In this space I have written about things that have happened to me since my stroke, and the effects it’s had on my life. I want to deviate from writing about my TBI and talk a bit about some things I’ve realized since my stroke.

It started when I was still in a hospital bed in the days following my stroke. I had an enormous number of phone calls, cards and letters from people all over the United States. Word had gotten out that I’d had a stroke and people got busy.

It wasn’t remarkable that I heard from people I knew; what was remarkable was the number of people I heard from that I’d never met. Some through online discussion groups in which I had participated, others through Facebook, people who had sent me friend requests I had accepted but had never met, some through word of mouth.

The outpouring of sympathy was amazing. I hadn’t died but I realized that if I had, people would have noticed. Apparently a lot of people thought I was a pretty good guy.

That unending wave of good will was actually the beginning of my recovery process; it gave me something to live for.
It also made me wonder what I had done to deserve it.
Then the realizations began; those things that I had always believed but had never really thought about or had put into words. Now the words began to come as ideas began to come and concepts took shape.

Some of those things were:

The realization that my worth didn’t come from my job. As I lay in my hospital bed, I wasn’t working or earning an income. But a person’s worth shouldn’t be determined by how much that person contributes to the economy. Worth comes from the positive contributions one makes to the lives of others. I realized that while I was never any good at making money, I was always good at making friends. By that measure,  I was a rich man.

It seems that you shouldn’t do things for people expecting to be rewarded or be paid back. You do things that will help others simply because you can. If you have the ability to help, I think you have a responsibility to help. If you do that, good things will follow you around. Contrast that with people who do things to hurt others just because they can.

The only thing that truly belongs to you is your name, and also your word. As much as you can, make sure that everything associated with your name is good and positive. Make what you say you will do and what you actually do be the same thing.

Your values are not what you say you believe; your values are expressed in what you do in life, by what occupies your time. If you believe in something, live it. Be the example of what you believe.

Life is too short to waste it on people who constantly let you down. Do I need to say more?

Let go of grudges. Do not carry negative, self-defeating mental energy. Move on and give your time to people who value you and will always be there. To attract that kind of person, you need to be that kind of person.

There are lots of others, but I think the main realization I had is this: Be yourself.
I have the best job job in the world, since I have the privilege of being me, which is a full time job. No one else can do it, and no one can tell me how to do it. I am the only person in the world who knows how to do that job.
I’m the one who gets to be me; it’s an important job and one worth doing and worth doing well.
As I said, my brush with my mortality brought realizations. I’ve got another chance at life, and it’s up to me to make it mean something. I don’t want what I’ve written to be preachy, I am just passing along the way things seem to me. Your mileage may vary.
Isaac Peterson performing. (courtesy photo).

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at isaac3rd@gmail.com

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