¨Prost!¨ I exclaimed, clinking my stein of beer against those of my friends and the random German guys we had acquired as friends for the afternoon. I was in a state of absolute bliss. My trip to Munich turned out to be an unexpected collision of friends from many different walks of life, and I was so thrilled to be in Germany for the first time and see everyone at Oktoberfest! A dream come true!
In my pre-stroke days, I loved to travel. While living in Madrid, I got to see many other amazing parts of Spain and Europe. And the way I saw it, how could I come all the way to Spain and NOT go to Oktoberfest?? So I decided to cross it off the bucket list. On September 18, 2015, I traveled from Madrid to Munich with one of my best friends to meet some of our other friends from college. Oktoberfest truly was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, every bit as bacchanal as one would expect. But in the best way possible.
Fast forward five years to my post-stroke life. In my post-stroke days, I love to travel too, but traveling looks different than it used to. Although I love my life now and feel that I have been blessed with a second chance, I still have bad days and don´t always feel my usual happy self. This past week I was feeling nostalgic for the old Maddi.
I was thinking back on my time abroad in 2015 and how simple things had been for me then. No stroke, no muscle spasticity, no significant vision problems. Five years ago life was good, and I wanted to go back to that time. It was this past weekend five years ago that I ventured over to Munich.
But wait a minute Maddi, you might be thinking. You just said you love your life and are blessed with a second chance. Why do you wish to go back???
Good question. I found myself wondering the same thing. And I think it comes down to this: I don’t necessarily want to go back in time as much as I want to feel carefree and independent again. Like the world was my oyster and I could conquer anything.
But with age comes not only the wisdom of gained experience, but the blessing (or burden) of increased responsibility. My life has done a literal 180 in the past couple of years since I suffered a life-altering stroke, but I choose to view my injury and recovery as a lifelong opportunity, a journey I can constantly grow from.
My responsibilities have changed, and while I can’t galavant around Europe given the pandemic and the fact that I (literally) can’t galavant anymore, I can still live my life and have fun and not let my disabilities hold me back from accomplishing amazing things.
Since Oktoberfest 2015, I had been joking with my friends about taking a trip back for Oktoberfest 2020: the five year reunion. However, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it quickly became clear that a reunion trip was not going to happen this year. Bummer.
I was upset because we had been looking forward to a trip like this, a chance to reconnect with friends who now lived all over the world. The pandemic really was putting a wrench in all my 2020 travel plans. But I refused to let this bring me down. Despite our current global situation, I had in fact had some great times. Instead of wallowing in my sorrow, I decided to think of all the ways I’ve lived my best life during the pandemic, and make a list to show myself how much I had achieved and had to be grateful for over the past six months. As you may know, I’m a huge proponent of list-making. Here are a few noteworthy items from my list:
- Daily walks outside
- Publication of my book Fast Fwd: The Fully Recovered Mindset
- Designed a scavenger hunt for my sister’s 21st
- Traveled to Puerto Rico with friends
- Visited Lizzie at the beach in NJ
- Saw family in Fenwick Island
- Ate crabs in Ocean City
- Walked 10 km in Hilton Head
- Swam in the ocean and in the pool in South Carolina
- Dropped Bridget off at school
- Bryn’s labor day party meeting lots of new friends
- Sharika’s party and meeting friends of her and Jonathan
- Survivor live weekly conversations with Tawnie
- Chess moves with Greg
- Podcast interviews with Jerry and Paul
- Successful July renewal campaign at work
When I actually sat down to write a list, I quickly realized there were way more things I had to be grateful for than I originally thought. I might not be living and traveling how I thought I would be in 2020, but I am living and I am enjoying the moment, and that’s pretty cool.
I have been getting down on myself a fair bit lately, feeling nostalgic for a past version of myself that no longer exists. But what good is that? I am Maddi 2.0, and if independence and freedom is ultimately what I want, how am I going to figure out a way to get there?
There is a well-known saying I’m sure you’ve heard that applies directly to this situation. As it goes: Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.
This saying is honestly so corny it makes me cringe, yet I can’t help but think how true it is. We can spend our time worrying about what is in the past, fixating on a previous version of ourselves, or we can take advantage of the present moment and shape the future we desire. I was stuck wishing for the Maddi of five years ago when I could have been reflecting on the Maddi I’ve become since. I crave independence and travel, so instead of whining about it why don’t I do some serious thinking and devise a plan for how I’m going to get back there.
I may not be headed to Oktoberfest this year, but no one else is either because of the pandemic. And international travel will still be there for us to enjoy in years to come. In the meantime, I’ll focus on my goals for independence and save myself the unnecessary beer calories. 😛
Read more of my journey to independence post-stroke in my latest book Fast Fwd: The Fully Recovered Mindset.
Let’s connect! I love to hear everyone’s stories with managing tough obstacles. We got this. Onward!