“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” L. Frank Baum
Are you familiar with the term Act II? I have a friend who says of stroke survivors and the post-stroke life, “it’s a new normal” That is right on target! Sometimes people choose to do something different and sometimes life changes on us and we have to choose to do things differently or find something new to do. This quote comes from the movie The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her dog Toto end up in the land of Oz after a tornado.
I’ve said before that I love to read. For many reasons, reading has been a hard thing to do. It is something I’ve worked a lot on in therapy. Before the stroke I had a goal of reading every book that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Just remembering that goal was a big deal to me. I was thrilled when I figured out to use some kind of ruler or bookmark to move to a new line to see the words or isolate them. In many ways this idea of reading is an important part of the journey. After 11 years, I just don’t have the stamina to do that but the whole idea of imagination (or using my mind) in the process is still important to me. Matt and I talked about it and our primary goal was to come up with a solution as an alternative so I could still enjoy the stories and use my imagination. Matt set up my Mac to download Audible Books and then I can listen to them using iTunes! So if we stay with the idea of Act II, this is definitely Scene II in that process. That makes me think of the on-going process of it all. I’ve told the story before, but one of the first therapies I did after the stroke was water therapy. Relearning to swim — really? As if once was not enough! It’s ironic that the boys are so great in water polo and Matt still swims every Sunday morning. Me? As I’ve said before … I know I was a rock in previous life! So as part of water therapy when I got to the deep end, I thought that we were done. That’s when the therapist said to me “now you have to keep moving to stay afloat.” Talk about a metaphor!
Tesi Sanchez-Halpert had a stroke when she was 48. She taught Physical Education at one of the schools in Southern California. After she had the stroke, she had to decide what to do professionally — whimsical metal sculptures (http://atesisculptures.com) of course! (Made from recycled materials, I might add.) There have been several articles published about her and what she has done. This is phenomenal. Sculpting wasn’t new to her, but her husband realized how therapeutic the activity was for her. She donates a lot to charities and she says “my new life as an artist, making my silly sculptures, has brought me lots of joy, because I can bring joy. It fees like I have a superpower that I never had before.” Now that is a great way to look at this adventure! I love this idea from the standpoint that her Act II is as much about her and about the rest of the world. I particularly like that sculpting wasn’t new to her. We often think that Act II means something completely new and maybe it just means doing something new with that skill. Last month I did a post called “Secret of Life” which is a song by former baseball pitcher Barry Zito. He played guitar and sang before, but now he’s making it more a focus on who he is and what he gives. So Act II doesn’t have to be something completely new to a person.
Do you notice that these two examples have art being the Act II? Karen Altree Pemme is the Artistic Director of The Red Ladder Theater. They have a Facebook page and one can do a ‘like’ to keep current with their activities. In a recent interview that she did with the quarterly magazine ISQ, she talks about with whom the Red Ladder works and the concept of art and the path of transformation. She has a great perspective as she talks about the path to transformation — which begins with an understanding that transformation is possible. And that’s thing about theater — that’s the thing about art. I think that is a great perspective and certainly fits in with the ideas I have. In the play As You Like It (Act II of course), William Shakespeare says “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.
Matt and I discovered a fabulous winery (https://www.scheidvineyards.com) who has their tasting room in downtown Carmel. All of their wine bottles have screwcaps. There is a whole technology about using screwcaps versus corks! Who knew? This company had a debate for years about what direction they should take. Once the science was proven then they had to consider how they would deal with perception. (This is always a concern of mine when it comes to strokes.) In May 2008 they decided to provide screwcaps on all their bottles. As they say screwcaps “aren’t cheaper to buy, they’re not easier to produce, they’re not prettier or more trendy. They’re just better. At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most?” When the no alcohol restriction was lifted, using a corkscrew on a wine bottle was one of my post-stroke learning experiences. While it was not easy, I did it. Screwcaps are definitely easier/better as a person with limitations. There is pretty much nothing that I take for granted. (Another Act II, Scene II experience.)