My Mind Used to be so Agile

My mind used to be so agile. I could take in complex ideas and break them down into simple concepts. I could hold multiple thoughts in my head at one time—even carry on two or more conversations simultaneously. I was quick with a quip, adept at a clever turn of phrase, and had a vocabulary that ran wide and deep.

I have always loved words. I find them delicious. I savor them on my tongue, like ingredients for a new gourmet recipe I’m in the midst of creating. I’m continually moving them around in my mind, placing them in various combinations until I find the perfect balance between salty and sweet, spicy and cool, creamy and crunchy.

Often I would try them in various combinations out loud in public speeches and sermons, in conversations with friends, when making a point in a group discussion. I would use them to punctuate the stories of my life and the lives of those I encountered. I would write them down in stories, essays and articles for public consumption—hoping the readers would enjoy this new dish I offered as much as I had enjoyed crafting it.

I became a wordsmith. And, as I’ve been rewarded often for my expertise in this craft, I’ve continued these practices throughout most of my life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the process of writing something, of developing a new story, or whipping up a new image to present for the reader’s or listener’s palette.

But since the stroke…since the infection that caused the stroke and destroyed my mitral heart valve in December 2008, I’ve lost some of my agility with words. My ability to put words and phrases together has slowed. Just as I lost my ability to walk great distances without the assistance of a cane, I no longer have the energy or the stamina to continually craft stories in my head.

Words don’t come to mind so easily, as often, they don’t roll off my tngue as eloquently. Sometimes, when I try to talk, to make a point, or tell a story, I can’t find the words I’m seeking. When I read out loud, the words trip over my tongue as though I have marbles in my mouth. The words sound garbled to my ears.

I feel self-conscious and become embroiled in shame and the need to apologize for my clumsiness, for the mess I’m making of this craft I once felt so confident about.

In fact, wordsmithing—storytelling, or leading people to laughter, tears, encouraging them to ponder new ideas and see things from a different perspective—this was the one thing I could count on to make me feel good about myself; the one thing at which I excelled. And it was one of the few things for which I was consistently rewarded by others.

It was my identity. Now I don’t know who I am.

To be continued…

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