I am not going to say having seizures through my school years, losing the memories of having two children or having a frontal temporal lobectomy followed by a stroke was an easy path to walk. I am not going to tell you that it did not cause periods of frustration and sadness. I will tell you though, after all is said and done, I am happy I was able to experience each of these trials.
Mrs. Bowman was an amazing teacher to the seventh grade students in Monticello. One of my favorite lessons I tucked away and carried with me was her explaining when life hands us lemons it is up to us to make lemonade. As with so many lessons throughout our schooling, they help prepare us in unexpected ways for life events that at the time are unpredictable. She did not give away a secret recipe. She only instilled in us that it can and will, with effort, be possible. It was up to us to make our own recipe. Just as she was unable to, I cannot give away a secret recipe. Thank you, Mrs. Bowman, for that lesson of life.
I can, however, confirm that it is possible. From my lemons, I have created the sweetest lemonade that has ever passed my lips.
After my events, I decided I wanted a deeper understanding of the brain. I went back to school to become an electroencephalogram (EEG) technician. Due to a sudden move related to my husband’s career, I had to drop out of the program. Before leaving, I gained the knowledge of what brain waves looked like and represented within our minds. I learned the very basics of our brain. After becoming settled in our new home, I still had this thirst for knowledge. I began applying to graduate schools and quickly enrolled in a masters program for psychology. With the confidence that I gained in not only surviving but also thriving through previous obstacles, I rose to the challenge and applied myself fully to this program. Seven years after my stroke I finished the program with a 4.0. With this goal completed, I applied more focus to the education of my children than in the limitation set by my sight loss. After fighting against the school district budget cuts to reopen our elementary library, I became a librarian to help young students have access to the power of books and dreams.
Once again, the Navy had us move. I like to read and write, and I enjoy public speaking. I have recently joined Toastmasters to assist me in obtaining to my newest self-imposed challenge of becoming a public speaker to help share the insight, knowledge and hope that my life experiences provided.
No, my trials of frequent seizures, amnesia, a stroke and sight loss were not easy challenges. Still, I would not give back a single day. All of these events- all of these lemons– have taken time to form and develop into something greater. I have peeled away the sour rind these events possessed. Now, I am squeezing the juices that are left behind from each lemon and enjoying the product of my struggles. The sweet lemonade offered to quench the questions of what will happen next and exposed the joy of unending awe and gratitude for everything I have left to enjoy.
Like I said, not a precise recipe for lemonade, but one anyone may follow. Embrace challenges life gives us. Stand up to them and overcome the obstacles head-on. Do not shy away from challenges, but work hard and persistently at taking something positive away from each trial. Sit back, relax and reflect on what opportunities life has given you. Take time to mourn if necessary. Take the needed period to experience regret, resentment and then take time to recover. Embrace with gratitude the unforeseen gifts you will find. Hopefully, you will see the challenge not as a burden but a lesson life has entrusted you with. Find what is positive within the experience. Figure out what it is that you can take from this complication. Share the positive lesson that you will discover with your family, your friends and society as a whole. The message you find needs to be shared. We can all learn from each other. After time, after healing, and gaining insight into what may lie ahead for you, then relax. Sip your lemonade remembering your life is yours for the taking. I would love to hear your story of how wonderful your lemonade tastes! Some day I hope to be invited to your event and share stories such as this one with you personally.
In 7th grade I sat behind the desk, like so many of my peers staring with absent eyes listening to a teacher trying her best to shape the minds of her young pupils. I waited for the eternity it took for the bell to ring and hurriedly left the class. Twenty-some years later and I finally understand the message Mrs. Bowman was pushing into our minds. I wish I could go back and tell her today about the lemonade I have created. So sweet even her creative writing lessons would leave me at a loss for the words to express the quench these lemons have found the power to produce.