07 August 2015

[forgiveness friday] are you afraid of "the other"?

What is “the other,” anyway?

I’ll admit it. Before I had my stroke at 19, I was afraid of the unknown. While I didn’t actively avoid people in wheelchairs or people with obvious disabilities of any kind, I also definitely didn’t go out of my way to get to know them. 

I even used to work as a reader for the visually impaired and as a writer for testing services at the accommodations facility at my university, but I still felt uncomfortable probing too deep.

In fact, my best friend’s sister is severely autistic, and I don’t think I ever asked her that much about what it must have been like to be raised alongside a sibling who didn’t speak in full sentences or didn’t have control over her own outbursts.

It wasn’t because I judged them; it was because they were different. People with disabilities were unknown territory, and it was best not to get involved. If I’m being frank, I probably avoided exploring it because I didn’t want to know. It didn’t apply to me. Many people feel this way about people with disabilities, with medical issues, with mental illness, of other races and cultures, of other beliefs. It’s an evolutionary instinct -- the familiar is safe; the unknown potentially dangerous.

It’s kept the human species alive for thousands of years.

Yet it’s also kept the human species segregated for thousands of years. Like so many instinctual mechanisms, our humanity, or our higher consciousness as spiritual beings, demands much more of us. It’s in our best interest to transcend such primitive beliefs. (Which I think is why nowadays we have this hyper-alert culture here of political correctness and censorship.)

To suddenly find myself belonging to this club of “the other” was humbling. It’s easy to get up on a high horse and condemn (whether actively or passively*) “the other,” especially when it doesn’t seem relevant to you or your life.

But I’d like to invite you to explore this idea: Everything. Is. Relevant.

I remember an outing I had from my rehab hospital. One fine afternoon, my family was able to take me to a restaurant in my wheelchair and helmet.
The hostess wouldn’t look me in the eye or speak to me directly. “Would she like anything to drink?” she asked my dad after going around individually to each member of my family.

I remember I was enraged. She saw me. She knew I was there.

I was still a fucking person with real fucking feelings, and she acted as though I were insignificant.

“Two months ago, I was walking around just like she was,” I seethed. I pointed at the right side of my head. “This could happen to her tomorrow, and she’d be the one comatose in a hospital ICU, paralyzed on one side.” I hated her, and more, her powerlessness over her own ignorance.

Even as I write this, I’m feeling the residual fury course through my veins.

Anger can be a frightening, very natural emotion that gets triggered in this journey. What I’ve found to be most useful is to let it run its course, to feel it -- and then ask myself, “What about this experience made me so angry?”

For me, I wasn’t truly mad at the hostess. I was pissed at my situation.

It wasn’t fair that I was being pushed around in a wheelchair wearing a helmet fit for my head. Not fair that that head was no longer perfectly round and symmetrical because I’d had surgery -- and I wasn’t supposed to be spending my summer break living in a hospital. I’d been able to go on this restaurant outing with my family as a special treat, and this reminder that my life was forever changed had come to taunt me.

I didn’t want to be reminded. I didn’t want to be “the other.” I wanted my old life back, and for restaurant hostesses to ask me what I wanted to drink. I wanted to walk with my own two legs through those restaurant doors.

But the wheelchair and the helmet advertised otherwise. “This girl is different. Tread with caution. She’s more trouble than she’s worth.” I was there with my family and my best friend, who had flown all the way out from Arizona at the drop of a hat to see me, to have a nice day integrated back into the world. I was having lunch!

I was entitled to a lunch date with my loved ones outside of the hospital without having to be reminded of the surreal nightmare my physical life had become, 24/7 for what had already been over a month.

So before we turn the other cheek and we conclude that somebody is now “the other,” guard this idea ferociously within the chambers of your heart: We are all stardust. Fundamentally, we are all spiritual beings having a physical experience, and not the other way around. To judge another human being is to spit in the face of our creator.

Ultimately, I had to make peace with my reality. I had to let the anger go, heal the upset. Forget that I was entitled to fairness or to an easy life. This was my body now, and I could either give up (um, no) or I could move forward doing the best with what tools I had.

And yes, making peace includes not antagonizing the people who do or say things that trigger me. They, too, are living their lives doing the best they can with the tools they have.

Have you had a similar experience? Does any of this speak to you? If so, please share this post with your friends and leave a comment for me.

Be sure to tune into today’s #STROKESCOPE at 7pm CT; I feel called to explore this a bit more.
[Ed. note: replay of my scope is below due to my tech issues! The scope was broadcasted from the wrong account. #n00b]

To our healing, 

*I believe that unconsciously hiding within social constructs of people who are familiar -- and therefore “safe” -- rather than extending basic social courtesy or acknowledgment to someone unfamiliar counts as a passive, fear-based practice. Something to pay attention to.

[forgiveness friday] the one thing no one talks about keeping you from physically recovering

I’ve started my own show.

It’s a long story (if you’re interested in it, for the meantime you can read about it here), but until next week, the short version is, I’ve begun using Periscope, and I aired my first episode of the #STROKESCOPE last night. If you missed it, here’s the replay:

The reason why I’ve created a whole new Twitter account (@strokeduplife) for Periscope is because this is a great way to serve you in a “live” format, where you -- the survivor/thriver, the loved one of a stroke survivor, the friend, significant other, caregiver -- can directly comment and partake in the discussion in realtime and access me as though we were grabbing tea together on a Thursday afternoon.

You’ll see in this first episode that Anthony (my boyfriend) asks a question that is actually the reason why I started Forgiveness Fridays. He asks me to share the story behind the forgiveness practice I had to go through last year in May.

I had gone to a healing circle event at my kundalini yoga studio, Sat Nam Yoga, where I met Robert, a craniosacral healer. I explained that I felt like I might have been subconsciously holding a grudge against my brain for holding the AVM that caused the stroke, and that I wanted to let go of that resentment. He told me to answer -- without thinking, “Do you believe your body betrayed you?”

Instantly, my answer was yes.

So he helped me work on that story I’d been carrying around like a sandbag for over a decade. Resentment, frustration, anger that my body would not do what I wanted her to do -- that she would create this unnecessary burden onto me, make my physical presence in this life so inconvenient, so heavy. I would have to worry in every future relationship (whether romantic or not, but especially in the case of romantic love) that I wouldn’t be a drag. Worry that anyone I met might judge me or see me as weak or weird or different, as “the other” -- and because this was an injury of profound proportions, this would have to be my reality for my foreseeable future. 

It had been over 10 years and I still typed with one (super)hand. I still wasn’t wearing the shoes I wanted to wear, and physical activities were still embarrassing to an extent (yep, still drooling even to this day). I had to present myself in a limited capacity I couldn’t just turn off at will. My body was unrelentingly weakened. How dare she betray me like this.

As he worked through releasing this anger, I felt myself letting go.

In that experience with Robert, he allowed me to again love the part of me that was hardest to love. Rather than antagonize it in an energetic undercurrent for the rest of eternity, I was able to look at my body again, affected side especially, and let the resentment fade away.

I returned to a place where I truly felt light again -- to the truth that my body had always been doing the best it could. That if it didn’t “measure up,” it wasn’t for lack of trying. My body had been faithful, and I hadn’t. My body always tried its darnedest to do what I told it to do. It was a miracle. Everything it did for me, whether consciously or not, was nothing short of magnificent!

It was only because she was injured that she fell short of my expectations. I’d tried to whip her back to shape with harsh commands and hateful judgments, but what she needed from me was compassion and understanding.

When I finally let go of the burden of resentment, I was able to treat not only my body, but myself, with far more softness, with tenderness, that finally allowed me to move forward.
Feeling great in my body this summer at Lake Geneva :)
Robert also left me with an important exercise: He suggested I go home and for the next 21 days, say aloud, “I forgive, love, and accept my body, my organs, and my limbs.” I decided, for effect, to do so on my knees with my forehead on the floor, so the adoration would feel more genuine and would anchor the words into my body and mind.

The thing is, even if we think we are simply pushing ourselves harder and that this is the energy we need to come from to get through whats challenging, beating ourselves down only sabotages our success -- whether that’s in our diet, exercise, or therapy. It’s like trying to get a spiritual bypass and ignoring the fact that what gets us through it is support . . . and support begins inside. I am my own best advocate, and you, yours. 

Honestly, I’d felt such tremendous healing from that one session with him that I felt pretty complete even after maybe three days of his homework assignment. But it’s a great practice, and I have restarted it this morning.

Have you ever felt a deep undercurrent of resentment and anger towards your body? What might it feel like to release that?

Please share your thoughts in the comments, and follow @strokeduplife so you can tune into future daily episodes of #STROKESCOPE.

To our healing,

10 July 2015

[forgiveness friday] the power of letting go

The other day, I had lunch with a lady in my networking group. She asked me all about that fateful day, 7 July, 2003, when life changed forever for me and wanted to know exactly what had happened.

At a certain point, I explained to her how the stroke had actually become both a blessing and a curse. If I had the chance to live my 19th year over again, with or without the stroke, I find myself always saying, “I would love to not have ever had the experience -- but, only if I could retain the lessons I learned from it.”

The caveat is this interesting thing about human nature. I’m not sure if such a thing is possible, to live as though it never happened, yet fully keep the wisdom gleaned from that experience with us. I told her that after each strokiversary, I find myself farther from the pain of being in the hospital or of being almost completely dependent on others for basic needs.

Today I forget, as I buckle myself into my trendy brown-and-gold sandals, what it was like having to secure my leg into a custom-made AFO every day, which meant I had to wear gym shoes every single damn day of my life. (As cute as sneakers can be, they are still ultimately more utilitarian  than they are fashionable/stylistically congruent with my everyday look.)

Or more seriously, each day I spend without the alarming experience of suddenly having to surrender all power and personal agency to a full-body (or even partial) seizure, I forget. I take for granted a seizure-less day, since this is now what’s “normal” for me.

What the lady said in response was lovely. She replied, “I think that’s by design. If every mother in the world remembered every day the pain of childbirth she could never focus on the all-encompassing love she has for her children.”

Bam. There it was.

There is a grand design to our tendency to let go. We all shed the layers of who we once were in order to become who we will be -- let go of the stories of the past in order to transform. Because as long as we carry that baggage with us, we can’t move forward as lightly, as gracefully as we could without it.

Would you be able to focus on the all-encompassing love for who you are today if you kept remembering the stories of your past pain?

To our healing,

07 July 2015

12 years + counting

Every year, my “strokiversary” rolls around as though it were a ninja -- swiftly, quietly. Behind the scenes.

The one exception to this is a couple of years ago when I anticipated the big one-oh and signed up for The Color Run: I was happy to hear that the event was open to walkers as well as runners, and I rented a GoPro and strapped it onto Anthony’s forehead so I could document the experience.

The good news is I’ve recently succeeded in reaching a self-imposed consistency challenge goal: releasing weekly Style Tip Tuesday videos for my jewelry biz -- which means I’ve somewhat undergone a crash course in video editing. So I’m working on a video for you in honor of my strokiversary, and I would love to complete it within seven days (seven days within 7/7!). [Note: I managed to hunt down the footage, but editing together so much will be a huge undertaking, so it will take quite a bit longer. Stay tuned.]

I have a confession to make. In 2008, I started my memoir. When I began this blog two years later, I really wanted to offer a resource for survivor-thrivers where they could look for ideas and therapies, and most importantly, find community to lift each other’s spirits up in a way only other survivors can.

But in order to do so, I had to make myself more visible. So that the Rehab Revolution movement could truly take off and reach the people who needed it most, I had to become seen. (I’m going to explore the concept of “being seen” in more detail within the next week.) I’m sure any stroke survivor reading my words right now can relate to the fears that often accompany physically being seen by the world -- as well as emotionally -- and it’s important not to forget that I’m right there beside you.

Some of you reading these words right now may have just had a stroke a month ago, or a year ago, or perhaps more time ago, or less. I simultaneously want you to know that a) you’re not alone in your experience, and b) now that it’s been 12 years, I’ve had a lot of time and opportunity to give me the “street cred” to guide you along the way. I’m living the reality of surviving from a debilitating stroke that ground my life to a screeching halt at the age of 19, and because I know I’m bigger than some brain injury, and because I’m blessed with an expressive voice, I’m willing to hold myself up to a new standard, and to help advocate for those who come after me.

This new standard means I’d like to step up in a greater way so I can serve you. I want to inspire those who experience the total upheaval and intensity of a stroke so that they know that life doesn’t end there. Those who came before me (like Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor) have given me the same gift, and I want to provide that for those who came beside me, and those of you who will come after me.

Here’s a surprise for you. I’ve hinted at this on my Facebook page -- so if you were anxious to find out what’s coming, here’s the Official Announcement:

I’m not super techy, so I don’t know how long it will take me to transfer everything over to the new address, but I’m hiring some people who know what they’re doing.

The new website should be under construction for a little bit, but in the meantime, you can still contact me on the Facebook page (I’m changing the name on there, but the address will stay the same) or e-mail me at revolution.rehab@gmail.com. (That address will remain dedicated to my oldest, loyalest readers.) I’m not super certain whether my original content will remain at this URL, though. (I’ll make sure to get the right team of people to get the answers to any of your questions.)

I’m working diligently to come up with a plan for how I can better serve you in the near, near future -- there are a lot of ideas, and I’m bubbling over in excitement. You can expect a multimedia experience, from a stronger social media presence, to regular blog content, to videos, to podcasts, livestreams, and more!

Tomorrow I begin a six-week blog challenge, so you’ll definitely see much more of me very, very soon. Looks like year 12 is a pivotal one for me! I’m declaring a #StrokiversaryWeek, so we can explore the mixed emotions, feelings, memories, and experiences that often come together on this date.

What do you usually do on your strokiversary? Leave it in a comment!

To our healing,

05 June 2015

forgiveness friday: are you playing the victim?

I remember one day after I’d been discharged from the hospital, back when AIM was still widely popular, a girl I’d known from far away started chatting with me again after a longish hiatus.

When asked how she was, she launched into a story about how she’d recently been to the hospital. I no longer remember why, but it was for something like a broken arm. She told me about how she had been sent to the hospital and had to see some doctors.

Since it had not been long since my stroke, and we hadn’t spoken since beforehand, it was difficult for me to respond.

Now, in retrospect, I completely believe in the value of validating people’s feelings and never comparing people’s pain, but when I was 19, I was 19, and a completely different person to who I am today.

It was difficult for me to validate what felt to me like a sob story. “I even had to get an MRI!” she exclaimed. It felt to me the same way it felt when I sensed people fishing for compliments.

I didn’t respond with the shock and horror I imagined she wanted me to. It felt to me like I had the ultimate Trump card in my pocket, a shiny one with a brain on it that said “STROKE” across it in big red letters. Quit your whining, I thought. I was annoyed at the conversation. It actually pissed me off a little that this girl -- who did she think she was? -- had stepped up to the podium first to cry victim. One day in the hospital with one MRI scan did not an impressive anecdote make, at least for me on that day.

It wasn’t that I was shouting from the rooftops about my brain injury; it was that I wasn’t a fan of people complaining about things I only wished I could have traded the stroke for. (To this day, I’ve never broken a bone -- unless having the bone flap in my skull removed for a month counts, but I don’t think it does -- but given the choice, I’d happily deal with a once-broken arm over a stroke any day.)

Too much homework? Difficult exams next week? Sign me up. Anything to entertain my freshly healing mind as I spent days at home with my father, filling them with numbing occupational therapy exercises and Disney movies I’d seen millions of times before. I would have given almost anything to see my friends at school again rather than spending all my days with other people with neurological trauma.

Anyway, let’s fast forward to today. I told that backstory so you know where I came from. If you were, or are currently, in that place, I encourage you to stop.

I don’t mean stop it forever. I’ll explain.
Every feeling we experience is an emotion. Emotions, by virtue of what they are, are meant to be in motion -- which means they can be inspired by something, experienced, and then they leave.

At least, they’re supposed to leave.

You do have to process them, first. Not every single emotion needs to be expressed in its raw form -- if they were, none of us would ever evolve from temper tantrums or crying fits. Something that took me a long time to learn was how to control my emotions, rather than let them control me, in order to operate in a society with other human beings.

While emotions don’t need to be expressed in their purest form (think, loudly screaming at every person you’re mad at), they do need to be expressed in a healthy way. (Perhaps when you feel that anger you go into a room and scream into a pillow.) When they’re not healthfully expressed, they find sneaky ways to do so: manifesting in passive-aggressive behaviors, turning an otherwise pleasant relationship into a strained one that no longer feels good, or creation of illness or general unease in the body.

That said, we all feel like victims sometimes:

Yes, it was shitty what that coworker/customer said to you in front of your boss. 

NO WAY. Your girlfriend should not have said that to you right then. How dare she not notice all your efforts?

OMG, I can’t believe your family member stole from you. What a betrayal!

On and on it goes. Here’s one that sucks a lot:

Why me? Why did I have a stroke at 19 years old? I don’t deserve this; it’s so unfair.

You could go infinitely, listing all the reasons why something this traumatic should not have happened to you.

I’m not going to suggest spiritual bypass and say something lame like, “Just turn it around. The stroke happened for you, not to you.” (We can talk about this another time.) There are few things more annoying than spiritual snobbery.

What I will suggest is, when you’re feeling like the stroke sucks, that you wish your damn left hand would just work already, or like your family simply doesn’t understand you, feel it. Give yourself permission to wallow in victimhood, for the moment.

Sometimes it can feel refreshing -- because I spend so much time every day pretending like I’m as physically capable as anyone else. For just this moment, I can take off that mask and breathe what is the truth for me right now. It stinks that I can’t wear the shoes I want to wear today because they’ll make me walk too slow, or it’s too much strain on my right knee, which overcompensates for the weakness on my left side.

It does suck.

But who promised us a fair lot in life, anyway? Isn’t the nature of, well, nature, survival of the fittest? Why is it that if you’re reading these words right now, chances are high you’re living in the privileged 1% of the entire world? Warren Buffet refers to this as “winning the ovarian lottery.” 

The fact is, there is always something to complain about -- but there are always, always things to be thankful for to keep things in perspective.

This isn’t a call for spiritual bypass. This is a reminder that victimhood is a pitiful emotion that doesn’t feel very fun -- it’s completely disempowering and unattractive even to those who want to moan with you -- so it needs to pass. Don’t let it become the story that defines you.

Process it. Then let it go.

And please, for the love of all things good, be responsible for your own energy. Don’t dump it on anyone who’s willing to listen. (I speak from experience.) It gets old, really, really fast.

(Would you rather be the person who happened to have a stroke at 19 -- gosh, that’s unbelievable! Look at her now! -- or would you rather be that poor girl who had a stroke at 19 and it followed her wherever she went?)

That’s what I thought.

To our healing,

24 February 2015

what happened to my book?

fleur de lisConfession: I rarely ever do this, but I am reposting this article from my other blog because it took me forever to produce. I started writing this post today originally with a completely different intention. I'm familiar with the practice of letting my words carry me somewhere I never thought I'd go in the moment -- welcome to writing and the art of conversation -- so I surrendered to it. I promise this post has a point, so please be patient and let it unfold. 

After my junior year in Florence, I decided to change my major to Italian (that way, the culture classes I’d taken wouldn’t have been for nothing -- this was an attempt to speed my degree along, though we obviously know that didn’t work). And then I declared myself pre-med, which was ironic considering the fact that my dad had been trying to coerce me into becoming an MD since I was six and I was always all, “I wanna be an artist! An author! A teacher!” 

No. This time, I wanted to become a doctor because I’d been overcome with gratitude for the doctors I’d had at the University of Chicago Hospitals, who had saved my life and my spirit when I’d been hospitalized for the stroke. The staff I met there was so genuinely heart-centered, so beautiful in their service that I loved them all and thought of them often. I felt that if I could touch a single person in my life in the way they had touched mine, it would make my time on Earth worthwhile.

Anyway, I toiled about being an Italian major and pre-med, not knowing if that was going to be okay. So naturally, I added creative writing to the mix.

I’d been writing since I was 10. The first “book” I ever wrote (and I’d do nearly anything to find my one and only first edition copy!) was, for lack of a better term, fan fiction. My favorite book growing up was Roald Dahl’s Matilda, to which I wrote my own sequel . . . illustrated -- wait for it -- in the style of original Matilda illustrator Quentin Blake. (Seriously, if I ever find it, I will have it coated in something to preserve it forever.)

from http://www.the-platform.org.uk
from http://www.the-platform.org.uk -- man, this makes me nostalgic!
 And ever since, I’d written story after story. It was a self-imposed discipline. My first completed original work was a novel called All That and A Cup of Milk, which I wrote at 16 and “self-published” in a binder covered in magazine cutouts of models I’d used as representations of my characters. (I was 16. ’Nuff said.) 

This was my bliss. I used to come home every day after school, and like clockwork, would type away at the computer (you think I type fast now with my one superhand! I believe I even have video footage of me writing at the giant box that was my old-school desktop back in the day) working away at my stories. But . . . 

To this day, I haven’t completed another book. Something anti-magical occurred during undergrad. My writing degree required what I fondly call half an English major’s worth of literature classes. (Ironically, I’d spent a few years as a kid believing I wanted to become an English teacher. HA!) When I first learned how to read as a child, all I did was read. I used to go to the bathroom reading. I recently dragged myself to the eye doctor -- one of my least favorite things to do -- because I carry a hefty -10.5 contact lens prescription. This was the first year the eye doc had ever told me one of my eyes had stabilized and not gotten worse since my last visit. 

 Anyway. I’ve been nearsighted since I was six, and I’m sure all the 100,000s of hours I’ve spent with my little nose in a book was a heavy contributor. 

 When I was a creative writing major, I pretty much quit reading for pleasure. (The U of I might revoke my hard-earned degree for this.) I would come home from the school bookstores at the beginning of each semester with a stack of books as tall and thick as I was.

Meanwhile, all my scientist and numbersy friends/roommates would be all, “Why don’t you ever study?” Italian came easy to me. After a year of forcing Florentine shopkeepers and residents to talk to my Eastern face in Italian, I had done the impossible: I’d returned to the States not only proficient, but fluent, in the language. Because of this, I had pretty much placed out of any language courses U of I could have offered for my major, and all that was left was cultural courses. I may have been a wizard at rolling my Rs and conjugating verbs in any tense, but history is a different beast to me.
This is Dante.
This is Dante.

And then there was Dante. I spent a semester reading and studying his entire Divine Comedy (that’s three canticas -- not just Inferno, but also Purgatorio and Paradiso). Let’s not forget that as a writing major I also had to dive deep into Shakespeare . . . If you escaped the education system with only an overview of Romeo & Juliet, know that for a writing or literature major, that sounds like graduating from high school with only a proficient knowledge of basic arithmetic. 

And then there was Nabokov. Who to this day I still can’t say I fully understand, other than appreciate his genius. 

 So pretty much, “studying” for me was reading. All the time. And besides the stories I had to write for my actual writing classes, I quit writing for fun as well, after a terrible blowout that had gotten me in trouble with a roommate I had as a sophomore. 

The period of pre-med lasted only a couple years at most. Physics took over my life so much that I even found references to Newtonian laws in my writing(!), and I had no social life. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am naturally an extravert, despite the fact that I have consciously chosen a very solitary pastime as my favorite vessel for carrying my voice to the masses. 

Pre-med made a total nerd out of me, and it soon became apparent that I’d been trying to mold myself around subjects that I merely found interesting, but wasn’t passionate enough about to shape a career out of. (Is anyone surprised that the Italian-CW major wasn’t dedicated enough to chemistry and molecular biology to pass the MCATs?) 

 I think what really drove that home was the semester I was lucky enough to get kicked out of a writing class (more on that later too) and then into an independent study in the creative writing department with one of its chairs. Prof. Madonick (or “Mike,” as he insisted I call him) inspired me to start my memoir. 

 When I wrote the first several pages of this memoir, I found five years’ worth of pent-up emotions release for the first time. Things I didn’t even know I’d been processing came out of my fingertips and onto my screen. I could barely see the words as the vision of my words blurred through the tears. There were so many tears. They created a waterfall. 

I was 19 years old when the stroke happened -- so I was pretty much just a punk kid in the world believing I was invincible and capable of anything I could dream up. (Heck, I’m 31 today and still believe I’m capable of anything I can dream up.) But when I was 19, I both knew a lot and nothing about myself. Any self-exploration had been only at the surface level, and it wouldn’t be until I graduated that I really leapt into the vortex of personal development and self-study, because that was when I decided to give entrepreneurship a shot.
So the memoir really helped me process a lot of what I’d been feeling and experiencing underneath the façade of “everything’s just fine, and I’m just like everyone else, just a bit more gimpy.”
It had been precisely that façade that had kept me denying a lot of my own feelings. Things weren’t “just fine,” and I certainly wasn’t just like everyone else. “A bit more gimpy” looked like regular accidents and spills, anger and resentment, and an inability to do what I wanted to do how I wanted to do it. 

 (Hey -- wearing heels is as worthy a desire as it is to not want to drool on someone while kissing them.)
The memoir had become so game-changing for me that I decided the world needed it.
I’ll say this again: The world needed it. And I believe this is why my memoir has been incomplete since I began it in 2008. Who was I to dare provide the world with something it needed? Two years later, I created Rehab Revolution, so that I could get a head start on creating a community of people who needed my voice. Since then, a small number of young stroke survivors have indeed reached out to me to thank me for what I’ve done for them. They truly warm my heart -- and if any of them are reading this today, please know that you guys are why I write. 

 Four years ago, I sent myself to the UW-Madison’s Writers’ Institute conference for the first time, and I experienced a misplaced sense of shame. Shame that I was willing to put money on the line, invest the dollars into myself as a writer, but not willing to finish my manuscript before I came. There were what felt like hundreds of writers there, of all kinds, backgrounds, and genres, most of them there preparing to pitch their manuscripts to agents and editors who had traveled there to pick up new authors, and there I was, reeling. 

What? There were people there who could potentially propel my little 34-page-and-counting Word document into an actual, tangible book? I -- the twentysomething stylish girl with a limp -- could actually launch this dream of becoming a full-fledged author at this conference?! “Next year,” I told myself. “Next year I’ll have it ready.” 

“Next year” came around and I said the same thing. And again, and again. 

In retrospect, I don’t blame myself for freezing. I had no idea what I was getting into going to this conference in the first place, so that first year was a learning experience. I discovered that the conference, rather than focusing solely on the craft, taught the side of writing I’d never learned as a writing major -- it taught the business side of writing.

How to pitch. Practice your pitching. Writing a query letter. Networking. 

I wrote a couple networking posts from 2013; that was my first year learning to network. And the first Writers’ Institute I attended was in 2012. #forshame 

 I remember finding myself seated next to an agent (who was looking for memoirs to sign! *facepalm*) at the (ahem) networking lunch and spiraling out of control in my head.


I told myself that this was the Universe’s way of handing me what I wanted on a silver platter, and that if I passed it up, it would not happen again. I forced myself to start a conversation with him . . . right as the lunch started wrapping. He was gracious enough to indulge me for several minutes, and he even gave me a little feedback and advice before he had to run off for someone’s pitch. I remember something he said was along the lines of not rushing my memoir, that it would take as long as it had to take. This encouraged me. I kept repeating the “Next year I’ll have it ready” and even signing myself up for non-traditional participation in NaNoWriMo a couple of times, but I found myself somehow blocked.

Next month, I’ll be going to my fourth Writers’ Institute conference. My manuscript still sits at 34 measly pages (though to be fair, they are single-spaced). I honestly thought I’d written more. But the truth is, that’s only because of my blog. To this day, I’ve published 209 (210 if you count this one) articles -- most of them completely original content by me or by my guest writers -- and while I am so happy to know that my posts are helping a small number of readers, it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because it fools me into believing I’ve made more progress on my book than I actually have, but it’s a blessing also because it’s deepened my resource of exploration into what my memoir could include. 

On a slight aside, I totally believe in Divine Messages. What these are are repetitive whispers from the Universe, gently guiding me to what I need to embrace right now. These whispers often crescendo into outright declarations spoken by actual people I see in my day-to-day existence, and then if I’m not receptive (I’ve grown to become very receptive -- the Divine always knows what I need), I have to learn the hard way why I should’ve listened in the first place. I’ve been consistently reading Mastin Kipp’s Growing Into Grace and religiously following author Danielle LaPorte online these days, and both of these leaders (who run majorly successful businesses in spiritual and personal development work) have been through and come out on top of some major upheaval that makes my current “I’m starting my life over at 31! What to do?!” sound like major #firstworldwhining. 

 Mastin started out his brand, The Daily Love, with nothing but a Twitter account and an e-mail list of friends and family. Danielle got out of a humbling, bad business deal with nothing but her blog and 60 followers. That the two of them now are spiritually fulfilled and serving the world in the ways they know best is so inspiring to me. They’re both graduates of Marie Forleo’s famous B-School, which I FINALLY signed up for this year after standing at the sidelines like a wannabe for five years. 

 (I did enter the scholarship contest again for the last time -- once you’re a B-Schooler, you’re forever a B-schooler. Here’s my video entry.) 

When I first began rebooting myself and my business, I started networking again like it was my job. (I mean . . . it totally is.) A virtual assistant that I’d met a year or two ago at a different networking group, Mary, started talking to me about my book and began supporting me in a significant way. I told her that if I didn't finish my book now, I was never going to do it. Rather than just “being excited” or giving me verbal encouragement and then forgetting about me, she’s been nudging me and keeping me accountable to my commitment to get my memoir out there. 

 Have I written anything yet? Well . . . this counts, doesn’t it? 

Seriously. I’ve learned that sometimes pushing through resistance just makes the resistance stronger. The fact that I’ve had my memoir actively on my mind this month and that it is sitting open on my laptop right now are already big steps if you consider my manuscript’s distinct absence from my radar for the past few years. Here’s a screenshot of a Facebook status I posted two weeks ago. (Mary suggested I post it.) 

Facebook accountability status

 I also promised Anthony that I’d make a super honest effort this week to work on my memoir. He kind of thinks I should save the time, energy, and money this year, sit out the conference, and buy myself another year. 

 But I know better. Enter more Divine Messages: Yesterday, I came across a blog post by one of my favorite friends and leaders, success coach Kris Britton. It’s about having the courage to go “all in.” (Funny sidenote . . . she actually featured me in this post!!)

(I think the whispers are getting louder.) 

 B-School starts on 9 March, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to start. (The conference is on the 27th.) The year 2015 may have begun nearly three months ago, but I can feel it in my soul -- this is the best year yet. I feel the culmination of everything I’ve ever done and everything that’s ever happened for me bubbling up in this moment. I’ll be posting on my progress and anything else that comes up as I go. March will be a busy month of more reinvention, more exploration, more leaps and dives into the unknown.
The Universe will give you everything you want -- and more -- as long as you show that you are committed.
Thank you for reading this and allowing me to speak to you the way I know best. I love each and every one of you -- even if you disagree with me and/or think I’m off my rocker. :) 

If you have anything to say, please leave a comment!

To our healing,