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Tears of Acceptance

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I’m crying in my therapist’s office.
Not tearing up, choked up, actual freaking tears.
This is the 3rd therapist in my 30 years of life that I’ve visited yet the first one that I’ve deemed to actually cry in front of.  I hate it.
Crying and I do not have a good relationship, I avoid it at all costs. To see me cry means you’re one my privileged few.

My mother cried in front me.
Deep, heaving sobs. Her mascara would melt away revealing her beautiful face. She would, and does, say that it’s okay to cry. But my mother and I are different. Different beings from different times and places. Crying is her juice fast:  cleansing and liberating.  She will not hide the tears in her eyes but show them unabashedly to all who are willing to look.

I’ve never seen my Grandmother cry. I’ve never heard her voice even crack with sorrow. Thrice divorced and single parent of 7 she is the woman I have always strived to become like.
At funerals she wears huge dark glasses. When the other mourners get out of control she leaves the room- not to cry- but to tell us it’s time to go.  She cries alone, where no one can see or hear her, and will emerge looking stronger, resolute, and determined.

Then there’s me.  I who, shies away from tears, allowing them only to be let loose when the dam is near breech.  I who, smiles kindly on others who cry openly yet frowns upon herself for doing the same; promises to wear dark glasses at the funerals of those I love and demands that when it is my time to depart that no tears are shed but only laughter and smiles are shared.  Yet human I am, slip up and when a tear manages to spill from the my iron eyes, I will them to return into the cistern from whence they have come.

Today I’m sitting in my therapist’s office, mentally between these two women who I love, yet solidly with myself, apologizing for being so emotional over something deeply important to me. I dry my tears as quickly as they have come.-
Take a sip of water to force the lump in my throat to stop being such a nuisance. I take a deep breath as I try to start again and the words I have been long afraid to say out loud come tumbling out.  “. . I don’t like a lot of things about myself right now. But I have to learn to accept myself, as I am.”
Just like I have to accept that a little water on my face, this moment of realization, really isn’t going to hurt.

 

KStL

I’m Stroked to Life.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com.

Sisters.

Holding my new little niece (three days old!) while her Mom & Dad get some well deserved 😴. This baby girl just melts me (even after 12 a.m.)
Holding my new little niece (three days old!) while her Mom & Dad get some well deserved 😴. Even after 12 a.m., this baby girl just melts me.

 

When I found out my younger sister was pregnant, I didn’t hesitate to offer up my assistance.

During the phone call when she told me the good news, I cried and happy danced around my kitchen.

“When I was pregnant, I remember wishing I could ask Mom about everything,” I said, wiping my eyes with a dishtowel. “I know I can’t take her place, but I’d love to come help out after you have the baby.”

My sister paused.

“Thanks Vee, but you don’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I want to.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

I understood my sister’s hesitation. I have four children of my own, she was aware of the sacrifice this would be for my family and me. Because we also live in separate states, there would be time and travel expenses to think about too.

But more than my own inconvenience, I was hyper aware of the fear that I, once again, may overstep my boundaries from thoughtful older sister into bossy eldest child.

I wanted to be there for my sister, but I didn’t want to try and replace my mother.

The closer my sister’s due date came, the more anxious I got. Some things I wanted to say (but didn’t):

“Labor and birth aren’t the hardest parts. You find out who you really are during those first two weeks of recovery.”

“Breastfeeding should be easy, but it’s not.”

“You may feel like you’ll never sleep again. You probably won’t for awhile.”

I had opinions from everything from epidurals to crib bumpers, but I had to keep reminding myself. I am not her mom. And she doesn’t want me to be.

I did feel inspired to call her at certain times. I could empathize with the aching hips and swollen feet. I knew of the craving for hamburgers and the apprehension of strangers rubbing my belly. When on occasion, she did ask me questions, I happily answered. I tried my best not to be overbearing.

When she was a week away from her due date, I thought I would call her one morning at work.

“Hey,” I said, while putting away the breakfast dishes. “How are you feeling today?”

“I’m okay, but I’m so embarrassed. I think I peed my pants.”

I put down a cereal bowl. “What did it feel like?”

She started to laugh. “Just a small trickle, I guess I couldn’t hold it in or something.”

“I think your water may have broken. You need to call your doctor.”

“Really? But it wasn’t like the movies. I didn’t gush or anything.”

“The movies lie. When my water broke, it was that very same feeling. Call him now. Right now.”

A few hours later, my sister left work for a check up. She delivered her baby the very next morning. My bags were packed that afternoon.

When I came up to help her a couple days later, she was just hours home from the hospital. We were upstairs in her bedroom, and I was showing her how to swaddle her 7 lb. newborn. When I asked her how her hospital stay was, my sister responded positively at first, and then cracked.

“The last night, the nurses made me feel awful,” she said with eyes bloodshot from stress and no sleep. “They said my baby didn’t stop crying because I wasn’t feeding her enough. I feel like such a bad mom!” she wailed. Her shoulders shook and all her emotions came rushing out in tears and desperate sobs.

I put my arms around my little sister and stroked her dark brown hair. I picked up her two-day-old baby, so fussy and perfect, and held my new little niece in my arms. She was so tiny and fragile and full of tears, just like her mother.

“You stayed up all night trying to learn how to feed your baby,” I said, rocking this sweet baby girl in my arms. My hips remembered this dance and they swayed back and forth and back and forth, the same familiar rhythm I used with all of my children. “You’re doing amazing.”

I spent the next little while sitting with my sister in her bedroom, listening to her fears, and holding a sleeping baby.

After awhile, I told her to leave her negative hospital experience behind. “You’re home now. I’m here for you, and I know you can do this. You already are, and are going to be, a wonderful mom.”

My sister took a deep breath. “Are you sure?”

I thought about our Mom, and what she would do if she were here instead of me. I looked at my sister and smiled.

“Absolutely.”

 *****

VeedaA home cook and family gal, Veeda has a background in journalism and a love for all things food. Especially if sugar and frosting are involved. She’s grateful for her husband who cooks on the weekend and who likes dinner parties as much as her. Veeda spends the majority of her day as the event planner for her four children and, if nap time is involved, makes time to write. Or read. Maybe sleep. She is always on the hunt for the next great book and loves recommendations.
Veeda has a background in journalism and a love for all things food. She spends the majority of her day as the event planner for her four children and, if nap time is involved, makes time to write. Or read. Maybe sleep. She is always on the hunt for the next great book and loves recommendations.

 

Be Present

I will be the first one to admit that I am horrible at multi-tasking. I think it makes me do all things poorly instead of one thing well. Unfortunately, multi-tasking is required in our contemporary society and technology only makes it easier and easier to submit to multi-tasking.

It is incredibly stressful!!

When I went to Hawaii a few months ago, I committed myself to staying off my smart phone that way I could truly “get away”. I didn’t want any distractions from my vacation. I embraced every opportunity and tried to soak in every moment, every vista, and every chance to get shave ice. I totally bought in to the island vibe and was THISCLOSE to quitting my job and moving to the North Shore to live on the beach.

Not. Kidding.

It was a brief dream as logic reigned supreme and I came home… either that or I simply ran out of sunscreen.

Any who…

When I got home, I thought about what ways I could keep the calm, easy-going magic of the islands with me.

I realized the key was in being present.

Being present means that your focus is on your current task, in the current moment.
Whether I am waiting in line or watching television, I am focused in that task; I am not on my phone checking Facebook or googling random topics that flit through my mind.

Confession: I will be watching television and a commercial for some sort of medication will come on and I will immediately hop on my phone and research what symptoms the drug treats, the side effects, and even the drug manufacturer. Here is the kicker- I don’t know anything about drugs nor am I interested in it AT ALL. The next thing I know, it’s been 15 minutes and I haven’t watched my show and have to rewind. I do the same with sports, international news events, and celebrities that promote products. Just this weekend I was watching The Sixties, a docu-series on CNN, about the British Invasion. Like a reflex, I grabbed my phone, googled “Hard Days Night” and got lost in the internet for an hour and missed the entire episode. I literally spoke out loud, “Alli, put the phone down!” like I was a crazy person.

I google only because I can… It is a sickness.
It is such a waste of time and I get angry at myself for doing it.
Multi-tasking at its worst!!

In my quest to be present, I am actively trying to not let my mind worry, wander, or go to dark and lonely places. All I can control is my present and I choose to be happy in my present.

Being present is a lot harder than it seems.
It takes a lot of practice, patience, and diligence. It is very tempting to check my email or reply to a text message while I’m having a face-to-face conversation with someone else. It is rude and I am ashamed of myself. It is heartbreaking that our society is loosing the ability to communicate without technology.

I want to challenge all the readers of Stroked to Life to commit to being present, either for a day, a week, or only for 1 moment. Life is a series of moments and that is okay.

My effort to be present has opened my eyes to how distracting my life can be and how calm it can feel when I am focused on my present.

Try it and tell us how the challenge to be present is going for you.
Good Luck!!

 

AlliHi there- My name is Alli. The first thing you need to know about me is that I am an identical twin and I’m very co-dependent (ok, not very co-dependent. I am fully capable of being independent and alone, I just choose not to be!) I am a passionate person who always has an opinion on everything. I am quick to get angry but I also forgive easily. I believe in being cheerful and that a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world. You can find me at:  www.tooblondes.blogspot.com
Frida

The Art of Feeling

I stood in the exhibition hall, fully breathing for the first time in months.  Air filled my lungs-expanding and contracting-the oxygen reaching my brain, stimulating what had not been felt for so long– Life.
I was 19 years old-


emotionally alone and intellectually isolated-spiraling towards the depths of depression and a half hearted suicide attempt a year later.  It could only be half-hearted because the day I stood looking at photographs in the museum I felt alive, inspired, emboldened, awakened, semi-complete and it was a feeling I wanted to cling to.
Art saved my life.
It’s still saving me.

I had recently transferred universities out-of-state and though physically surrounded I had never felt more alone.
I was attending school with peers who seemed to know what they wanted; and what they desired, though admirable, wasn’t what I wanted right out of the gate.  I wanted a different life.
Paris, London, Rome, Athens-
travel, culture-
solitude,
a career, financial security.
I didn’t begrudge any one their desires but I felt begrudged for mine, for my desire to be different.  Adding to my internal misery was that I was failing at attending school while providing for myself  and for a perfectionist failure was nigh unto death.  I put a smile on my face and tried to socialize but at night–at night I prayed to die.  Death seemed like a sure escape.

It was a friend who suggested we go look at the newest art exhibit and the moment I stepped into the museum I felt embraced and finally safe.  And the exhibit-
I don’t even remember what the photographs were of but I’ve never forgotten the feeling.

I survived the months after my stroke much I did the first bit of college-numb, simply moving from moment to moment but instead of praying to die at night I prayed to live.  I prayed for the strength to survive, to learn from the ordeal.

One night though I felt the resolve to live begin to slip away.  Drafting a floor plan alluded me.  I couldn’t seem to get the scale right, let alone figure out where to start.  I was terrified.
I turned to art.
Like familiar faces from my past that I could no longer place-periods and years mystified me-
was the thing that had saved me leaving me?
I started to wonder why I was alive-why me out of all the people who die every day was I chosen (cause it can’t be a matter of chance) to survive?  The  guilt of survival alone was almost enough to spur another suicide attempt.  I started to wonder:  what if God had gotten it wrong?  What if I never figured out why I was chosen to survive?  What if I completely botch the second chance at life I’ve been given?
But then I remembered that feeling-the feeling I can’t ever forget-the feeling I don’t want to forget.
It wasn’t floor plans that saved me, so I turn the pages of my art books-years and artists don’t really matter-it’s the feeling-the feeling.
That’s all art-life has ever been about-
Feelings.
I don’t know why I was chosen to live.
I don’t know if I’m botching my second chance at life.
I just know that as long as I’m surrounded by art I’ll be feeling.
And if you ask me, to feel is to truly live.

Vincent van Gogh's Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity) Painting
Vincent Van Gogh, Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity) Sourced from vangoghgallery.com
FridaFrida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Monkey

 

 

 

 

 

KStL

My name is Kendra and I am a 30-year-old stroke survivor who has a new lease on life.  You can call me Stroked to Life.
After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com.
I hope you’ll stop by weekly to see what me and the fabulous StL contributors have to say!

Jen’s Post – The Five Year Plan

As a teenager, I was often challenged to think about my five-year plan. Sometimes that was even extended to a ten-year plan but that was incomprehensible to my young mind. Five years always included high school graduation, college, and a job in the hazy future. I didn’t know exactly what I would do beyond college. I couldn’t quite decipher a career path, but I knew it would be great. Amazing, actually. One of my high school teachers predicted that most of us would be working in a field that hadn’t been developed yet. That’s technically true for me since digital photography hadn’t come around yet. (I was still using film…surely that dates me!!) I may not have known which college was to become my alma mater or that I would graduate with my bachelors in science in three short years, but I knew my path. It sure was easy to sit down and jot out those five years full of potential and awe!

As a newlywed, the five-year plan became pretty simple. It was to put the hubby through the rest of his schooling, work like crazy, save for a house and have fun doing it.

Babies came early on and the five-year plan changed to getting the newborn to sleep through the night, potty training, saving for a bigger house, building a nest egg and starting college funds.

Somewhere in the middle of firsts and diapers, preschool and grade school, buying the bigger house, infertility and life in general, I got stuck. Sadly, the last 5 years have flown by so fast that I feel like I have barely had time to catch my breath. I haven’t thought much about tomorrow or next week, let alone next year.

Until last week when it hit me full in the face that my five-year plan at this moment includes half of my children graduating from high school and MOVING AWAY!! What??! I did not agree to children moving away. When did this happen? How can my five-year plan possibly include losing half of my family?

Even as I write this I realize that my story today began with a younger version of me that is exactly the same age as my oldest child.

Time does funny things. This new five-year plan feels just as hazy and unreal as the first one did all of those years ago. Yet unlike that confident teenager embarking on a new journey, I am uncertain and afraid of letting go.

Sooooo, I’m going to let that five-year plan roll around in the back of my mind while I go and enjoy right now with my kids. Tonight I’m going to kiss all my ‘babies’ goodnight and whisper stories to them about their future. It will be here before I know it.

Jen

Most days I am hanging on by my teeth and praying for a miracle. I’m always trying to do more than I’m able while dreaming of curling up with a book and doing nothing. I get bored of almost everything after an hour and I clean when I am stressed. My husband and I have four awesome kids whom we love dearly and we spend most of our time trying to keep up with them. I can’t remember what free time feels like. I worry about the day when all my kids leave the house, but I’m taking life one day at a time and trying to enjoy the journey! Catch a glimpse of our lives at www.fairbanksphotography.blogspot.com or send me an email at fairbanksphotography2@gmail.com.

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