Coming to Terms: A Matter of Health, A Kick in the ASS

This year has been a scary one, for sure.

I turned the Big 6-0, meaning I’m facing my eventual lack of longevity right smack in the kisser. It’s all downhill from here, right? I’ve lost good friends and relatives from the outset of this year, and continued to lose them throughout. It’s been sad and crushing.

Then, of course, there are what I call the celebrity dead people, Prince, Bowie, most recently Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. With every passing, I see the world dissolving right before my eyes. Maybe not so much with the celebrities, since I didn’t know any of them, but there’s that intangible connection, usually borne out of art or music. You mark your own time by their demise. My mother (also long deceased) loved Debbie Reynolds, probably because she was like her in many respects – dancing, singing, short, cute. And Carrie, I remember seeing the first Star Wars. It was opening day, the HarMar theater in St. Paul was packed, and my boyfriend at the time and I were as high as kites, sardined into their tiny lobby.

But I digress. I’m lucky in that I’m in fairly good health for my age. Yeah, being a food snob, I eat far too extravagantly. I’m pretty sure I should be on a strict diet of wheat grass and kale, but that’s not happening. At least I try to eat half (successful sometimes, sometimes not so much). Moderation is the key, you know. I try to run at least three times a week (sometimes a lot more) and I stay away from the real junk like fast food and white bread and soda.

So imagine my surprise when one Friday this month just as I was jumping off my treadmill I felt the right side of my face and my right hand go numb. I tried not to think about it as the tingling got progressively worse. Twenty minutes in, I texted my nurse friend in Colorado to ask her opinion, trying of course to remain calm and light.

I could still breathe, I could move my face, I could still function, so I brushed aside the notion that something was seriously wrong with me.

Until… the next day, when I arrived at work at 8 a.m. and found I couldn’t type with my right hand. The letters I thought I was hitting were not being hit. And I tried to text, but I couldn’t feel the screen enough to do so. (Like trying to text with your gloves on.) And the phone rang, and I found myself sounding like I’d just consumed a bottle of vodka or had just returned from the dentist with a mouth full of Novocaine. So I tried to write a note to my girl coming in at 9, except my normally legible and sometimes beautiful handwriting was not. It was more like chicken scratch. I couldn’t read it. At all…

So I closed up the building and drove myself straight to the ER. (My fine motor skills were gone, but I could still drive.) You can find all the gruesome details on Medium.

This post is not about the hospital stay. It’s not about not being able to talk; I’m fairly certain a life of silence can be handled. No, this post is about being an artist and finding out you can’t express yourself.

I’m right-handed. I write. I draw. I create jewelry. I garden. I like my coffee with cream and sugar. I LOVE to cook. I’ve painted, canvases and houses. I sew. I’ve done tons of needlework. I’ve played instruments (badly).

For me, life is an opportunity to create…in many different ways. WITH. MY. HANDS.

When you are left with a floppy right arm unable to pick up a coffee cup, much less wire wrap or sign your name, panic sets in.

My father fell on his head a couple of years ago while chasing a mouse out of his bird seed container. He had blood on his brain. For a while, he couldn’t speak or walk or feed himself or go to the bathroom (thank goodness he is much better now!). He has said this episode was the most scared he has ever been. You can live with old age if you can function. If you can’t, then what’s the use?

As for me, I continued to have these symptoms ten days after the hospital stay, although with each passing day, they lessened in severity. I have a January appointment with a neurologist. Things have improved immensely. Now I can write! And make jewelry! I even made a prime rib for Christmas!

What I have learned from this unfortunate hospital stay is that I should go back to my original mission statement: I’m writing as fast as I can!

Because life is short, and my story is still in there trying to get out.

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