Adventures in Recovery: The Fifth Anniversary

Friday was the fifth anniversary of the stroke that nearly killed me. I didn’t forget the day, I just ran out of time to write down my thoughts. I am wearing, for a couple of hours a day, a temporary prism on my right eye, an occlusion on my left, and no eye patch; they’ve set me back to where I was three years ago. I’m also using a keyboard, which used to be a part of my body and which hasn’t been touched in some months. Forgive me if I’m even more fragmented than usual.

The stroke has put MeiLin, my alter ego, my writer of fantasies, into a deep sleep she seems destined to remain in; I don’t know if she’ll stay there. I am now a Lady of Leisure, forcibly retired and unable to write much. I am deeply grateful I can be. What I do with the next part of my life is now the question, one I’ve been asking myself for damn near the entire five years, or at least since I’d recovered enough to ask that question out loud. (I know I’ve pondered it here, and I apologize for thinking these same thoughts; dammit, it’s what’s on my mind.)

John, my husband, has been asking me what’s next for damn near the entire five years, too; his questions are aggravating. It’s gotten to the point where he’s started teasing me with his most-offered suggestion: “I hear they’re looking for volunteers to teach kids to read!” That’s the one suggestion that is guaranteed to fill me with exasperated rage. I want kids to read! I know they haven’t been given what they need to find the true joy words can bring! I am not the one to teach them! (“Hor hor hor!” says John.)

What keeps me going is exploring what I can change for the better, for myself and possibly for others. I heard a little teaser for Jesse Thorn’s NPR show Bullseye; in it, Lin-Manuel Miranda—and don’t think I haven’t thought, “Now, there’s a name for you”—is talking about his obituary. The first line is obviously written, he says. What he wants to find out is what he can contribute to the world with the rest of his time here. That galvanized me; it made me realize how much I want to contribute as well.

Consequently, I’ve been casting about for what I can do, and what I want to do. Looking through the Portland Community College continuing education pamphlet, only one class beckoned: a poetry-writing class, of all things. Maybe my wordiness can be condensed into pithy lyric endeavors, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll suck. Maybe I’ll become The Most Revered Poet Who Ever Lived. Probably, I’ll write some lines that become deeply meaningful to me, and pretty much no one else. That shall suffice.

Writing these little essays now and again has helped me, as have those of you who’ve taken time to read them. Oh, how you’ve helped me. You don’t even know. Writing and being read, more than anything else, have defined me, and they have now helped me come back into the world.

Thank you.