Three years ago tomorrow, December 10, 2017, is the anniversary day of my mini-stroke. I woke up in the morning, sat down to watch television with my daughter and apparently started making no sense, asking if I was in the TV. I wound up back and forth to the hospital the next two days and in an MRI machine and diagnosed with a TIA- Transient Ischemic Attack- a mini stroke. For about a year after that, I started almost every conversation with “I had a stroke” It got old, and my friends laughed at me for it. I couldn’t stop saying it, because I couldn’t believe it. This is what I learned from that experience –
I had been very sick for a while, about a month. I thought I had a cold, I thought I had the flu, I thought I had pneumonia. I didn’t have any of those things and I just kept getting sicker. It was finals time at work and I felt terrible about not being at work, people were complaining about ordering food all the time. I felt guilty. I went to work one day with a fever and almost passed out. I kept on Christmas shopping and planning for the 20th Anniversary of Luminaria Night. I went to the Anniversary Party and helped clean up. I helped put out Luminaria in the snow, I just kept going and going until I literally gave myself a stroke.
Here’s what I’ve learned since then, and it took me decades to learn this and live it, and I’m still not all the way there. It is really important to care for yourself. Learn to love the word “no” and use it- “no, I can’t” “no, that won’t work for me”, just plain “no”. If it makes you feel better about saying it, add the word “sorry”. even though you have nothing to be sorry for. There is nothing honorable about making yourself sick doing for others. Don’t get me wrong here, I am still always doing stuff for others, it’s the purpose of my life, I am sure about that. But now, three years on from laying in that hospital bed, looking at that MRI with the little blank spot on the back of my brain, I take better care of myself, too. I help out when I can, in ways that don’t stress me out or put too much pressure on me or my time. I hope the women who might read this take a note- if that extra batch of cookies doesn’t get made because you needed a nap, Christmas will still happen. The stores have cookies. If your presents are wrapped like crap because you needed to put your feet up and have a glass of wine (OK, I’m talking about me)- no one will care!!! If you make only 3 fish this year instead of the requisite 7 or 13 (me again) on Christmas Eve- no one will care!!! The people who love you want you to be around a long time, believe that, and ensure you are by caring for yourself.
This year, we transferred Luminaria Night to New Bethany Ministries, lock stock and barrel as they say. After 23 years, I packed up all the paperwork, all the pictures, all the newspaper clippings and delivered them to the office manager there, and left the actual running of the event in someone else’s hands. I didn’t make one phone call about it, I didn’t go to the distribution center. And it feels awesome!! Turns out, it will be the best Luminaria Night ever this year, without my direct help. I will not be lighting hundreds of bags this year, only the ones at my house (and I probably won’t do that, either), I won’t make the very stressful call about whether or not to go based on the weather, I won’t be fielding tons of phone calls. And it feels awesome!! LN is one of my favorite nights of the year, it’s gorgeous, truly magical- this year, even more so for me- I’m going to pop some champs, toast Denise and the gang at NMB, drive around and enjoy the beauty of the night.
Three years ago tomorrow, I thought I was living in a TV show and had a mini-stroke. Today, I took the day off work, because I needed to do a few things (just a few) and rest, I was starting to feel frantic about time. I didn’t feel guilty for a second. Also, I have my feet up with a glass of wine. I wouldn’t have been able to do this three years ago, it would have made me crazy. Today, it makes me sane. More than ever, please take care of yourself, say “yes” to taking care of yourself. Don’t give yourself a stroke. Blessed Holidays to you and yours.