courageous people I could ever imagine?
Would I have the immense respect that I now do I for nurses (and the medical system in general), co-existing with the knowledge that sometimes I must speak with a firm voice and gently insist that I be listened to if I’m to receive the best that it has to offer?
Would I know how fun it is to run over bubble wrap in a wheelchair, or that you can tow at least two manual wheelchairs (with people in them) behind an electric one?
Would I appreciate how hard life can be for people with disabilities to live in a society in which it can be very difficult to manuouevre, both physically and emotionally?
Would I know in my bones that more people care about me than I can count, and finally be able to see how immersed in love I really am?
“Stay positive.” “Work hard for what you want.” “It’s what’s inside that counts.” Would these cliches have become part of my life philosophy?
Would I know how and when to ask for help, and feel comfortable doing so?
Would I know that just because life turns out differently than you expected doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to be worse?
Perhaps I would have learned all these things somehow if I hadn’t have had the stroke. Perhaps these were lessons I needed to learn, and acquiring a weak left side was just one way of getting there. Perhaps if the surgery had gone absolutely according to plan, I’d still be right here at age 29, writing a touchy-feely and somewhat vague reflection on how one wish could change my life.
Since I’ll never know whether different life circumstances would have taught me what I know now, brought me to this place where I am…perhaps I’ll just leave it at this:
I don’t need a wish. I have too many choices to fill my head with wishes.
I choose to hope.
I choose to find new ways of looking at the world.
I choose to be open to the connectedness between us all, to heal and be healed.
I choose to passionately pursue the things that give my life meaning.
I choose to celebrate the victories.
I choose to relax into my failings, and to try again.
I choose to stop, rest, and listen patiently and compassionately to my inner voice.
I choose to stop trying to control everything.
I choose to believe that “stuck” is just a state of mind.
I choose to not to let people handicap me.
I choose to let myself feel what I need to, when I need to feel it, and to ask for help when things get too hard.
I choose to let my mind and spirit run fast and free.
I believe…and I insist…that I don’t need a fully functional body to do any of these things.
I don’t wish. I choose.
Have a great weekend. You're all awesome. :)
(Oh! I've got a new web presence...check me out here: http://topfemaleexecutives.com/Sarah-Levis)