Why do some people seem to “thrive” in the midst of life’s challenges? You know the type.  Or maybe you don’t. To understand what I mean, you need to be a “people analyzer”. You see, I AM a “people analyzer”. I love to know what makes people tick. Especially when it comes to my patients. And the patients who are the most fascinating, are the ones who “roll with the punches”.  Yes, fascinating. Because, honestely, to call them “inspiring” would be just a bit to cliché.

“Rolling with the punches” (idiom) is literally to maneuver one’s body away from a blow (such as in boxing) so as to lessen the force of the impact.  (reference: https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/)

An idiom that involves a fight seems the most appropriate way to describe the “type” of person I am talking about.  Because that is what life is. It is a battle. And the ones who are the most “skilled”, will always come out standing on the other side of life’s “blows”.

Mary’s Stroke Recovery Story

Enter “Mary”. Mary is a perfect example of someone who has chosen to “roll with the punches” in this journey we call life.

Mary is a 50 y/o female who in the course of a decade had her third stroke (due to a genetic malformation in her brain).

I can’t ignore the stigma that exists.  “Stroke” seems to be the new lung cancer or HIV. We often judge what we fail to understand. But again, I digress….back to Mary.

In the past decade Mary also became a widow. This left her to learn how to take care of herself……..and her 5 y/o son.  Now, whether life makes one “resilient” or not, is up for debate. But I can’t help but think, in “Mary’s” case, it is built into her DNA.  Over the course of several sessions I learn more about how she is “wired”. She never gives up. Does not take no for an answer. And just does what needs to be done.

For example, Mary tells me of the time (after her stroke) that the DMV failed her (on the sole basis that she had had a stroke). So, “Mary” did what people like “Mary“ do. “Never-take-no-for-an-answer Mary” traveled an hour to a rehab facility that had a driving program (to ensure they could not fail her again).  She completed the driving program. After that, she had to make several calls to the state to allow her to take the test again.  Needless to say, she DID get her driver’s license back.

As I reflect on Mary’s stories (of life after a stroke), I have more questions than answers. Would I do it? Could I do it? More importantly, why did she do it? You know, work so hard (in the era of Uber) to get her license back? Maybe the answer is found in something deep within her DNA. People like Mary do what needs to be done. They don’t spend time dwelling on how it WON’T work.

Or, maybe the answer lies in what I am witnessing (as she tells me the story). More specifically, the ending to story (of getting her license back). I see a sense of pride and accomplishment clearly painted in her expression.  And maybe, THAT is the secret to “thriving”. Not just after a stroke, but in life. Maybe “rolling with the punches” is “the end that justifies the means”.  “The means” being the daily struggle of overcoming physical limitations. And “the end” being the sense of accomplishment of doing what others say you can’t. In either case, it IS a winning formula after a stroke. And those who learn it, win.