MI LUCHA: A.K.A the new normal

There was no one all around
 There was no one there but me
 I was staring out a window
 I was standing by the sea

The waves kept on repeating
 Each one crashing to the shore
 And my footprints nowhere leading
 As they disappeared once more

Your senses they are bombarded
 By the roaring that you hear
 In a shell you can hear the ocean
 When you put it up, up to your ear

There was no one all around
 There was no one there but me
 I was staring out a window
 I was standing by the sea

The original title of this section is going to be “my struggle” but my German publishers suggested that would not be a very good idea. I’ll expand here a little on the thought of incrementalism and recovery without being repetitive to an earlier chapter. In the previous entry I talked a lot about my wife and her support for me in the struggle now I’ll be a little more introspective about what I’m calling the new normal. I don’t want to confuse the new normal with things like freedom fries or old Europe or any type of disingenuous claptrap, it’s more about both the positive and negative pieces of what I’m now terming early recovery. When talking to nurses, doctors and therapists, they’re usually fairly positive about recovery but they won’t make any promises, in my case they told me I was young, I was strong (particularly around musculature in my arms and legs) and I had a positive attitude, all of which would really help in recovery. But no one can guarantee that you’ll be 100% again. They wouldn’t dare say that and mostly they say, eventually you should have close to a full recovery. I don’t know how that’s defined, is it all the abilities I had before, the ability to ride my bike for long distances, to walk around my raised bed gardens on a narrow piece of wood, move things that are heavy, etc. or is it you can walk your kids in school, work a normal day and do the dishes. Back to normal, therefore is all relative. While I haven’t played basketball in a long time I had recently been thinking about playing again for my physical and mental health. It was always something I loved, albeit at an older age probably not as good at, nonetheless I wanted to get back in the game even if it was just shooting around with the kids. But is that the new normal, I’m still trying to find that new normal, where that new baseline will be say on my 50th birthday on June 22. 50 is an enormous milestone, until now I think me and a lot of my friends still gravitated towards youth culture, not youth culture of today, full of technology, etc. but our own youth culture, because many of my friends are the same ones I had in my 20s and even teens. Our memories and a lot of our stories, crazy as they are, are based in those times. Not like we don’t have good times now but the crazy shit is really behind us.

So there are really two big categories of the new normal; the physical and the psychological. The physical ironically and I’m not even sure if that’s the way to use the word is the more difficult of the two. And maybe that just comes with being older as well as having a stroke. I’ve gotten to the point that I have become pretty confident in my walking, I still think about every step and notice my foot misplacement (some of which I’ve always had) and some of the smaller steps are challenging and I still do get tired faster but I’m much more confident on stairs and over distances, to the point that i am actually gonna try to take the bus tomorrow. The physical walking challenges early on vary, as I’ve stated my strength is pretty good, in fact I went to the gym on Sunday and rode the recumbent bike for a half-hour, I followed it up with some light arm exercises and even attempted the elliptical for a few minutes. A few weeks ago just getting on one of these machines what it felt impossible. Part of the new normal is tempering expectations while still having lofty goals. Yesterday and a couple other times I’ve managed to do yardwork, weeding out the old gardens, pulling out all the morning glories and emptying the rain barrels. I even managed to use the rake and shovel a bit and climb up into the raised beds. So this is all great, but often even a moderate amount of exercise can cause me to be sore the next day and exhausted after I’m done. I tried to also do my recommended OT and PT exercises every day which frankly are pretty boring but need to get done.

The new normal is polluted by negativity, you just want to be back where you were even if that place wasn’t where you wanted to be in the first place. As I stated in incrementalism, fatigue is just an enormous factor, part about getting back to physical dexterity is not just for your own health but to get things done around the house. Folding two baskets of laundry made me have to sit down for about a half hour. Things that are just a blip on the average daily radar, doing dishes and whatnot are exhausting. You may sit there and think about just going to the fridge and microwaving lunch as being a major task for the day. You lie in bed in the morning thinking about the long journey in bare feet and the ensuing task of brushing your teeth and taking a shower and then getting dressed. At least the beginning of the new normal is nothing easy, believe me I’m not complaining. My ability to shower and get cleaned up means I don’t smell like pee to people around me and I don’t feel like an untouchable. All this though takes a lot of energy, and I have to admit that when I return to work in two weeks I hope I have the energy to be a successful employee as I’ve really been looking forward to it. Also not being able to drive yet is new, all the little errands I wanna run just become that more difficult and make me reliant on others. Thankfully and intentionally I live in a fairly compact city where you’re able to walk places for goods and services.

So right now while I don’t consider myself disabled, I mean I can park anywhere in the parking lot and get around pretty well. I don’t consider myself to be able either and over the next few months will need to define what that able is. There’s also a realization that you do need to push yourself hard but at the same time you’re only gonna move so fast.

The psychological is a whole other matter together. As I have said quoting Mr. Frankel poorly, freedom is the ability to make your own choices. Generally, my choice is to have a positive attitude to enjoy the friendships and family that I’ve nurtured and with tempered expectations continue to enjoy my life. For most of this it is my own choice, certainly the way others treat me has a great effect on my recovery. But I think it is a waste of all those prayers that I and others had in early recovery on the notion that I may be some type of depressed, annoying bastard.

The issue here is that the psychological and physical are so entwined, if you had a really physical lifestyle the idea that you are handicapped is very psychologically debilitating, the efforts listed above take a lot of psychic warfare to complete, you must convince your body that it can do the simplest things again starts the cycle of exhaustion. I’m already stressing about shoveling snow, and that sounds like something you could pay to do but I’m pretty serious about snow shoveling and if I’m good at anything it’s producing mass quantities of food in a short amount of time and snow shoveling. Again the physical problem becomes a psychological one. The physical issues such as this are almost emasculating and that’s what you have to overcome. For me, setting physical benchmarks towards an overall objective has got to be a psychological goal. The idea no matter how Neanderthal or trumpanzee it sounds it is that I can’t really protect my family, not just from snowdrifts but from strangers or sabretooth tigers. Strange I know, the things you think about with physical debilitation.

So somehow I have to take this overall positive attitude that I appear and sometimes pretend to have illustrated day by day with certain events that build some type of esteem. To just keep smiling and laughing is important, part of it is not being stressed out, stress can affect blood pressure which can cause strokes. Not to mention the stress caused by this election campaign .So along with this I have a deep fear of being rehospitalized and even more so being hit by another bolt, another stroke which i’m not sure I can make it through psychologically.

The psychological and physical disabilities I hope to be somewhat temporary. temporary can be a long time, just need to keep my head up and keep moving forward. To truly define the new normal on my own terms.

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