Monthly Archives: January 2007

Completion

The other night, I opened up Murakami’s collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, to read my 3-4 pages of creative work (that’s as much as I can manage these days before the words turn into a blurry mess). I’ve skipped around the collection a bit over the past year, but decided recently to take it story by story. (After attempting to read a novel and being overwhelmed by all the ramifications of my stroke, I decided to read short stories, and decided to read this collection in order so that I remember which stories I do read, etc,. etc.).

Imagine my surprise when I finished the short story 3 pages in.

It was the title story to the collection, and I had been slowly reading it over the course of a few days.

I closed the book with a bittersweet sense of accomplishment. In a sense, it was huge because this was the first story I have been able to finish reading since my stroke. To be honest, the experience is a bit abstract: I don’t remember every detail of the story, just a general gist, but I get a sense of the story and I officially finished reading it with a general understanding of things. There’s satisfaction in that achievement. Albeit bittersweet. It was not an option on my part to finish a short story over the course of a week, nor is it my option to hold it in such foggy memory.

I can only hope that the story has made it into the cortex of my brain somehow and that I will remember it deeply.

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Filed under Reading, The Stroke

a black hole

I have a black hole for much of December. I can’t remember much from that period of time. Hell, I don’t even remember much of my hospital stay in early January (it went by in a blur). Sometimes, I can stare at the wall, and then look at the clock and wonder how an hour went by. That’s my sense of time and memory these days. Big black holes.

I went to speech therapy (yes, it’s called ‘speech’ but they work on memories too) today for the first time and afterwards was just nearly in tears. I say nearly because I haven’t been able to cry for a few days, no matter how hard I try to cry. This, after a week of bursting into tears very easily. Anyway, I was just so blown away at my own condition–I really just can’t remember a whole lot of stuff. Before I drove on to get my blood test done (yes, I get blood tests regularly so that my arms look like a heroin user), I just sat in my car and stared out the windows, wondering, “How the hell could this have happened to me.” Yes, I know a cliched thought, but that’s what I thought.

It’s easy to deceive myself. I can move around just fine. I can speak just fine. I can hold a conversation. Hell, I can write a blog post. But I can’t remember a lot of stuff, and I have a hard time remembering, and I’ve lost memories, and I can’t read anywhere near as much as I used to be able to. I can read 4 pages a day, as opposed to the hundreds of pages of fiction I could read before.

Then I saw a news story on The Kim family, you know the family that got stuck in Oregon and then it snowed and then the father went out to get help and died while his wife and little daughters finally got saved. I had forgotten about them, they were part of my black hole of memories. Of course it poured back, and I feel more awful than ever about it all.

So this is where I’m at–going back and forth from feeling SO much better to feeling UGH. These days I have to admit I’m mostly numb, which alarms me–am I depressed? I’m starting up speech therapy. I’ve got appointments with a cardiologist and neurologist later this month. I get blood tests every other day (hence, again, the track marks on my arms). I try to go to work once or twice a week. The rest of the time, I try to entertain myself, stare at the wall, whatever.

All the while, I wait to be able to write fiction again.

Update: Yes, I’m freaked out about needles. My first days home, in addition to blood tests, I had to have lovenox shots administered to me by my husband, twice a day. Those shots burn. I still have bruises all over my stomach from them, over a week later (hell, nearly 2 weeks later).  Don’t even get me started on me taking medication for the mastitis (yes, somehow I managed to get a breast infection even though I am childless) I still have from before the stroke.  Oh, and the antibiotics for the mastitis?  Well, they had some interesting “side effects” that I had to deal with last week.

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Filed under Life, The Stroke

toast

i wonder if my brain smells like toast–for it is totally up in smoke!  i can’t think, i can’t retain anything (at work, i offered a little thingie to someone and they looked at me weird and said, “Sure, but you just offered it to me a little while ago.”)  bleah.   i did some work today and then my brain went kaput.  i guess i really did have a stroke.

oh well.

there are those days.

hello, stroke.  i haven’t forgotten you.

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Filed under Life, The Stroke

Body Language

Okay. I can’t figure out the slang term for “boosting” or whatever the freaking word is, but I want to bring a friend’s (well, TWO friends–Neeta Jain and Dagan Coppock) book to your attention! The name of the book is Body Language, and it contains poems about the medical training experience. I met both Neeta and Dagan at a writing conference a few years ago, and they are just superfantastic poets _and_ doctors. Now they have an anthology out.

Of course, a book release is not without its PR campaign. One of Neeta’s interviews is on YouTube. There’s an interview on KRON-TV somewhere (once it’s up, I’ll post it) And the book has been highlighted on NPR (click on Thursday and Friday to read the poems).

Check the book out.

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the dream reality link

Last night, I dreamt that it snowed in my backyard, light handfuls of snow fluttering down from the sky. Enough snow fell to cover the trees, the steps, and our pool cover. In my dream, my hubby and I walked through the snow, mystified and yet elated.

It was the first dream I’ve remembered dreaming since the stroke.

I woke up this morning to sunshine streaming through the curtains. Today was a sunny day, in contrast to my dream, and an odd and striking way to wake up. I had left one dark and snowy world for a sunny morning. I took the dogs downstairs as usual. Slipped on my wool slippers as usual these days. That sort of thing. All in a groggy stupor.

Then I checked the news online. It really had snowed last night here in the Bay Area.

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Filed under Dreams, The Stroke

Finalist

To be honest, I have been a bit miserable in my inability to write creatively. It just takes a whole lot of cognitive energy, a lot of this and that, and my brain just can’t take it these days. Even my reading of creative work has been dismal–at first, I couldn’t read it at all, then I could read about a paragraph (before I had to start over because I forgot what the hell I was reading about), and then I could read about a page (before I had to reread the page which made it just me reading a page over and over again), and now I can read about 3 pages before my brain fizzles out.

Yes, I see it as constant improvement, but for someone who can read HUNDREDS of pages a day (pre-stroke anyway) this is just so disappointing! But yes, it is constant improvement, and I have to keep telling myself that. These days, I live day by day and rejoice over small steps. Just like (my other “favorite” activity) running–when every step can be really painful. But just like (my other “favorite” activity) running, I do look back to see how far I’ve come. And I’ve come a long way since the day of the stroke. I can hold things in my head for longer than a minute, expanding the reaches of my short term memory. That sort of stuff.

But you see, it’s still miserable at times. And I try very hard to let myself feel bad if I do feel bad–one thing I have learned is that instead of holding all the bad feelings back and then succombing to chronic depression, letting myself feel in real time is a wiser thing for my own health.

Um, but that means I feel bad very often. I feel bad about the school semester starting without me. I feel bad about not being able to write creatively. I feel bad about the whole world speeding along, and me cruising along at low speed. I feel crummy. I feel bad about friendships, even still. Even though I know I’m mostly okay and will be! But that’s beside the point.

The other night I went websurfing–my husband was in bed, the dogs were in bed, and I was up and wide awake, my hands fluttering with anxiety. So I went on the internet and just started clicking here and there and here. Just aimlessly.

Pretty soon I found myself on this website where I’d found my name. It was the name of a writing contest I’d entered awhile back–and a writing contest I knew I had not won (they let me know by letter). It was a longshot, I never expected to win.  But then what was my name doing there? Well, it turns out I was a finalist in the contest–one of the 15 finalists out of 509 fiction entries.

Sheeit! That was awesome.  (But why didn’t they tell me in the freaking results letter?)

Life throws you bones when you need them.

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Filed under Life, The Stroke, Writing

share and share alike

Interesting how I tell everyone I had a stroke, and the most common response? Another anecdote about someone ELSE they know who had a stroke (or other life threatening incident). I think I know everyone’s illness now!

Update:  I just realized this while I was writing an email to a friend earlier: I was talking to a friend last night via phone, and when I started telling her about my stroke, she said I’d ALREADY told her about the stroke.  Apparently, I had called her a couple nights ago.   I have NO memory of that other phone call.  Damnit!  It’s a nightmare.

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Filed under Miscellaneous, The Stroke

What Lit Agent X said

At the beginning of the year, Lit Agent X put up a post of writing resolutions.

These were the resolutions she suggested and listed (I thought of excerpting her post, but then realized ALL her suggestions were so worthy and inspirational, I couldn’t excise any of them):

  • No matter how many times you’ve revised your current novel, promise yourself you’ll at least write a short story or begin something new this year to keep your creativity sharp. Even if you don’t end up writing the full book, write yourself a synopsis. Or ten of them. Creativity thrives when you feed it.
  • Promise yourself you’ll get some feedback. Join a writers group, send out ten queries, and get yourself a writing accountability partner. (You know, someone who will ask you, “How many pages did you write this week?”)
  • Resolve to set aside time to read. For pleasure.
  • Explore things that catch your fancy. Ever wondered about the history of the grandfather clock? Research it. Curious about a play opening in your town? Go see it. Read the script. Read it out loud. It will help you develop an ear for dialog. Is there an exhibit opening up in your local museum? Go take a look. Does a painting of a creepy old house inspire you to write a short story about the owner? Write it. Is there a concert downtown you’ve heard about? Attend and pay attention to every detail. Ever thought of taking a dance lesson? Go for it. While you’re walking your dog, take time to chat with other dog owners. Talk to strangers. Listen in on the confersation next to you in the coffee shop.
  • Start a list this year of everything that delights you: Someone thanks you for changing their life and you didn’t realize you did. A compliment from a stranger. A delicious dinner. Your child bragging about you to her friends. Success at something you’ve worked on for a long time. Falling in love. Coming home. Taking a hot shower after being cold. Don’t forget to give your characters these moments. Keep this list in a file you can read at any time. If you’re having a bad day, and you read it, I guarantee you’ll feel better.
  • People watch. Imagine lives for them. Imagine their dreams and their biggest obstacles. Give them fictitious names. Don’t use photos in magazines, use real people and take in their clothes, the way they move, the way they talk. Malls are good for this. So are parks. And really, any busy street corner in NYC. Take time to observe places and people. Watchers are better writers.
  • Try to figure out what makes people tick, especially if this person happens to annoy you to pieces. Try to imagine what’s going on inside their heads and how they justify and rationalize their actions. The more you can empathize with people you disagree with, the better you’ll be at developing antagonists in your own writing.
  • Finally, add a resolution yourself. Give us a writing goal or a writing tip, how getting out there and living fully gave you inspiration for your work. Did you find inspiration for setting while on a vacation? Share and enjoy.

She concludes by saying:

One of the best things about being a writer is that you can find inspiration everywhere, in good or bad times, in misfortune or happiness. Resolve to see every event in your life as a possibility for growth, not just as a human being, but as the better writer you are constantly becoming.

I hope this helps you as much as it’s helping me right now.

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Filed under Inspiring, Writing

never enough

i feel better everyday. i guess that’s the benefit of youth when it comes to stroke. i still cannot write creatively, and cannot write read more than a couple pages of creative work before i bonk out, but i’m still getting better everyday. of course, it’s not as fast as i’d like. i’m trying to spend my days somehow NOT staring at the wall, and NOT being “bored.” you know, thats hard to do when your days before a stroke were spent: reading, writing, doing cerebral activities, or doing heavy physical activity. now? i can barely read, write, and can’t do extreme physical activity.

now i’m redefining myself. will i be a different person once this thing passes? (for it will pass, i know). my brain is healing and making new paths around the dead parts of my brain (it’s really hard to imagine and accept that a part of my brain is DEAD, oxygen-starved and all). what kind of person will i be? i don’t feel all that different. but then when i go to do certain things, i’m hit with the reality that i *am* different.

i try to go out, but i can’t go outside with anyone other than my husband and have yet to venture out of my house without him. it’s bizarre. i’m going to try to hang out with friends, but i know that will be a strenuous first step.

many of you friends have sent me emails of encouragement–and i read all of them, some of them several times. one of my friends has advised me to think of something standard to say for those times i don’t feel like sharing, but still need to reply. “a tagline to recite,” she says, for those times when i just don’t feel like talking. that’s a big tool.

so now i’m trying to think of what to say as a standard line. “i had a stroke, they’ve figured out a potential cause. my musculature and speech are fine, my short term memory is heavily screwed–thanks for asking and bearing with me…” hrm.

survival skills. picking up some more of those these days.

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Filed under Life

deleted.

I am making the final steps towards withdrawing from school this semester.  It is KILLING me to do it.  I have a form to fill out, and I am emailing each of the profs to let them know (I’m pretty sure they both have waiting lists into their classes and it would be nice to let people know before my paperwork goes through).  They were both professors I wanted to take, and I can only hope they have some sort of attractive option this coming Fall so I can still take them both when I recover.   (Yes, “recover,” what an odd word to me these days.  It will happen, but it is happening so slowly).

Worst of all?   I had to delete the classes off my iCal calendar on my laptop.  That just hurt.  And in their place?  Big blank swatches of time.

Ugh.  I told myself to try to be funny on this blog.

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Filed under MFA, The Stroke

letters

Nova is writing some letters to “The World.” In order, they are addressed to “Powers That Be,” “Mean People,” “Fake People,” “Short Stories in My Head,” and “Post Office”–hello, just THOSE addressees are enough to send me giggling! Are they really “The Writer’s World?” Perhaps so. Anyway, the letters are brilliant and they cheered me up.

Here’s the first of her letters, just to give you some flavor:

Dear Powers That Be:

I have heard a rumor that if you would like your life to change, you must do something about it yourself. For instance, a person who might be intrigued to find herself working a new job might actually have to send out her résumé. A writer who wants to be published has to contact agents and publishers, no matter how long it takes.

My question to you is, have you ever considered changing the order of events? For instance, I am here, easily findable, just try Google. Might an opportunity fall into my lap?

I will practice sitting, waiting for the drop.

Awaiting your reply,
Nova

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Filed under Funny Shit, Reading, Writing

the insurance company nurse called

My health insurance company’s nurse called and left a message. “Call me back, I’m just checking in,” said her message (to that effect anyway). So weird. And despite the lack of confidence in my brain and my general wary view of insurance companies, I called her back.

Halfway through the call I wondered if she really was for real. She didn’t have my file because “it was private,” and she just wanted to see how I was doing and if I wanted any action taken by the insurance company. SO weird. She did not know I had had a stroke. I mean, bizarre, right? It was a short call, one in which I said all was going fine, and the tests that were in line for me (G*d help me if the insurance company later claims I said there would be NO followup care and therefore all other tests would be denied coverage).

But she did say some things which bother me in general about my plight. Though of course she said many “right” things, she said, “You sound pretty well for someone who had a stroke, I can’t really tell you had one.”

Harumph. I had to tell her my motor and speech functions were not affected. But that my short term memory is shot and that anyone who is close to me knows that I’m very OFF. Anyone who doesn’t know me all that well thinks I’m a bit “airhead-y” but fine. She backed off and said all strokes affect people very differently.

It was a short call, thank goodness. But it did open up a few questions for me–that I just don’t LOOK like a stroke victim, even though I fucking hate all my hidden disabilities that scream “You just had a stroke” to me in my brain. I still feel incredulous at the thought of having had a stroke. I keep telling myself, “No way,” only to realize, “Yah, for sure you had one, because why the hell was that SO hard for you and why can’t you remember SHIT?”

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