Mae Fowler suffered a stroke in her 30s. This is the seventh installment in a 10-part series sharing insights from her experiences and those of her grandmother, who had a stroke the same year.
Holidays give us more time with our family. For me, it is more than just time with them. It is like a living photograph with all the details shared live and with variations of what really happened. :-) Life before the stroke and the TIA meant more memories, limited even then by other life events. Isn’t it interesting how the brain utilizes certain methods to cope with the trauma and stress that are the holes in the tapestry of our life?
Yes, age is a factor, but I don’t believe it is a major one. I miss not having to write everything down just so I can remember a certain detail. I must say, I have become an even more avid note-taker than I ever thought of being when I was in college! Can’t say my handwriting has improved! Very thankful for that typing class Mom taught! :-) Through everything I have experienced, I am learning that the human brain can recuperate. Practicing memorization of short items such as one Scripture verse is and has been a great way to retrain my brain.
On a deeper level, life before the stroke was a figurative bed of fire. Guess who was the watusi marionette on that bed of fire and getting burned alive?! It was as if I had to keep going and going and going because if I stopped I would realize just how damaged I truly was. If I stayed busy, then maybe I wouldn’t see or smell the burning…maybe no one would see. It had to stop. In one moment, it did…I did.
I was forced to look at the heap of burning and smelly damage. I had to make a choice. Life was and is my choice. In order to live, I had to take the steps toward healing – physically (obviously), emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes these steps are not easy. Okay, sometimes it just really sucks (I don’t know if I can say that, but it’s the truth). One thing that means a lot to me now is the fact that I like myself. I have always lived life for other people. Now, I know (and still learning) how to balance living a life given to me by God and sharing my life for and with others. Incredible lesson! Do I wish the stroke never happened? Yes and No. Yes, for the obvious reasons – no one wants to have a stroke. No, because I would have missed learning to ask for help, to be helped, to understand what joy, peace and love truly mean, and ultimately to allow people I love with all my heart to love me back.
I know this piece is pretty raw and really lets you in to some private places. But we are all human. We share that common bond. We may deal with circumstances and situations differently; however, from our deepest core our needs are the same. What do I understand from all that has happened? Life is fragile. We all have a choice – to live or to die. To live, we must find a way to like ourselves. To enjoy life, we have to give ourselves a break, not take ourselves so seriously, love one another, be kind to each other, and remember that it’s okay for us to love ourselves and for people to love us right back.
Reminds of me of the words from the song Love Like Crazy by Lee Brice:
“Be your best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best, don’t outsmart your common sense
Never let your prayin’ knees get lazy
And Love Like Crazy!”
Mae Fowler is an administrative assistant in the Communications and Image Division at Texas Health Resources.