Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. ~ Maya Angelou

This is the 10th month out from my stroke. 

Each month has opened up new pathways both neurologically and emotionally, and so many replies to my newsletter (that I don’t get to answer but love love love getting them). I promised myself I’d email or post a Stroke Recovery update each month for a year. The early months revealed how different the big things were-walking, dealing with headaches, physical weakness, remembering how to make something as basic as coffee, reining in the fear that I’d have another stroke while I slept. 

One unexpected helper was America’s Got Talent. Even before the pandemic my sweetheart Hank had become an avid fan of some of the 59 versions of the Got Talent shows. He’d pick and choose from You Tube and accrued a good collection of his favorites-mostly vocalists radiating positive vibes and natural talent that sometimes took my breath away. Sometimes endearing children or dance groups that encouraged us to get up and move. Post-stroke it added to the clear energy in our home. 

Often I’d be in my office and Hank would call out, “Come listen to this one.” And I’d get a 90-second visual or auditory America’s Got Talent boost that calmed me, or energized me, or made me smile. This was perfect in the early months because I couldn’t focus much more than 2 minutes at a time. 

My brain cells responded to those Got Talent interludes. Endorphins did their thing. My brain cells are basically over-achievers. Now they tackle home routines and word retrieval with glee-mostly. Information files are pretty organized and even the “off the cuff,” and repartee files that I’ve loved  for decades are opening with ease.

As I look back from the threshold of this tenth month, I see how recent events outside myself help me grow. I guess that’s what awareness does. Something happens-it affects me. I feel happy/sad/confused/puzzled realizing a wave of change is rolling in. I have to make some kind of decision to change to “feel better” i.e., get my equilibrium back. And then take some kind of action to make the change happen. That can be tough if your neurons are surprised and aren’t firing too well.

One Recent Event Example- COVID

After 2 ½ years of cautious pandemic living, vaxing, and boosting, my sweetheart tested positive for COVID. I tested negative the entire time of our medically recommended 10-day isolation. But something had to change from Hank being major planner/doer for stroke survivor Ethel. The planning, organizing, carrying out of daily activities shifted from Hank’s side of the TO DO list to mine. Was it time for me to take a more active part in our daily life?

His case was mild. He felt “good” after three days altho’ tested positive for 7. He ensconced himself  in the primary bedroom and bathroom and had access to the patio and spool. I had the guest room and bath. We talked via intercom and FaceTime. Eileen and Joe brought groceries and goodies, neighbors left “presents” at our door, friends entertained us via Zoom. 

Be Positive- ( in your attitude)

We decided to be positive (in the attitude way) about this if we were to be “separated” for 10 days. I created a cruise stateroom for Hank providing chef service, room service, mail delivery. During FaceTime calls, we sometimes just looked at each other and smiled.   


So back to America’s Got Talent. One of Hank’s favs is Nightbirde. A 31-year-old female vocalist, she made her subdued debut singing her own folk/pop compositions. Her “It’s Okay” got the golden buzzer. There was something hauntingly magnetic about her voice and body language. She lived with cancer for five years before she passed away in February of this year. Nightbirde’s challenge was certainly far more serious than our 10-day detour in life. But her attitude and words were with us every day during our COVID isolation.

“It’s Okay” 

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay

If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost and it’s alright

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay

If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost and it’s alright ~ Nightbirde

 Her spoken words are just as genuine as her musical ones. 

“We are worth more than the bad things that happen to us.”

“You can’t wait until life is not difficult to be happy.” 

Well, that’s a new post-it on my mirror. Unexpected (and costly) house repairs, upsetting news about a friend, episodes of injustice and ignorance don’t need ruminating over and over after the event has happened. That drains energy I need to take care of the real work to be done. Thank you, Nightbirde.

Yes, my sweetheart had COVID. He’s a strong, resilient, and wise man. Those ‘Vid cells could only give him COVID lite. He felt “fine” after 6 days and has had no residual effects. 

What a positive feeling it is that now we are both positively “negative.”

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.