This article is titled after Jill Bolte Taylor’s famous TED talk My stroke of insight. It is surely the hardest post I have ever written. Mostly because there is just too much to tell. I am still “in the eye of the storm” and struggling to organize huge lifestyle changes that are coming and hoping I am making good choices.
On Saturday March 11, my 63rd birthday and a little over 3 months ago as I write, I was vacationing with my friend in Silver City, NM. When I awoke, I was feeling very strange and realized my left arm was not responding to commands. It felt like a foreign appendage on my body and I could not put my socks on. I was in the hospital for 3 days, where they told me I had had a small embolic stroke.
The first 2-3 weeks were terrifying. The stroke did not seem to have affected major functional areas, but I was clearly not myself. My short-term memory was terrible, I had poor focus, my tennis sucked, I was very tired. Just setting up the many necessary follow-up medical appointments was exhausting. My nights were either completely empty or filled with what I call “desolation dreams.” It was very hard to know what to do, particularly in terms of plans and business opportunities I was pursuing prior to the stroke. There were also some very challenging events leading up to the stroke, which I will pass on.
But there were also many moments of deep happiness, which was kind of unexpected and continues, albeit not as strong, even now.
You see, the stroke killed whatever illusions I had about being in control of myself, let alone the world, and a kind of deep surrender ensued. Deep surrender continues as my primary spiritual practice. The realization that I am not in control is an intensely lonely experience. But there is an upside.
All my life I have been chasing a dream, even before I could name it. I now call that dream “deep relational culture”, or else “evolutionary relationships”, or maybe “embodied intimacy”. This also can be a pretty lonely experience, because 98% of people don’t know what this is about. They have no context for it, and my own life is a very imperfect demonstration of that dream. I have to teach them by modeling it.
I had to admit to myself that the dream had failed, and that something really significant had to shift here.
It gradually became clear that the most important shift, is that I needed to forgive myself if I were to hope to be different. I had to forgive myself for 40 years of business and relational failures, for all the friends I have left behind through my own stupidity and reactivity or poor follow-up, for all the people I have screwed in business deals gone south, not through malice but through bad judgment. For all the plans started in great excitement and anticipation that came to nothing. I even had to forgive myself for the harshness of my self-judgment, of my internal voices questioning my right to be alive, let alone happy.
The last 3 months have been quite a ride. For sure, a new period of life (I call it an “epoch”) is ending and another is beginning.
Moving to Mexico: the dream continues
I will now tell the sequel to this story. It’s hard to write because it’s really two stories. It feels like I have lived a year’s life in the last 3 months.
Whatever my physical and intellectual / emotional condition, I was not willing to give up the dream at the peak of my power, that would be disrespectful to 40 years of internal work and countless gifts from the universe. And to the parts of that dream that actually HAD worked.
In April I returned to my teaching, and rapidly filled three sections (18 people) of a 4-week course I am calling Practical Relational Leadership through Authentic Relating via a Facebook post. In May I ran these groups, all of which were home-runs and were hugely impactful in rebuilding my confidence. I call this “not dead yet”.
In early May I decided to move to an intentional community in Mexico called Namaste Village, which exists in a large expat community near Guadalajara called Ajijic. In mid-May I traveled there to check it out. I secured a 3 month lease on a room and ran some programs there that were also very successful. It’s essentially a permanent adult summer camp. It may or may not be my final destination, but it has everything I need for now: interesting people to hang out with, and a place to continue my work and focus on physical and emotional health. I only wish I had known about it sooner. I will be driving there next week, its about 12 hours drive from Laredo TX, which is itself 12 hours drive from here in Albuquerque.
The reason this is significant is that I am finally giving up on a conventional, settled life after 40 years of trying. I am sorting all my stuff so I can have the essentials with me in a car that I am calling the nano-RV. The nano-RV is a simple but functional #vanlife lifestyle, which avoids using hotels and living on fast food while traveling. The process has been emotionally intense because it’s logistically challenging and, as described, it involves processing 40 years of memories.
This is my first major piece of writing since my stroke, hence another milestone.
The dream continues, Inshallah. And, maybe maybe, is getting better.
Not dead yet.