I received an invitation to a great, lifelong party. Now let me explain this party was not a quaint little gathering of a few friends to sip tea and speak of simple subjects. No, not at all. This was a party that would last through the night and well into the next few days or even weeks! I remember clearly this party was set to begin late on a Wednesday afternoon. The unspoken rumor was it may last for a very long time. If I was really into it, I could continue this party for months even years. This invitation was not brought to me with confetti and streamers. I did not receive an invitation delivered with a quaint lace envelope. Rather, I was presented this invitation in a darkened room with a bed pan and a wheel chair. 416 weeks ago no one really expected me to RSVP. My lingering attendance was merely expected by some of the world. It was silently assumed I had the right to join the International Pity Party.
That afternoon I made an instantaneous decision. I did not politely say I would not be attending. I did not use the manners I had been raised with and explain to society I would stop by to acknowledge my place in the pity party before I went off to meet other obligations. Rather, I turned my back swiftly, forcefully and never looked back. No, of course, that was not a literal statement. I was still paralyzed. I did, however, turn my mind away from the victim perspective and offered up my mind, body and soul to bring on the greatest fight of my life. That was the best subconscious choice I have ever made.
The day I made that choice I felt like a boxer in the ring. My supporters did not hold signs for me. Better than any sign they could have made, my supporters held hope. That is a gift that cannot be measured and cannot be forgotten. Like a boxer, I was in for blows. Having a stroke when you are twenty-seven is not something planned for. When you graduate from college, you do not expect less than ten years later you will no longer be studying statistical equations; instead, you will be studying just how it is your daughter is better at buttoning a shirt and walking. I captured success in immeasurable equations. I learned to scan walls as I walked down the narrow hallways, so I would not bump into anything. I fought my sight loss. Again, I had blows as I learned my brain damage had taken away my ability to recognize faces. Success again tasted sweet as I swallowed my last Keppra (an anti-epileptic drug I had taken for years). It continues to be a great success as I share information of what it is like to survive brain injury and explain my coping mechanism used to assist with prosopagnosia. There are still blows onto my bruised body. In April, I suffered my first major seizure in nearly eight years. Regardless, the pity party invitation will still not be accepted.
I have placed the invitation somewhere deep in the back of my mind. Somewhere within my closet of memories. I am sure between my head wrap that covered my shaved head, behind the dusty leg brace I refused to keep on my shrunken leg and maybe below the cane I have covered with my unused arm brace you will be able to find that invitation. I hope you don’t though. Never come seeking it. As I draw upon my eight year mark in surviving and thriving, I have a secret to share for my long-lasting, much celebrated recovery. That secret? This secret is Hope. Hope is something you will not find in a prescription from the doctor. You cannot discover it when crying day after day hiding in a dark room. Rather, you will discover it when you find the love in friends and family. You will overflow with it when you wake up and acknowledge the gifts that remain and you replace bitterness with an attitude of gratitude. Hope is rarely an instantaneous finding. Nonetheless, it is there. It is in all of us. For those of you who have shared hope with me, I am so very thankful you are in my life. For those of you considering the RSVP to your own pity party, I hope you choose to decline. Remember: happiness and love will come into the life you have discovered you truly love to live. Celebrate this love!