Brain Damage

It’s been almost a week since I had my MRI experience. Since writing my last post, I have had a lot of tests and doctors appointments. Now I am home with the puppies for ten days or so. Stephanie is holding up both ends of an important mission for both of us in Brazil. There is an encounter happening at our Cacao farm and with the spiritual healing center next door. We have ten people staying in our house, and it would have been difficult to cancel on short notice. So Stephanie and I said a hard good bye and I watched her leave for the airport in an UBER. I could not drive her, since I am still missing the uppoer left quadrant of my visual field.

I walked right into a tree branch the other day. I’m sure it would have looked funny to any observer. I was walking the dogs with my nephew Quanah. We had strolled into the Grove for coffee in the morning yesterday. Walking home I was on the left side of the bike path so people could pass to my right. There is a tree branch hanging down from the left side, and as I approached it stayed in the upper left of my visual field because my eyes were focused down and to the right towards oncoming walkers and bikers. I continued straight down the path until the branch hit me square in the face about an inch and a half up and left from my left eye. I never saw it. It was funny because I was in the middle of expressing to Quanah that I thought I might be able to learn to ski safely by scanning around with my visual field to make sure that I saw other skiers or trees. So much for that idea!

But those episodes are pretty minor and a little bit funny. I had an electrocardiogram the other day. I did not understand why I needed to check out my heart on account of my having had a stroke, but low and behold, they found what they were looking for. It appears that I have a Patent Foramen Ovale, which is a little hole between the two upper chambers of my heart. They took an ultrasound image of my heart and then injected a bunch of air bubbles into my arm. I watched with the technician, and angel named Susanna, as the bubbles filled, and then exited, the chambers of my heart. Ninety percent of the little bubbles entered the atrium and then went down in to the ventricle and then toward my lungs through the pulmonary artery, but a few of the bubbles went through a little hole from one atrium to the other, and then down and out through the aorta.

It did not seem like much of a problem, and a little bit of research shows that I probably have had this condition for my whole life without knowing it. But it turns out that little blood clots or arterial plaques that come into the heart from the whole body are supposed to be filtered through the lungs before being pumped through the arterial system. But with this little hole, some of these particles can skip the trip to the lungs and pass directly into the aorta, and then a couple of them went into my carotid artery and into my brain, where they caused me to suffer a stroke. That’s one theory anyway. I am inclined to give it some weight though, because the neurologist ordered the test to see if I had a PFO that might explain the stroke, and I did. So that seems pretty clear to me.

But the horizontal explanation does not capture the full picture. I made two prayers for 2023 that I worked into a notebook after two weeks of meditation and discussion. I was really trying to boil down my experience in 2022 into a couple of concise prayers for 2023 that would make my life optimal.

The first was I prayed to more fully connect with the Warrior Spirit that has been my guide and companion since we encountered each other in the top of that magical canyon near Telluride in the summer of 2021. I can’t believe it’s been that long already. The second prayer was for peace and harmony in my home, and specifically, peace and harmony in myself in my home.

This little stroke is a gift that answers these prayers. As for connecting to the Warrior Spirit, this happened right away. My channel has been wide open since this occurred. When I first started with this experience, I was asked to decide how I was going to respond to this situation. The Warrior spirit guide within me was very clear. It said, you at this moment have the opportunity to choose how you will respond to this situation. You have the opportunity in this moment to choose what is important to you and claim it. I was shown that my condition has an amazingly wide range of potential outcomes. I could start to heal and recover from this stroke. My brain is a plastic and flexible organ. It can grow new neurons and retrain other neurons to perform the function that I have lost. I can adapt by learning to shift my gaze a little to the left to fully utilize my functional visual field.

On the other hand, at some point in my life, I will learn of the condition that will bring about my death. It could come in the same way “sir, have you ever had a stroke…?” So this could work out anywhere form full recovery to death. But life is not like that. Life only ends with death, so eventually I will have to face the same passage. The spirit guide was showing me that I have an opportunity to practice this right now.

How will I respond to this? The first word that came to me was “FAITH” It’s a very easy answer. I have faith that everything that comes to me is for my highest good, including this condition. I trust the divine will and the divine plan, and I surrender to it. I can do all of the things that are available to preserve my health, but at the same time, I must accept the certainty that from this world I will eventually depart. And we have but one choice to make. Faith or Fear.

The Fear is an abyss that lies just beside me. I only have to start to wonder if I could have another stroke. What if this is just the first episode of my gradual decline? STOP… there is nothing for me down that road of FEAR. It is a bottomless pit of despair, and it’s important not to take the first step into it.

Humor is another virtue. I was cracking up with my son Wylie about Brain Damage. Hey Dad, how are you? Well apart from a little brain damage, I’m just fine! Also, Brain Damage explains a lot of behaviors. “Oh my god, I can’t believe he just said that! why would he say that?” Answer… “Brain Damage.”

Brain Damage may not explain everything, but it explains a lot.

That same day I was in the kitchen holding a bell jar full of salted sunflower seeds. Stephanie was in the kitchen right in front of me, and Wylie was there too. I raised the jar to my lips and drank some sunflower seeds without thinking of it, and Stephanie was appalled. SO Gross! Why do you do that?!?

“Brain Damage?” I offered. “NO” She said… “that’s a pre existing condition!”

Wylie looked wryly at me… I don’t think Brain Damage is going to cover everything Dad. But it was funny.

The second prayer, peace in my house, is already here. The value of feeling peace and harmony in my home is so clear right now.

There are so many other lessons I am receiving. They are coming faster than I can write them down. I am receiving so much gratitude that my personality and identity are intact. I have the same intelligence and the same joy in my heart. Sure I can’t see everything, but I can see a lot. I can see my cursor on the screen and everything to the right of it. That is all I need to be able to write on my computer. It’s all I need to play backgammon.

We have had lots of funny and loving moments. “I can do that!” has been my refrain. If this is the new way my brain functions, that’s fine. I will take it. I accept this existence with so much joy and gratitude. I can live with this if it does not get any better. This is a gift.

I am also now so much more open to receiving love. I’m 55 years old and I suffered a stroke. I am so grateful for the love and kindness of the people around me, and none of it is a threat to my marriage or my well being. Before this happened, there was a tendency in me to avoid being close to people. I never wanted to be that creepy old man with inappropriate attention to the ladies or whatever. But now, I’m Granddad who had a stroke. Not a threat to anyone. I am super grateful for my loving wife who cares so deeply for me, and who loves me so much. I am not about to screw that up. And seriously, I think at this point in my life it is perfectly safe to assume that any other relationships I might have are purely platonic. I am free from these concerns and can be so much more open and friendly now. This is truly a gift. I am both free and content. There is so much more to learn.

I love my life.

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