Grace, Memoir, Self-Acceptance, Stroke Survivor, Struggle, Writing

Grace is Gone



noun \ˈgrās\
: a way of moving that is smooth and attractive and that is not stiff or awkward

I was once pretty graceful. Maybe that sounds surprising if you’ve seen me lately, but I could really move around quite fluidly, probably from having taken gymnastics as a kid. Gymnastics, taught well, give a child flexibility and coordination, as well as core strength.

So I was rather flexible, comparatively coordinated, and I could perch myself on a little space and then get up quickly and move around, or move through theatre aisles or rows of seats at a wedding with moderate ease. I mean, I was no dancer, but I felt fairly smooth in my movements.

Not anymore.

Now I move clumsily, even awkwardly, and when I need to get up and move, it is the very opposite of graceful.

I honestly don’t know how to feel about it. Do I try harder for self-acceptance? Is that “giving in” or “giving up”? Someone asked me if I had to pick the one intolerable thing that’s different now, what would I pick? But honestly I don’t even know if I should rate them. That’s just depressing.

I’m sure it’s not politically correct, or it’s at least frowned upon to say, but sometimes I just hate it. I hate that I’ve become ungraceful.

I don’t have the same balance. I quite literally fall over sometimes as if I’ve tripped. Which I also do rather frequently. Remember Hasbro ‘Weebles’? They wobbled, but they didn’t fall down?

Sometimes I teeter around, like I’m a ‘Weeble’

Sometimes I wobble but I don't fall a 'Weeble'
Sometimes I wobble but I don’t fall down…like a ‘Weeble’

Usually this makes me laugh, it’s kind of funny and too often beyond my control. Gravity is not usually my friend. The odd time it will make me cry, with frustration like when I’m in a hurry or if it ends in me spilling or breaking something. And I mean an inanimate object, especially a personal item, but if it leads to breaking bones or anything that would suck, too.

I don’t mean to harp on the negatives. I actually think of the positives all the time.

Like I’m so glad to be alivesimple, but nothing could to be more true. And it has changed my perspective and put me back inside my own mind. I want to use my inner creator to be more imaginative and productive.

To be honest there’s an incredibly long list of what I can do, incredible in the sense that I could be so much worse off. I’ve seen much worse at the rehab center.

So the normal everyday essential stuff that I can do keeps growing: getting up and showering, dressing, putting my contacts in, doing “something” with my hair, cooking breakfast for my husband, my son and myself, packing their lunches, driving , handwriting notes and cards, mailing stuff at the post office, grocery shopping, cleaning up the kitchen, scrubbing the counters and stove top, preparing many dinners the same as always, loading and unloading the dishwasher, getting laundry in and out of the machine…and on, and on, and on.

Right now though, the things I’m struggling with are a constant challenge: well, first of all the list of can-do’s while they are certainly exciting, you need to picture most everything a lot slower now, plus getting all the shampoo out of the left side of my hair, laboriously buttoning buttons (or giving up entirely), not being able to cut food well during prep or at meals, I struggle to get paper into envelopes, one-handed typing, putting bulky items into the oven, taking large hot ones out, folding & hanging up clothes is torturous…and on and on.

Yes, this!
Yes, this!

What I all too often fail to remember is that there is always a list of what we can and cannot accomplish. It’s all relative.

In junior high, there were things, probably not applicable as an adult. Then in high school, there were other things, some of which likely carried over while others were discarded. During university I know there were things, things I was quite proud of, but also papers I wished I’d written better, tests I wish I’d studied harder for, life-decisions I should have made better or at least different choices about and then too, some big ones that seemed more like the best fate I could hope for, etc.

And ever since then right up until the stroke…yep, there were old and new things. Some that I was grateful for or oblivious to that I could do, and others I was sad or unaware of that I could not. It may have been altered and modified, but the list never goes away completely, because it is part of being human.

I’m trying really hard not to waste energy on things that I might never be able to do now, besides chances are, most of them were things I was never, ever going to do anyway [Think cliff diving and base jumping]. It’s that old way of over-thinking things and fearing the idea that limitations have been placed on me, like a yoke weighing me down.

Of course, as far as the little things, the everyday struggles, I can only continue to work on those.

As for grace, I mean I never did pirouette around the house or jeté into the school. My life was never a stage production. I’ve never lived as a performer, so to speak.

But for 40 years my feet walked, stepped, jumped, ran and danced, (not so great, but danced) whenever I required them to, whenever I commanded them to! Now even though I know how to do it, and I tell them to do it, the connection is not always happening between the brain and the muscles. Freaky!

It’s obviously weighing heavily on my mind, as every time I hear the Rolling Stones’ song ‘Wild Horses’ and the line “graceless lady you know…”, I seem to picture someone stumbling around, stiffly…like I would. Quite certain that’s not what Mick and Keith had in mind…

And so I find myself feeling really self-conscious about not being graceful. I think deep in my subconscious I worry my friends are going to feel disconnected from me, as if I am unrecognizable and no longer relatable now, because I’ve had a stroke.

Okay, so I don’t really believe those things, but I can tell by my reactions and my self-consciousness that because I’m not comfortable with myself, I’m afraid other people might feel uncomfortable around me.

After all, I’m uncomfortable with how I hold my left arm. I’m uncomfortable about the numbness in my face and how it always feels like it just must to be noticeable to anyone looking at me. I’m uncomfortable eating in front of people since it’s almost impossible to know if I have food on my face.

I’m only 41 years old and I’m having trouble eating in front of people? That covers some of my favorite things to do with others: go out for coffee, sit down to a meal, or sit around the kitchen with snacks and drinks.

Gee whiz, I’m already shy and quite introverted, I did not need a catalyst that would reign me in. I’m trying really hard not to close myself off, but sometimes I just don’t feel very comfortable in a large group of people, especially when they are all eating and talking…generally things that I adore and would feel silly and conspicuous to not partake in.

This is especially poignant right now, because I am so determined and focused on connecting with other people. And sharing food and drinks are such a fun way to do that.

Imagine a deep sigh right…now.

In fact I was just doing exactly that a couple of days ago. It was a lot of fun and sometimes briefly I forgot that I feel so dissimilar, that I am changed. Those are the best times.

Those moments...
Those moments…

While I was on a boat in Sweden I was so taken in with everything going on; the beauty of it all, the feeling of being out on the water; that for several moments I honestly forgot about everything else, at least briefly and it was wonderful. That’s happened a few times.

I want more of those moments…

Grace may be gone, but I am here.

A second definition is,

noun \ˈgrās\
: a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving

Or even more eloquently expressed in this lovely grouping of words,

For others, but importantly for ourselves.
For others, but importantly for ourselves.

Maybe this second meaning can instill the belief that I can have grace, even if I don’t move about the world very gracefully…

The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.
— Aristotle


― Raina K Morton, June 10 2014


From our boat tour in Sweden, some more of those moments:

Stockholm Boat Cruise 2014
Stockholm Boat Cruise 2014
Stockholm Boat Cruise 2014
Stockholm Boat Cruise 2014
Stockholm Boat Cruise 2014
Stockholm Boat Cruise 2014

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