When I suffered my brain hemorrhage last November, the scariest part for me was in the ambulance as I was being transferred from the hospital that diagnosed my brain bleed to one with a neurology department that could treat it.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on that fear, where it came from, and what it means for my life now.
As I lay in the gurney, I didn’t know how much damage I had undergone, and I was worried what this would mean for the rest of my life. As a community organizer, my work (and my current life) revolves around being able to think clearly, communicate clearly, and influence people.
Thank God, there was no noticeable damage from the event, but since then I have reflected that this is a temporary sitauation. While I am now physically strong and mentally astute, as we all age we lose these things.
If I love my ability to speak and write well, and this ability leaves me, I will be heartbroken.
If I define myself based on my smarts, and my smarts leave me, my identity will be destroyed.
How can I use the gifts I have now but not base my life around them so I will be lost if I lose them? I am still reflecting on this query, but three responses come to mind:
- I can try to use and appreciate my gifts while I have them, just as I appreciate a sunset for its duration. By cultivating this perspective toward my physical and mental health, I hope to suffer should my health leave me..
- I can care for my body and mind to keep them working well, just as I care for my car (okay, I should do better than how I care for my car). While age is inevitable and it will mark all of us as long as we are alive, we are able to slow its erosion of body and mind.
- If I lose my ability to think clearly, to remember, to communicate, to move easily, what would be left? How can I cultivate traits within myself so that in this case I would still be able to give and receive love for myself and for others. I have known people who have experienced dementia, yet while their memory was gone, they still exuded love and warmth for those around them.
More than death, I have long feared strokes and dementia. These reflections give me a pathway to live so that I might fear them less, to deal with them with more grace should they befall me, and probably to live a better life in the meantime.
Now let’s see if I’m up for it.