the condition that I haven’t even read yet. I’ve pushed
beyond what most aphasia patients learn and practice and
do. Some patients I’ve met become too passive. They get
depressed, adopting a “poor me” attitude. I understand
the temptation to do that, but it’s not productive. You can
avoid falling into that trap as long as you don’t expect
improvements to be rapid.
In the Red Zone
If you’re an NFL fan, you know the “red zone” is
the term for the zone inside the 20-yard line, where
you’re close to scoring. I feel I’m there, even though a
touchdown is not yet assured. I think I’m 70 percent to
80 percent healed now. I can speak coherently most of
the time. Some words still go missing, but if they don’t
come, I wait or I go to a synonym. I accept that it may
take me years to get to 100 percent — a touchdown. I’ve
heard that improving 10 percent per year is a good goal,
so maybe I’ll get there in two or three years.
For now, the frustration is that words are still coming
slowly. I find myself being left out of the conversation
because I prefer it that way. I keep my mouth shut because,
although I know people will be kind and listen, they won’t
truly be listening because they’re impatient. This must be
similar to what a stutterer experiences. As an introvert, it
was always hard enough for me to be part of conversations
before the stroke. Now it’s even more difficult.
Even Sonya, as generous as she’s been in helping me,
gets frustrated with my speaking. I understand. I do the
best I can and she does the best she can as a listener. I
don’t let it beat me up emotionally. In fact, I think that
I’ve become calmer and nicer because I’m forced to go at
a slower pace now.
The Secret of Life
I don’t pretend to know the secret of life, but I think
that my recovery from this stroke has led me to one
realization that might not have come otherwise. It’s
simply this: Life is. Period. This takes God and religion
and gurus and teachers and family and friends and ego
and winning and losing out of the equation. Everything
just is. Everything that is going to happen will happen,
although of course, the things you do influence what
happens. What’s most important is what’s happening now.
In my case, the stroke happened and I’m dealing with it.
And I think it’s enhanced my sense of being in the now.
I’m 83 and I feel good and I hope to go another 10 or
20 years. I want to be free within myself and so I am going
to do the things I need to do for that freedom. Part of that is
helping my family and my friends. I hope to do that and so
much more. But I also hope I’ve helped you understand the
reality that people face who, like me, are taking one step at
a time as they recover from a stroke.
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