highs and lows


What a day–and it isn’t anywhere near over yet. This is a day of highs that made me feel like I was completely back and in a better form, and lows that made me feel like the dirt you see above…and now I’ve come home, hoping for the first time since my stroke that a long boring stretch of day will finally come visit. This is some of what I did today:

  • Went to campus to run long overdue errands. Filled out a request to get a refund for my tuition payment, went to go pick up a graded paper from last semester…and DRATS: I forgot library books to return. (They are long overdue).
  • Went to my fitness guru to say hello at his dojo (and met up with a buddy there)! I decided I was ready to say hi again.
  • Returned to campus with my (long overdue library books) and returned them, and ran into some MFA peers.

Simple, huh?

NOPE. And in hindsight, I chastise myself for trying to take on all these scenarios in the course of a day. It should have been either campus or my fitness guru, not both. For all of them (wonderful and terrible) taxed me to an incredible extent such that I sit here now, praying to zombie out. I’ve got a bag of Pirate’s Booty cheese puffs and a silly movie that I care about but don’t care that much about, queued up on TiVO.

These days it seems like I’m normal until I’m not. As soon as I think I’m normal or almost fully recovered, something comes out of the blue to remind me, “You have a long way to go.” Damn.

Halfway through the day, after I’d gotten to campus to run all those errands and then realized I had forgotten the books for return, I surmised my lesson of the day: Humility. Not humiliation, but humility. Being humble and giving my condition respect is something that looms large in my life.

I forget stuff, and I make more mistakes than ever, and that’s just the way it is for now. The morning campus scene was peaceful, and I ran into one or two people, briefly chatting. I ran through my errands, cursing myself for forgetting the books, but somehow resolving in my head that that stuff happens. Stuff happens. I forget. I went home.

I got online and chatted with my buddy who gave me great encouragement, the kind that makes a writer think that this whole new line of life events has opened up another door. I ended the chat feeling spectacular–and now I just wish she felt spectacular too, even though I don’t know what it is I gave her. But I send her a thank you for making me feel that way, and I wish something will make her feel spectacular too.

I met my Sifu/fitness guru at his gym–I surprised him when I walked through the door, and he hugged me with the kind of hug that I have yet to experience in my life! An intense gripping hug, the kind that tells you physically that this person never wants to let you go for his entire lifetime. I was surprised. “D–, you are embarrassing me!” I had to tell him. But he hugged me three more times, just like that, and I wondered if he would ever let me go. “D–, you are EMBARRASSING ME! GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF!” I had to holler. But I think I was smiling, and he was smiling for sure.

Then my buddy came in for her appointment, and for a few minutes, it was the three of us in our nice little world.

I really should have ended the day there because that was the wonderful part of my day.

From there, I left the grips of the gym and headed back to campus, determined to return the library books. I ran into two peers outside of the library–one of whom I consider a friend in the program. We sat there chatting when the other person came up to us to chat.

Instead of wondering what we were chatting about, she started a new subject, one that I was unfamiliar with. I felt totally left out. She knew I’d had a stroke, she knew other facts about me too (that I couldn’t really read tons of fiction and I couldn’t write fiction just yet) because I’d run into her earlier in the day on my first run of errands at school. I guess she was done with me.

I just sat there lamely–I’m not good with comebacks these days–not so quick with my words. I guess I’ve found another function for the thalamus: the “thinking on your feet skill.” I SUCK at that now! Bleah. So they kept talking about their school things and I tried to keep up.

At some time I mentioned that my short term memory was shot (I think i was apologizing for not remembering something). She replied, “I wish I had that as an excuse at school!”

It pierced me quick and left me breathless and…ANGRY. I couldn’t think of what to say, and I sat there stunned, staring at her, wondering why she didn’t understand that she’d just hurt my feelings. I felt so lame. Because I couldn’t figure out what to say or do (thanks to the disappearance of the “thinking on your feet skill,”) I got up and abruptly left.

I went home and wrote her an email, with the help of a friend:

Dear xxxx

This is “Jade,” emailing you again. I wanted to let you know that you really hurt my feelings this afternoon when you said, “I wish I had that [short term memory issues] as an excuse!”

i walked away after you said that, because I was overwhelmed by the sentiment of your statement, whether you meant it as a joke or not. I didn’t know what to say to you (another facet of my stroke is that I cannot think of things to say when caught offguard, especially since I was just having a nice chat with XXXX uptil that point). I did stay for awhile hoping that you would realize you hurt my feelings.

I assume you didn’t mean it this way, but please know that I am dealing with a serious disability and have shortcomings that are not visible to the world. It is not my choice to have to take a leave of absence from school and I doubt you would want to trade places with me and be dealing with the aftermath of a stroke.

I am not able to write fiction or read more than a few pages at a time–it’s been a horrible and shocking change, especially after being in grad school. But I am recovering, and hope to rejoin the MFA program.

Good luck to you this year,


I’m learning that I’ve got to pick up more survival skills when I interface to the world, post-stroke. Or rather, that maybe I’m not ready to interface to people outside of my very close friends and coworkers (who are pretty much all friends). I’m not ready yet. And now I do not regret at all my decision to take a leave of absence from school this semester.

So now, for the first time, I’m grateful for my little room here in my house where I can be bored. Yes.



Filed under Life, MFA, The Stroke

6 responses to “highs and lows

  1. lucy

    Oh jade, I’m sorry you have to go through this. People (myself included) can be such lunkheads sometimes.

  2. A day at a time Jade…baby steps. You are getting better but it is gradual. In fact probably so gradual you can’t see the progress – yet. But I see you articulating and getting out more…all healthy signs!

  3. Bless your heart, Jade. I agree with LeRoy – you are making progress. And I agree with you – give your condition respect! I think you’re doing a great job of taking care of yourself, being gentle, and trying new things.

    I can only imagine how hard it is for you not to be able to write or read the way you had been … for now. It will all return to you, and you will have acquired great reserves of patience and self-knowing, but I know it’s hard. I’m really proud of you for having so much HEART.

    God I hope I don’t say anything stupid or clumsy when I see you next…I hope that if I do, you’ll favor me with one of those emails, because I’d rather know about it and apologize than not know.

  4. barkingkitten

    People can be such assholes. I’m glad you wrote to her. I hope she gets the clue.

    Your blog is amazing. Please keep writing.

  5. way to call her out on saying something stupid. sometimes people don’t know what to say, but what a way to blow it.

    anyway, a family member recently had a stroke, and i stumbled upon your blog shortly afterward. it’s helpful to get some perspective on what she’s going through.

    and i’ll tell you this: if you write this compellingly post-stroke, you have ink in your blood and fiction, too will come back to you.

  6. mel

    this was brave and i’m glad you did it.

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