My Apologies

I apologize.

I’m morphing. I intended to write a day by day account of our journey through stroke recovery. That was probably a very ambitious goal.

The truth is, we all do the best we can at every moment. Right? I mean no one really says “Yeah, I could hit this out of the park, but I’m just gonna bunt right here.” No one intentionally underperforms.

Initially, as I fell behind a day or two, I didn’t even panic. “I accept what is.” However, as I got further and further behind most recently, I had to totally reconsider the whole goal, as there is likely no way I can catch up at this point.

As I was processing what this moment was presenting me, it suddenly occurred to me. The title of the draft I had last worked on was “Progress Is Not Linear”.

It isn’t neat and orderly either.

Progress happens all at once one step at a time.

While Chris continues to progress, gaining lost ground inch by inch, measurable month by month, we have many other things happening in unison. Life is a great thing! It gives us challenges and blessings all at once so that we can dig deep into our Souls for strength and grace. So that we can truly rise above each challenge and see that it isn’t a give and take but a continuous give.

Every challenge and blessing is given for our highest good. Everything is for our highest good. Are you hearing this in your heart? There is nothing that is not in your life that isn’t there to lift you into the highest version of yourself.

Our lives since the stroke, look very similar to what they were before the 19th of January of this year. In many ways, however they look very different. We have both been forced out of the complacent routine we had created. We are expanding in different ways. We are digging deeper, going wider and flying higher than ever before.

Expect miracles out of us.

But don’t expect daily posts from me about it, because when you are in the midst of miracles you don’t always have the notion to document it!

But DO expect that I will be writing fairly regularly to share our where our journey is taking us and how we handle the off roading on our new tires!

~Jade

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Stroke Day 34 – Killer Tacos

February 22, 2017 Wednesday

I made tacos tonight for dinner. First time since the stroke. Up until now, they’ve been kind of a staple in our house. If Chris tells you this story, he will tell you that I tried to kill him by way of taco.

It turns out the many little bits that make this delicious treat are difficult for someone with a stroke to manage and swallow. He was choking and gagging with every bite. It was painful and terrifying to witness.

A quick remedy was to make it into a taco salad and he was able to eat without issue.

Killer tacos. Never to cross our threshold again.

In our lives laughter is indeed the medicine we take in the highest doses. It takes the edge off. It lightens our perspective so that we can rise above it.

For those familiar with me, this will sound very familiar: “What happens to you does not matter; what matters is who you become through those experiences.” As far as I’m concerned this is the secret to a happy life. You can become bitter or you can become better.

EVERYONE has a reason to become bitter, not everyone has the wisdom to become better.

 

Stroke Day 33 – Half Empty/Half Full

February 21, 2017, Tuesday

Today was the first day Chris drove – alone. We were both equally nervous. There are so many unknown variables in driving and they depend on the ability to react. He called me about 20 mins into the trip, the adrenaline rushing through my ears kept me from hearing him clearly the first time. He got a flat tire on the trailer and stopped to get it fixed. Whew.

He did say it freaked him out a bit at first, unable to discern what exactly was happening. However, he handled it and that is really all that matters…

“How do you think you are doing?”

I’ve asked Chris this twice and the answers I got were very different and unexpected. At first he felt he was 90%. I was surprised, we were still in the hospital and I didn’t see him operating at what I would call 90%.

A few weeks later when I could see him doing so much better he felt he was at 70%. I questioned him on this…he said what he measured against was different.

The first time he was measuring against how bad it could’ve been…

We were still in the hospital and engaging with others on the unit who had a stroke also. Even the staff joked with him that he did not belong there, “look at that guy pretending to be a patient.”
The second time he was measuring against how good he used to be…
Being on the job and holding himself up to his pre-stroke standard made him question and re-evaluate; finding himself falling short of expectations that he had no business having.
This is so poignant in life, not just recovery, right?
That what we measure ourselves against can give us different perceptions of ourselves. Often we measure ourselves against our goals. Which is really setting us up for failure, right? Because we are measuring how far we fall short of those goals. If we measure ourselves against our starting point we would be measuring our progress!
These are little mind games our ego plays with us to tell ourselves a story. If we want to be the victim of our story we will measure our weakness, deficits and shortcomings. If we want to be the victor of our story we will measure our strength, accomplishments and achievements! That’s it. There’s no other secret to anything! Its all in your perspective. There is no ‘truth’. No ONE-way to look at it. The thing is just a thing until you assign it a value, so why not color it bright?
It’s a little like “are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person?” I’ve had a hard time answering that question, because for me it depends on what stage of life the glass was in. If it had been full and I drank half, the glass is now half empty. If it had been empty and I filled it half way, then the glass is now half full.
The journey of life is about marking our progress, our evolution, our ascension. Its not about marking our decline. (Remember progress is not linear!) When we look at ourselves it’s imperative that we look with the eyes that will show us the picture that will inspire us, not defeat us.
How do YOU think you are doing?

Stroke Day 32 – Self-Care for the Caregiver

February 20, 2017, Monday

I firmly believe that what happens to us is not important, but rather who we become through those experiences that does.

Today, I’m talking about caregiving, specifically.

When one has a stroke they themselves change in an instant. What was familiar yesterday no longer exists today. You’ve changed at your very core, but nothing else has and now that leaves you feeling afraid and disconcerted. You have no choice, you have to find a new way to live.

For the caregiver it is inside out. You haven’t changed, but everything around you has. What once was familiar and comfortable is now strange and disconcerting. You have no choice you have to find a new way to live.

Initially, your focus is solely on your survivor, as it should be. However, if you don’t take care of yourself you cannot take care of your survivor. In my work with clients, one of the things I include is the ‘airline philosophy’. When the oxygen masks drop you HAVE to put it on yourself first. If you pass out you can’t help your children, or your parents or anyone else.

So, if you are reading this today, I’m taking it that you need some YOU time!

Make sure you take time whatever it may be, to tend to something of yourself. Actually, you need to do something for yourself everyday. Every day. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does need to be daily. Now on a weekly, monthly or even yearly basis you need to do bigger things.

Suggestions:

  • hot bath
  • mani/pedi
  • girl’s/boy’s night out
  • walk in the woods
  • exercise
  • art gallery/museum
  • sit by a lake
  • play with puppies
  • snuggle a baby
  • meditate
  • journal
  • yoga
  • art
  • writing poetry

At this point I’ve let my own self-care go far too long. Have you?

 

 

Stroke Day 31 – Beginnings

February 19, 2017 Sacred Sunday

One month.

Without meaning for it to be a celebration we went out to brunch today. It was long over due as we planned to go to our favorite brunch place the week he had his stroke to celebrate our combined birthdays. But the fact that it landed on the month-iversary of the stroke struck me poetic.

It is cause to celebrate.

Much like members of AA celebrate each day of sobriety, we too celebrate each day post-stroke. So celebrating one month does not seem that off.

Sitting in our favorite brunch spot, eating our favorite foods resembled our old life and yet it had a new luminescence to it. A promise of things returning to balance. This favorite spot of ours is the place we got married.

It’s where our beginning began.

The beginning of our new life. The Michigan maiden voyage of the Klemos family. The beginning of my new career. The beginning of Chris building his business. The beginning of Emma’s new life, too.

Today we let ourselves marinate in the celebratory energy. We soaked in the environment, the sun of the day and the air of Spring (because today was unseasonably warm and it smelled like Spring.)

You don’t need to have a stroke (or your loved one to have one) to start anew and appreciate your life. We didn’t. We shared a great appreciation for the life we’ve had. We never took a second of it for granted. That’s one of the benefits of the over 50’s crowd. You don’t tend to take things for granted like in your youth.

So when a catastrophic event occurs it really takes that appreciation up a notch. I guess it might be a little like the appreciation for Spring after a particularly hard winter. There is always appreciation for a new season, but none such as powerful as that from Winter into Spring. At least that’s how it is for us now. Its like Spring after the stroke of Winter.

We are finding new life in all this.

This is where our beginning begins again…

 

Stroke Day 30 – It’s the Stroke Talking

February 18, 2017 Saturday

Our first fight.

I love Chris, but I do not love his stroke. The stroke however, like a serpent, comes in and strikes before I recognize its snake eyes. He looks like Chris and sounds like Chris, until he doesn’t. It isn’t often, thankfully, but that only means that it comes when my guard is down.

Today was the first day I felt awesome. Two days ago I had the flu and it caused me to put myself first, for the first time since January 19th. It wasn’t my choice so much as a default position. I was too sick to do anything else.

He seemed pretty awesome too, taking on the appearance of my pre-stroke Chris. He was paying bills, coordinating finances and making lists. Then he was yelling at me. Telling me that he is overwhelmed and can’t do one more thing. I yelled back, that he isn’t the only one who feels that way.

“But you aren’t the one who had a stroke.” He said.

The words sliced through my heart like a pick axe.

I feel like I took two steps back and doubled over with pain in my gut.

I didn’t have the stroke, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been affected by it. I’m the one who has taken up the slack for what the stroke stole. I’m the one who has to decipher what doesn’t make sense to him and translate it back. I have been nonstop worrying, compensating, planning and caregiving; to have his words discount that hit me deep.

I needed to remove myself from the situation before it got out of control, so I took myself for a drive. By the time I got back we both had cooled down and reset. This is us…breaking things down and moving through them.

I understand his feelings. I empathize and I support him, but I can’t accept yelling at me. I can’t accept him discounting the value of my contribution. I know it was the stroke talking, but the stroke doesn’t get any free passes from me. I know the brain regenerates. I know it grows new connections everyday. So I treat the stroke like I treated my daughter when she was growing her brain, too; unconditional love and direction.

Bad behavior is bad behavior and that’s not who we’ve been to each other. We’ve always been appreciative and loving in our partnership. It doesn’t mean we haven’t had ‘moments’ but it’s usually been a result of stress related to money. This is new.

Thankfully, the stroke has not seemed to affect the way we manage conflict resolution. Chris has had a temper. It takes a super duper lot to set it off, and its always due to an internal struggle and never really about what he blows up at. The stroke did not steal this away. So, we did what we do. Found our respect for each other and talked about how ego-centered that comment was and what was really bothering him. Surprise (not), it had to do with finances and the pressures of returning to work with the expectations of having the same abilities as pre-stroke.

I also too had to bear some responsibility because I had not shared with him my feelings of ‘not being able to do one more thing’ as well as my own hope (not expectations) that things would return to ‘normal’ at some point.

Expectations.

Its really kind of an ugly joke we play on ourselves. Expectations are projections for the future. What a joke! Who the heck knows the future? It is so dependent on so many variables, that you can’t even begin to predict! There is hope, sure, but hope seems to have expectations as an accessory if you aren’t paying attention when it gets dressed.

He has to work on changing his expectations of himself and what he thinks he should be able to do. Progress is not linear, remember? Adjusting his expectations can avoid these kinds of meltdowns. He can’t expect to be back at 100% just one month post stroke (tomorrow). No matter how small and mild the stroke. He is, after all, 66.  His brain is 66. His neurons are 66. His nerve pathways are 66. His growth hormones are not surging like they did in childhood when the brain was busy generating daily at 100% speed.

One thing I’m learning is that a stroke will shake out the loose bricks of your very foundation, and its up to you to replace each one with strong mortar. Your survival depends upon it.

Stroke Day 29 – Faith

February 17, 2017, Friday

If you are sad. Be sad. Its ok to be sad.

Give yourself 24 hours to be as sad as you need to. Journal about it. Watch sad movies. Talk about it. Give yourself 24 solid hours (like a flu) and then release it.

“Ok I’m done being sad, today I will be….” and chose a new emotion to experience.

I believe that sadness becomes depression because we tend to sweep sad under the rug hoping to ‘get over it’ not ‘get through it’. When I honor my sadness it does not try to ruin my life by becoming depression…

My emotions run rampant these days.

I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m mad. I’m grateful. I’m scared. I’m irritated. I’m relieved. I’m overwhelmed. I’m awed. I’m annoyed. I’m done.

(What??!! ‘Done’ is a legit emotion.)

Denying it, ignoring it, downplaying it, running away from it, all do only one thing…

…exacerbate it.

The ONE thing you can do to make it better is HONOR it. Whatever ‘IT’ is, honor it.

This is for anyone going through anything or nothing. Honoring yourself is the single most important healthcare intervention. Honoring your feelings allows you to hear the quiet message your soul is speaking rather than waiting until it becomes a health crisis in order to get your attention.

A few weeks ago, when Chris told me I was being mean, I didn’t dismiss his feelings. I looked at them with an open heart. Was I being mean? I know I was frustrated, scared, overwhelmed, terrified and tired. That could’ve made me ‘mean’ I suppose. What was absolutely true though, is that I was fighting those feelings. I was putting my ‘faith’ to work and putting those feelings on the back burner. I just ignored them and tried to ‘believe’ them away.

You know those beliefs don’t you?

The ones that keep you from really processing your feelings. The ones that I call ‘Scarlet Ohara beliefs’…”After all…..tomorrow is another day.”

Did you know you could do that? Use ‘faith’ as a denial tool? Yup. Its a thing. Using faith as if it raises you above the human experience. Nope. That’s not faith. Its denial. It’s one thing to let go of the worry and give the situation up to your higher power, it’s another thing entirely to bury your head in the hand and leave all the work up to that power.

Faith is knowing it will turn out for your best, but acknowledging the fear in the unknown. Acknowledging it. Not giving into it. There’s a difference. Denying it is there because you are afraid it means you don’t have faith is just as unhealthy as giving into it and becoming paralyzed. Faith is doing your work but knowing you are not alone doing it.

Understanding that this human experiment is for our benefit and moving through our emotions knowing that good is on the other side, THAT is Faith.

We grow, learn and develop through the challenging times. It causes us to reach deeper than platitudes and pull true strength from our souls.

 

Stroke Day 28 – The Other Side of the Mirror

February 16, 2017, Thursday

I was supposed to drive Chris to work today, but last night I began to feel ill and today was full on flu. Chris planned to drive himself, first time, but when he got up he said he didn’t feel up to driving, so he stayed home.

Chris is very specific with his language and yet vague at the same time. He never said he didn’t feel well. He said he didn’t feel up to it. I took that to mean he was getting the same flu. Later conversations, however, would reveal something new.

Since the stroke he has said that he doesn’t feel hunger like he used to. That it doesn’t feel the same, and thus he doesn’t know when he is hungry, or thirsty or full for that matter. He doesn’t know what it is that he is feeling. He never developed any other symptoms like I did today, so now we don’t know what it is he felt this morning. He did not have the flu though.

I am glad he is at least honoring his body by listening to it. If he didn’t feel up to driving then he didn’t feel up to it, that’s just fine with me.

Another ‘stroke side effect’ that has sort of become ever more present is in the evening/nights, when he’s tired, he is quick to anger and is completely irrational. He can get disproportionately irritated by the smallest things; the dogs barking, the sheets on upside down. It presents as frustration over what doesn’t make sense to him, but then it escalates into a disproportionate response. I get so mad and hurt then. I am doing so much and he blows up?

Last night I had to tell myself that is the stroke, not him and it worked to keep my feelings in check, but I’d like to find a way to keep his in check. I know it is hard because he doesn’t have the words to express what he’s feeling. To him it is like he’s feeling it for the first time. Not to belittle him in anyway, but I have to think back to when my daughter was an infant and had no words for her experiences. What did she do? Cry, yell, get mad, so yah Chris’ reaction makes sense.

If I can think like that, validate his experience and talk him off the ledge things go better. At least there isn’t a blow up or melt down, just a little tension for a minute or two.

Of course none of this evaporates when I’m sick, right? So, I have to be on my toes even when I’m flat on my back.

They say alcoholism is a family disease and it is very true. It needs to be recognized that the stroke (a brain attack) is a family event too. Just like alcohol changes an alcoholic’s behavior and personality, which then affects the family dynamics, so too does the stroke.

We are experiencing two sides of the same event. A little ‘through the looking glass’ kind of feel. He is stuck on the inside, where things are backwards and I am on the opposite side trying to make sense of the side I can’t really see into all while trying to translate his new world for him.

Geez, no wonder I sleep more now.

If he can’t discern if he’s hungry, full, thirsty etc. what else can’t he discern? How would he even know he can’t discern it? How would I know? Could this be the cause of some of the irritation? Asking for something and then having it not be what he thought he needed?

Thus far his work quality seems unaffected. While he says it takes more concentration and time to do what he’s been doing all his life, his work product is the same based on other’s assessments. It just takes him longer, but for someone who’s nickname is “Mr. Rushypants” that’s probably a good thing.

That image of him being on one side of the mirror and I on the other, is really sticking with me. What we see of the other’s experience is backwards from our own.

One day I believe we will look back and realize he’s walked back through the looking glass and we are better for the trip.

 

Stroke Day 27 – Live. Learn. Love.

February 15, 2017, Wednesday

16797092_1316333228413173_6660315721974107685_oCard Reading of the Day:

“I can’t emphasize enough that what you are reaching for is being supported! We’ve got this.”

“Divine Timing is everything. Be patient a little while longer. Like a child reaching for something it is not yet quite ready for, so to do you. You are being covered though. Protected. Supported. What you want/need and desire is yours to be had, but not yet.”

“Please do not lose faith. Do not lose hope. And most of all do not give up. Just a little bit more growing to do before you can reach what it is you want so much.”

“We promise”

OH! What a perfectly timed card today!

There are times I feel completely alone. Completely alone and responsible for our whole world. Nothing any one else can do makes it feel different. I could have a hundred friends show up on our doorstep and it won’t change. I could have several friends call all day and it wouldn’t change how I feel.
Because only I am in charge of my feelings and my experiences they are based on.
Only I can determine whether I am alone or not. I spent years in a marriage where I was not alone but was terribly lonely. At that time I also built walls around me thinking it would keep out additional pain, because the pain I was feeling was so great I didn’t think I could handle any more. (The real problem with this is that walls actually keep out the joy and magnify the pain.)
It’s times like these I try to remember what a little seedling must feel growing in the darkness, pushing its way upward (not even knowing for sure it is upward) and then breaking through the surface to the sunshine.
It must’ve felt like it was on its own, not knowing the sun and rain were there rooting for it all along.
So, this message is perfect today. I am not alone. Even when I choose to think I am. Not only do I have human friends who support me, I have Spirit friends who are rooting for me as well. It’s all part of the design. We are never alone, though we do need to ask for help. Having free will, means no spiritual being will ever step in to intercede on our behalf without our asking for help.
This relates not just to the stroke recovery, but to our lives as well; his building up his remodeling business and my building my Sacred Work practice. In general, building our life; from mundane things like paying bills, to sacred things like our spiritual evolution as human beings.
There is a quote I love…
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
Now its…
Before stroke, chop wood, carry water. After stroke, chop wood, carry water.
It’s all the same. All events of life are the same. They are events that we must live through, learn through and love through. It doesn’t matter how mundane or malicious or amazing. Live. Learn. Love. That’s the process.
It’s knowing you are not alone even when you feel like you are. It’s knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel even when it’s pitch black. It’s knowing that this too is for your highest good. It’s knowing that you are in control of everything and nothing all at the same time.
We never stop growing. We never reach ‘enlightenment’. We never reach our potential. We never reach that place of “I’ve done all that I could.” Energy can never die.
It is.
It is always.
It is always moving.
Life is never over. There is no ‘no tomorrow’, its just that tomorrow shapeshifts. When I reach this ——–> stage of enlightenment, there is a next stage I am already working towards. When I finish with this life, there is the next one (sorry I have nothing here to offer those who see no afterlife or reincarnation). It’s never ending because we are never ending and limitless.
Just keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter what quicksand feeling emotional quagmire you find yourself in, keep moving forward. Just keep moving because if the answer isn’t in the moment you are in, it will be in the one coming up. Just wait and be patient.

Stroke Day 26 – Biker Dave and the Bra

February 14, 2017, Tuesday

Chris has an infamous friend he calls ‘Biker Dave’. I have heard tales of Biker Dave since I met Chris, but I have yet to meet this character. Biker Dave has done a lot of really adventurous stuff. According to Chris, Dave is super strong. Chris is no slouch in this department either, so for him to impressed is something to note.

Dave had called while Chris was in the hospital to solicit his help in doing a job in Indianapolis. Chris, of course, had to decline, so today Dave called to check up on him…and tell him he was coming to visit.

I still have not cleaned the house. And I don’t really care. It can just be another one of Biker Dave’s adventures.

Dave was pretty much how Chris described him. A tall skinny guy with long hair. Nice as could be and very comfortable in his own skin. He was clearly not the kind that was going to be judging my house keeping skills, for sure. He was just that easy going.

We all visited in the living room for quite awhile before I offered to make a meal. “Salmon, anyone?” So off I went to make some food. Dave and Chris both joined me in the kitchen as I was setting the table.

We sat and visited some more until Chris asked Dave for some help with the trailer. I went back to my business on the computer. The whole time Dave had visited he was sitting in the chair I typically sit in. The chair I was sitting in to do my work. Dave called up to say goodbye and off he went.

I got up to do something else and when I went to put my laptop on the table next to my chair that’s when I saw it.

My bra.

Sitting on the table where I’d taken it off the night before. Right next to Dave the entire visit. Right next to Dave’s coffee cup the entire visit!

I can’t say I was embarrassed, because being embarrassed is something I gave up a long time ago. What happens happens, no point in wasting energy being embarrassed about it. Being embarrassed is comparable to worry, its just that one is over the past one is over the future. Its utterly ridiculous. I own my stuff…and I just so happen to own that bra that was staring Biker Dave in the face for two hours, so what?

The ONLY thing that mattered that day was that one of Chris’ long time friends came to check up on him. It meant so very much to him. See, Chris has always been the doer. The fixer; literally and figuratively. Its his gift. Whatever is broken he is the guy who will fix it.

He’s the one everyone calls for advice or repair. But he himself has never needed that service. He has always been able to do for himself. He has not ever been the vulnerable one. Being vulnerable has been the most discomforting part of the whole ordeal for him I’d say. Having to acknowledge that he is not super man was a hard realization for him, but to have the people he has supported and assisted come back to offer the same to him can be overwhelming.

This is when the emotional effects of the stroke can be seen.

Emotion overtakes Chris when he receives or even thinks about the care, love and support he has received during this time. While he was always expressive of his emotions, he never cried in front of anyone other than me. Now, he can’t help himself.

I find it beautiful.

Probably because that is how I am wired so it is nice not to be the only crier on the block. But I think people like to know that what they do, say or give has a deep impact. I think it gives good energy right back to them. He didn’t cry, but he was deeply touched that Dave came out just to see him, when they haven’t seen each other in several years. He talked about it for a few hours after Dave left, so I knew it meant the world to him.

Oh yeah…and its Valentine’s Day too, isn’t it? I guess if you are going to flaunt your bra at Biker Dave, Valentine’s Day is the day to do it.

Laughter, my friends, is the ONLY way we are going to get through this.