Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year that Was - 2013

Before I sweep the cobwebs in my head from tonight’s festivities and before I see the new morning light of the next brand new year ready for me to catch the world on fire, I cannot mourn the year 2013 without some serious reflection. 
Some years are better than others, and some are downright disgusting. For my life, those disgusting years were 1987, 1990, 1995, 2002, 2010, 2012 and 2013. And I use the word “disgusting” on purpose because some of the events of those years comprise things like death of a parent, health problems for my own and my relatives, unemployment, severed relationships, adolescent behavior... in other words, those were the years that cannot be forgotten. It makes perfect sense to chuck the disgusting years in a mental bucket and throw it off a bridge, and for some of those I did chuck them a long time ago, but for some of those years, it really made better sense to keep those memories alive to make me a better person.  
So here I stand, the last day of 2013, the last day of the last disgusting year on the disgusting list and why am I reflecting instead of chucking the year off that bridge? While there were plenty of ugly moments in this last year, I cannot forget them because it would be very foolish of me to not use this opportunity to gain some very important wisdom: Let it go. Let me explain... 
There was a time during this year that I realize that I cannot be in control of everything. Removing the self-imposed controller of my universe and my family, has helped to lessen some anxiety. It’s important to “let it go” because it helps to get rid of the anxiety that has been plaguing my life. It’s important to let the universe drive the bus sometimes especially when I don’t know where to take the next turn anyway. But this has been an extremely life-altering lesson that I cannot always be the director all the time and I sometimes need to walk away from someone else’s train wreck, even though it sounds apathetic and even negligent. The role of spectator is very unfamiliar for me so I’m still learning this lesson but I feel like it will help my life expectancy to ease the anxiety.
Since having my stroke a little over a year ago, the little words “let it go” can’t be more important. It is important to my good mental and physical shape. It’s important to my family. It’s important to my friends. Every January 1st that I start a new year I have all these resolutions like drinking less, volunteering more, being a better mother, painting my house, getting a new job, and making world peace. There are too many expectations that by the next year I haven’t done a thing, not knowing where to start, yelling at my kids while drinking a beer with Syria on the news behind me on the TV.  “Let it go.” I can’t do everything.
The year after my stroke, my goals became rudimentary and primal. During all of the real and unreal adult problems that continued so much through the year and last year, I’m just now realizing what the first priority is - the fact that I can even write this retrospection and read it back, is a testament to my priority. When I lost the ability to speak, write and read it took several months of grief to move onto from the phase of denial to acceptance. I’ve had a stroke, I’ve had a stroke, I’ve had a stroke. Denial is crippling. I thought I would be able to keep doing everything the same. Thank God for the acceptance.... letting it go, letting it go, letting it go. 
So looking back, this year I certainly have had some successes. To others my accomplishments would be commonplace, even myself 14 months ago. This year I re-learned how to read, I re-learned how to write, and I re-learned how to talk. As part of the recovery, I just read this book:


The fact that I even read a book at all is my proudest accomplishment this year. Because of the horrible attention span I read very slow and it is still impossible for me to read and listen to music at the same time. As for writing, I am writing so much better and on my way to writing more everyday. In fact, I’m writing everyday like it’s a job and I have a plan on completing something I am working on by the spring (hopefully!) and my husband helps me by editing all my writing. As for my speech, to me it sounds terrible, but to everyone else it sounds good. I’m not very good telling a joke anymore, which makes me very mad because I used to have wonderful rhythm for telling a joke. I know I’m being hard on myself. But It is true that I have a hole in my brain now that will never be healed. For that it is the ugly truth that I avoid any issues with a cashier or a waiter because I still have a lot of problems with arithmetic or instigating small talk with an acquaintance. I don’t know if any of those issues will ever be cured. Neither does anyone else.
Other things during the year that I completed, I published a photography book, built a vegetable garden for the first time, learned how to cook new recipes from the garden, learned how to make and can salsa and learned how to cook a family ketchup recipe and dabbled in some new art projects that I’ve never done before. There were all reasons for those things and they were all crucial for my recovery. All of it would not be without the tenacity of myself and others in my life to keep moving on and getting better. This year I am grateful for my husband Eric, my mother, my brother Michael, my in-laws from California and New York, and my kids who don’t know that all the chaos they bring around the house has helped me to get better as I work on my attention span, my speech, my multiple tasks and my better mothering skills.  
An old friend who unfortunately several years ago had a stroke, too, helped me to realize that, “Having a stroke is such a game changer in life and you will start to care less about perfection and having everything back like before”. Over this past year it has been unbearable to see a new person come alive that I didn’t want. It’s been unbearable to realize that I can’t make all my problems disappear. Every year I am going to have problems. Every year. I can’t imagine what the next new crisis will be and at the same time I imagine it all and accept it.
So this year, I’m starting this new year, 2014, as the new person, the new person that I like with all the imperfections, flaws, typos, stuttering speech and all without the anxiety and without the control and won’t it be so exhilarating to just let it ALL GO and unfold in front of me? We will see, we will see, we will see...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Jersey Shore

During these months of recovery, outside of the daily practicing of writing, reading and speaking, I have been dabbling with some art projects and over the last few weeks I have been working on a particular art piece. 

I am really lucky that I did not experience any long paralysis during the stroke that may have been disastrous for me, however, currently the right side of my body has some nerve problems that I hope will dissipate over time. Part of my rehabilitation has been working with my hands on this new piece that includes an old photograph of mine, but also the subject brings my thoughts back home of New Jersey and my wonderful old friends. Jersey strong!


"Cape May"
Transfer and oil pastel on canvas
8" x 11"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The other side of illness


Husband, friend, business partner, confidante, lover, partner in crime, and.... 
Caregiver. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Punch Buggy



There are so many reasons that I love him, but I love that my husband, Eric, enjoys a little friendly competition. It's one of the things that makes us so compatible. When we started dating we took a short road trip, and since that day we has been competing each other of the game, "Punch Buggy."

I have a history of the game, having had two 60s vintage VW bugs before. And because we are little competitors in the making, "Punch Buggy" is now a family game. (No arms are harmed during the games....usually).

Today's photo is from a nightlite that I bought for my son when he was an infant, then used by various boys around the house, and it is currently being used by the youngest. Maybe when the youngest is done with the nightlite I will get it back. :-)



Sunday, February 24, 2013

Art of Communication



When I was in the hospital, I really wish I knew how to communicate with sign language. Before the stroke, truly I took the art of communication for granted. Obviously the loss of something brings value again.

Right after the stroke, my communication was so impairment that I could not tell you what my birthdate is or my full name. I could say "Kate", but for my last name, "Sorenson", I could not annunciate. Other things like my address, my social security number, passwords, etc. felt think they had deleted the hard drive of my brain. These are more concrete things and they came back after a few weeks.

Of course, I never thought I could ever lose my ability to communicate. These concrete things in our daily lives and they have limited values. But the soul of my thoughts, my relationships, my memories - these are so more complicated within my unlimited potential. It is nice to say "I love you" to my husband. It is a wonderful thing to say WHY I love him.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Convalescence

It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog. This time it is going to be even harder to write. Not figuratively because I don't know what to write, but literally. It is literally a chore to communicate.

On November 9, 2012, I had a stroke.

Not because I was in poor health, but because I fell down the stairs which dissected my carotid artery. Subsequent I found out that my artery had a defect called, FMD, which caused a stroke. There is nothing I can do about the diagnosis for FMD since there is no cure.

For the stroke, the left part of my brain that controls communication and memory was damaged. This is what I meant at the beginning of this post and why this is literally a chore to communication. It has been a long time of rehabilitation to learn again to speak, write and read and I'm just starting to get better each day. So far I'm getting better about more complicated books, reply emails, quick texts, etc. to that I can be part of the human race again. The fact that I'm able to even write these paragraphs is a huge feat. (I'm proud!)

It has taken me about 2 hours to pull these thoughts on this post and I'm really tired. Make a long story short, part of my rehabilitation I need to practice writing and reading and visualizing my world each day.



Self-Portrait: Convalescence













Friday, September 9, 2011

Burning

This time in my life, this time where I find I have very little to offer an opinion about, is an odd time. (Considering those who have known me longer than a few days know I usually have an opinion about something). However, I find more often than not, lost in my thoughts, unable to articulate exactly what I’m thinking or feeling. Writing seemed to take a nose dive sometime in early 2010 when the earth was shifting in my personal life, and I’ve been highly distracted ever since. But as mentioned in my previous post, there is a calmness coming back. Somewhat of a rhythm or routine of sorts, that has settled into the household and into my life. I also feel creativity coming back, trust opening up, and fear eroding. I think humans feel comforted by routine, and more than I like to admit, I may like it, too. I have always fancied myself as more of a spontaneous chick, but I’ve come to learn over this past year that some measure of predictability is really a good thing. Not to say I can’t high tail it out on a walk through the park or take the long way home sometime at my spontaneous discretion, but if the daily rhythm is still there, I think it’s good for the body and soul.

And so for this blog, it has meandered through many roads since its inception. It started as an outsource for my creative ventures, then moved into necessity of publicity for my business, Revelry Press, and now it’s just, well, becoming just a blog. But really more like a journal because nobody is reading it because I’m not really blogging reciprocally. But that’s ok.

I did something very bold recently. Something I never, ever thought I would EVER do. As I have mentioned before, throughout my growing up and into adulthood, I kept many diaries: chronicling my good and not so good days of childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. There were at least 15 separate journal books filled with uninhibited ramblings. And there were entries in these journals that stung my eyes like mace. There were some things in these books that I had completely forgotten about or possibly my brain did me the favor of wiping them away. But here these memories were back now staring at me like a contemptuous ghost. They couldn’t possibly be me. These couldn’t possibly have been my thoughts and my actions. I started to well up when I read a particular entry from college. It was horrible.

And it was then that I did it. I thought to myself, how can I possibly keep this history alive? And so I brought that one particular journal from college outside and burned it. Yep. Lighter fluid, a match, and poof! It was ashes. And it felt great.

And then there were the 14 others staring at me in the face. I perused through all of them. Reading them and saying to myself, “Oh yeah, I remember that…” or laughing at some, and flat out gasping at others. I couldn’t help at that moment to think of my kids. I always had made the joke to others that at my death these diaries were to be burned. Because while I want my children to know me, maybe they don’t really need to “know” everything. And so why put it in the hands of someone else to dispose of them. And would I want that other person to read these? And so I thought, “No.” These were for me to dispose of. To literally dispose of the past and move forward. And so with that, I ripped out the pages from the book during July of 1987 on the day my dad died to keep that, kept my first one from when I was very young, and disposed of all the rest. And I’m glad to have them out of the house. I’m glad to see them gone. They were cathartic and necessary and helpful and educational and therapeutic and all that stuff for me when I needed it. But I don’t think they need to be honored on a mantel like a trophy. Our pasts are our pasts, we own them in our heart, but I don’t think they need to be worn on our sleeves. Because if you are an enlightened person, you will have evolved from where you were in your past to be the better person that you are today. Don’t get me wrong, by disposing of them I don’t deny where I am from. I don’t regret the things I have done. While I may cringe at some things, I have come to learn they have made me who I am today. I am a sum total of my decisions, some bad and some good.

But as far as keeping this past on a closet shelf with narrative and content like a bad Judy Blume book, I found it unnecessary. And I didn’t want my kids to see it either. So that’s that. I wipe my hands clean.

So there is still much revelry in my house and my life that I want to share and remember, so I think the name still fits. Andrew has started Kindergarten this year, CJ is already in 4th grade (yikes!), there are many times throughout the week that there are up to 5 boys at my house engaged in tons of revelry at one time… so there are unending chapters to still write about as I move into my 40s. And I will likely still write things that may make me gasp in years to come and I can always erase this one, too, via one click of the mouse if I so choose to one day. No burning needed here.