This I Believe

Susan - Taos, New Mexico
Entered on July 22, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: illness
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that in every disaster there is a gleam of buried sunlight. That an opportunity glimmers out.

Seventeen years ago, at the age of 46, I had a severe stroke. I had brain surgery, and was hospitalized for three months. After that, I was in no shape to go back to work.

My wonderful husband was able to support the family.

Enter the first blessing aspect. All my life, I had been an artist without enough faith in herself to live like one and spend my days in creation. Instead, I spent 26 years working as a secretary. Now, as a result of the stroke, I had been liberated from the 9 to 5 world of work. I began to write and study poetry. After a while, I began to have poems accepted for publication. I won fellowships to writer’s residencies like The MacDowell Colony. I taught writing workshops for survivors of physical and emotional trauma. All these things and many more happened when I finally acknowledged my true nature as an artist, and stopped hiding my special gifts. The stroke, which looked like such a disaster, actually gave me a second chance to listen to my real desires and dreams.

At the airport this week, I met a woman for whom the loss of her entire pension propelled her into adventures and personal growth she would never have experienced if it hadn’t been for the pension disaster. There are so many stories like hers, and mine.

When crisis strikes, it can be extraordinarily painful. Starting over at the age of 46! But I also believe it can be a very great opportunity. The stroke gave me a chance to become a creatively fulfilled person—that’s HUGE! And at the same time it provided the challenges that have stretched me into an infinitely wiser, more open-hearted and loving person than I would ever have been if my life’s course had proceeded undisturbed. I’ve even become an ordained minister.

Today I tell people if I were given the chance to go back in time and choose whether or not to have the stroke, I would choose to have it again—I would never want to give up all the blessings that have entered my life as a result of this “disaster”.