Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A lesson in perspective

Last night I was putting Ellie to bed, thinking about the blog post I needed to write, stringing words together in my head. I came downstairs, turned on the computer, and got ready to write. I decided, however, that I would check my email first.

That's when I saw the message from Emily.

Our friend Anissa Mayhew had a stroke on Tuesday afternoon and is in ICU in an Atlanta hospital.

Anissa is 35 years old, and this is her second stroke in four years. She has three small children, the youngest of whom is a cancer survivor of just one year. This is a family that has already been through enough for one lifetime.

After reading that news, suddenly my blog post seemed pretty stupid and insignificant. So did a lot of other things I've been worrying about lately.

So I'm not going to blog about the silly topic I had in mind. Instead I'm going to reprint one of my favorite posts from Anissa's blog, and ask you all to keep her and her family in your thoughts today.

Hang in there, Anissa.

Rice and Buttons
by Anissa Mayhew
Published June 2, 2009

I’ll bet you’re thinking there’s some exquisite inside joke in that title.

And there probably is.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This is about the most infuriating bowl of rice I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve mentioned before that I had a stroke in July 2005. The months that followed were filled with physical therapy.

Lift these weights.

Walk those stairs.

Balance this ball.

Touch the target.

Stand on one foot.

Ride a bicycle.

Write your ABC’s. <—yeah, that was actually one of the exercises and I sucked at it. If blogs had to be handwritten, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t be writing this one right now.

And at the end of every session I faced down the bowl of rice.

An enormous bowl of uncooked rice would become my greatest nemesis.

It was full of small random objects….paper clips, rubber bands, safety pins, dimes, marbles, and buttons…lots and lots of buttons of all sizes and textures.

Blindfolded, I fished in the bowl to find all the non-rice objects.

With my left hand I could find and identify each and every one.

With my right hand, I could not.

The damage to my brain and my right side left me unable to feel the differences in textures or sizes or temperatures of the objects with my fingertips.

After weeks of walking away from the bowl in tears, I started to see progress. I was teaching my brain to recognize the shape and FINALLY I could feel the physical manifestations of my greatest frustration.

Over and over again my right hand would pass through the rice and I would start to pull out the paper clips and marbles…the rubber bands and the dimes…the large buttons…but NEVER the small buttons.

I KNEW my fingers were brushing over the buttons.

The therapist told me when I was nearing them and I would try so hard to MAKE my hands feel the buttons. Just once I wanted to run my fingers over the buttons and feel the elation of my nerves telling my brain it was there.

They never did.

My stupid broken brain.

I prayed that God would please help me heal, help me be able to be a mother again, to be a wife, to let me have another chance.

I was slowly regaining strength, I could finally walk a decent distance, I stopped mentally checking out during the day…but the rice bowl continued to elude me.

Peyton was a baby at the time and I could only hold her for short periods of time before she became too heavy for me to feel safe carrying.

You could tell when I was tired at the end of the day from the way my right foot would start to drag a bit and I shuffled through the house.

I would stare at my signature on a check and realize that I didn’t know that handwriting anymore.

I would look at something or someone and know in my heart that I knew the word, the name, I KNEW what it was, I had said it a thousand times before…but I couldn’t make the word form and come out of my mouth…I cried more than once at not being able to force my own children’s names to come out.

None of that bothered me the way the rice bowl did.

I would actually have nightmares about that rice bowl. I was drowning in it. My kids being in the rice bowl and I couldn’t feel them to get them out. The rice bowl became the epitome of everything that was wrong with me.

I would love to tell you that I overcame it and had this awesome Rocky moment where I triumphantly pulled a button from the bowl on my last day of PT…but I didn’t.

It won.

It beat me.

I never did feel the buttons.

And I had to accept that I would probably never find a button in a bowl of rice.

I recently felt this urge to just see if I could do it. Just wanted to know if there had been any improvement. So, I bought a huge bag of rice. I purchased a package of small white buttons, identical to the ones that haunted my dreams all those years ago.

I sat blindfolded in my kitchen and went to work with the bowl.

I didn’t find even one of the twelve buttons in the bowl.


Still broken.

You know what?

I didn’t care. I sat there and laughed at myself for worrying about whether I could feel a button in a bowl of rice.

I didn’t plan to have any career that required me to do it.

I really haven’t been in one situation since PT that I felt “OMG, I need to get a button out of the rice! WHAT will I do?”

It just didn’t matter anymore.

Because if there’s one thing the past years have taught me…recovering from a stroke, having a child diagnosed with cancer, chasing a dream, being a family apart for seventeen months…true strength doesn’t come from the body.

It comes from faith, soul, heart and love.


  1. Thank you for sharing Anissa's blog post. Puts a lot in perspective.

  2. I went over to Anissa's blog after reading this post. She was writing last about getting the laundry done before going on the Disney Cruise. How sad I am for her and how much hope I am sending her way.