In some ways, I had a distinct advantage. I was given a chance at trying to rebalance my life when I had a stroke in October 2017. Meeting and exceeding the physical markers established by my speech and physical and occupational therapists, meant that I was on the road to recovery. By spring of 2018 I was sure that before long, I would be back to my normal abilities and that stroke would be a distant memory. But try as hard as I could, I came to realize that the brain has its own timetable and no amount of physical effort will rebuild the broken connections and restore the body to normal. I had to give up many activities that I loved because my brain simply did not have the capacity to do too much. I could only talk on the phone for a few minutes and only to one person in a day; I couldn’t handle more. Often I was exhausted the next day after the slightest activity and needed a lot of rest. I was like an infant that needs a nap – too much stimulation would cause my whole being to shut down. I gradually began to face my reality and to say no more often. I learned to take better care of myself, to listen to my own needs instead of trying to conform to what others thought I “should” be able to do. In so doing I uncovered my unique nature and rediscovered all the things that give me pleasure such as getting lost in great music or art, reading inspiring authors, sharing deep thoughts with a few soul-full friends. I spend lots of quiet time listening to my own knowing; recognizing the gifts that have accrued over a long life of adventures, mistakes, sorrows and great joys!
Then 2020 came along asking all of us to change our ways. It seemed to demand that we give up so much. To stay home, to not meet with friends, not go to restaurants, parties, concerts. To do more with less, to accept the finiteness and fragility of life, and so many deaths. To wear a mask and fear others who could infect us and cause our own premature death. To witness the unraveling of our society and truly see our racism and privilege and sense of entitlement played out large for all to see. To be aware of our outrage and anger and our propensity to name the enemy as anyone who disagrees with us. We spent more time alone or outside in nature. If we were fortunate, we began to truly see who we are behind the mask. Only with this vision can we begin the hard work of forgiveness and justice and rebuilding from the inside out.
Now in 2021 maybe we can look more realistically, honestly and prayerfully at our own balance sheet. What have we lost and what are true gains? My stroke helped me begin this accounting in 2017. I have a few physical losses that are improving at their own right speed. I have gained spaciousness and freedom: slowing down so I’m able to “see” more, “hear” more; appreciating the insights that come more easily now; letting go of struggle and striving to do more, have more, be more; experiencing Silence that’s filled with revelations; allowing time to let Grace flow as it will; savoring a few precious friendships, family. Doing less “out there” and cherishing the more “in here.” Feeling so blessed and cared for and watched over by Spirit/God. Feeling so large and a part of Everything That Is. Lacking nothing I have been gifted with everything. I count my few losses as essential to recognizing my true gains. And I am grateful.