Why is this date different from all other dates? Today is the first day of Passover and last night, at seders around the world, the youngest member of each family asked a closely related question. The question they asked is "Why is this night different from all other nights?" and an explanation was given by an elder. The significance of the holiday was explained and so began the retelling of the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt. It is a complicated story, and can elicit much discussion and thought. Every year the story is retold and passed from generation to generation.
My story and my question are much simpler, but it allows me to share my feelings and thoughts about the date that transformed my entire life. The events of Monday August 30th, 2010 altered my world as I knew it and I now define my life as before that date and after it. It is the day that my husband, Dan, suffered a serious stroke and we were thrust into terrifying, unexplored territory, filled with daily life and death decisions that ultimately were out of our control and have changed our lives forever.
For many who suffer a traumatic event the date of that event becomes the defining moment of their lives. Prior to my husband's stroke the defining dates of our lives were happy ones -- our wedding anniversary, the births of our children, our moves to new homes and professional pursuits, the adoption of our pets, and graduations -- our own and that of our children. The severity of the stroke paired with the stress and helplessness of the situation overshadowed all other events in our lives. That event and its aftermath have taken over and everything else is relegated to the rear -- life's priorities quickly rearranged themselves. From that day on our roles, responsibilities, hopes and dreams all changed. There was no going back, nothing will ever be the same and so it became a new beginning and because of that we divide our lives and define it by that date. Before August 30, 2010 and after.
Dan's stroke occurred on a Monday afternoon and as each succeeding Monday afternoon approached I would become paralyzed as I relived the event. I wondered if I would ever get through a Monday without freezing up. Good news! I have started taking a dance class on Monday afternoons and find that besides providing me with the pleasure of movement, it alleviates the stress of the day/time. I have to concentrate on learning the dance routines and find that I don't focus on past traumatic events. Dancing also generates endorphins that make me feel happy. I actually feel lifted up on Mondays, whereas previously I dreaded them. I am always amazed when Tuesday rolls around and I have passed through a Monday without becoming immobilized.
The hardest times are the August 30th yearly anniversaries of Dan's stroke. I anticipate it for the entire month of August and unfortunately it overshadows our anniversary on the 22nd. The first anniversary of his stroke was hard, as was the second. I anticipate that the third will be difficult as well.
Then there's the monthly anniversary on the 30th. That still holds terror for me and I fear its approach and barely get through the day each month. This year I breezed into the month of March, and didn't experience the trepidation and anxiety I usually get at the end of each month. Then it came to me -- February didn't have a 30th!
I have been told by others who have had traumatic experiences in their lives that time will ease the anxiety. I can't wait and feel I need to take action now. So I choose to share the words of a Lee Ann Womack song that have helped me -- an excerpt of which I've written below.
"I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance"
I choose to dance!