Strokes can, and frequently do, strip you of your identity, leaving you wondering who you are and how to live a purposeful life. I could no longer work (I’d been a book editor for decades), drive (I loved long solo road trips), listen to music or radio, read an actual book, socialise … the list goes on.
After stroke number four took away my ability to sit or stand unsupported, a very tough two and a half years followed. I lived almost entirely on my bed (still do), using a walking stick to move around my small unit, and a walker to go for a short daily walk.
Meditation, deep acceptance, the internet and the love and support of friends and family kept me sane, while my body got weaker and weaker.
But give me a customised purple wheelchair (aka the magic chariot), a brilliant exercise physiologist, an overbed table and a team of fabulous support workers; factor in a lot of hard work, exercise, good luck and determination, and here I am: pursuing my passions in new and creative ways.
Reading (mainly fiction) is a lifelong love. These days, I read ebooks (in short stints) on my tablet, which is propped up on my overbed table.
Writing has been my creative outlet since I was a tiny child: compositions weren’t schoolwork, they were fun! Now that Transit of Angels is with my Pilyara Press editor, I’ll resume work on Blank Canvas: a stroke survivor’s memoir. Luckily, although my arms are weak, I can rest them on my overbed table and work on my laptop. Did I mention how much I love my overbed table?
Editing and proofreading were central to my career of thirty-five years. Cognitive impairment means I can no longer undertake structural editing – which was my superpower – but after much brain training, I am again able to copy edit and proofread. Slowly. Mindfully. In short stints. But I can do it! And I love making this contribution to my partners in our publishing team.
Activism has been a central part of who I am since my late teens: demonstrating and campaigning for peace, human rights and the environment. The strokes stopped all that for seven tough years, although I continued to do what little I could via social media.
Now, though, I am a proud member of Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends. For months, my wonderful support workers and I travelled to the city every Friday to campaign for a healthy, liveable environment for future generations. Covid 19 has meant that we can no longer gather physically, but the Nannas continue their campaigning via Zoom meetings, letters to politicians, and social media posts.
Crochet has helped me stay sane and feeling productive during these years on the bed; it still does. I crochet squares for Wrap With Love, an Australian volunteer organisation that has sent blankets to almost half a million people in need within Australia and around the world. Being part of this community feeds my soul and warms my heart.
Hydrotherapy has been a highlight of each week since I started working with my exercise physiologist. The freedom and joy of being in the water is indescribable – and it’s the best exercise I can do to help keep me strong so that everything else is possible.
Family – my adult children and their partners are extraordinary humans who are unfailingly here for me, whilst living the lives they choose rather than succumbing to the consumerist zeitgeist. I’m so proud of them all. And I love my grandpuppies, Bambi and Ziggy. Adorable!