A Stroke in Time

During a summer trip to the mountains I found myself contemplating the river I sat next to. The constant movement and flow over and around rocks and boulders as it winded down the valley. The sound the water generated as it traveled was both soothing and enveloping. A few days prior I visited an alpine lake and marveled at the tranquility. Hiking the perimeter of the lake led to a river which fed it and on the other end a river that flowed from it. I reflected on how the lake was fed from the energy of the river which then melted away as it was absorbed by the lake only to once again resume its active journey as a river on the other end.

The river serves as a metaphor for my life, particularly my professional life. While it is true there have always been small eddy’s with calm water during my journey, rarely have I experienced the serenity of the alpine lake. I have been either constantly moving or avoiding. An alpine lake is fed by fresh, sometimes raging water and yet remains still until it releases water down the mountain. These lakes are open systems receiving new, fresh water from snow melt or springs and remain crystal clear. I am certain under a deluge the clarity of the water is clouded and yet the lakes natural state of calmness returns, and the impediments settle to the bottom or are carried downstream.

This past summer brought another experience, a stroke. A small stroke impacting my left temporal lobe making it a struggle to process information and find certain words. I am beyond fortunate that within 24 hours my mind was functioning again and over the next week I reconnected lost words to their meanings. The most profound influence was the experience of serenity I found as my mind slowed, even the hospital was a pleasant place as I enjoyed conversations with the medical staff, friends, and family. My stroke created a refuge from an overactive mind that is regularly thinking ahead and maintains a constant to do list. The stroke has become my personal alpine lake experience. While I do not wish a stroke on others, I do hope we notice those experiences which slow life for us. Join me in striving for the balance reflected between the river and the alpine lake. As Carl Honore` in his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed states, “Slow is the new fast.”

Article by Marcus Earle, PhD, LMFT, CSAT, S-PSB