My Karma bill

May 19, 2013 8:46pm

This stroke has been a profoundly humbling experience for me. For one thing, my daily life is not unlike that of a child, where I must be conveyed from one place to the next and kept under constant supervision. I’m fussed over by those who care about me, and shepherded hither and thither, lest I fall down and become stranded like a turtle. It creates a very complicated maelstrom of emotions. I’ve traditionally prided myself on my independence, but now my desire for even a tiny bit of autonomy wrestles with my knowledge that I am essentially helpless, and will be for quite some time to come.

Like it or not, I am beholden to others.

In the first weeks after my stroke, I attempted to keep the story of what had befallen me as private as possible. I was dealing with major cognitive problems, and still wrestling with what had happened to me, and I wanted my stroke to be a private story. But looking back on it, this heightened secrecy was largely about me coming to terms with what had happened. Thanks to email and social media, it was only a question of time till it became known by everyone that I knew, but before then I just needed to come to terms with my changed situation in my own time. It is funny now to remember that I had once thought that I might be back at work in 6 months. In my defense, I had a swollen brain back then and could not grasp that it would possibly be years of rehab instead.

Despite my efforts to keep a lid on it, now a few months later, my family, all my friends, coworkers, acquaintances and even total strangers, are all privy to the fact that I’ve had a major medical emergency. The resultant unexpected outpouring of kindly attention causes mixed emotions in me. I am at once embarrassed, grateful, moved, frustrated, helpless, ashamed, anxious, fatalistic, and hopeful. I cannot sort it all out, so ultimately I must surrender to it. My pride has taken a savage pummeling, as has my habitual sense of privacy; my personal problems have become public property and I am overwhelmed, to the point of shame, by the deep gratitude I feel to all those who have helped me.

Friends have given freely to a fundraiser website to help offset my crippling medical bills. Others are arranging charity auctions, again setting off an emotional cascade in me that is complex. Besides paying the bills, I often wonder how I will possibly pay back all this kindness, which becomes more even more difficult to grasp when the donors are anonymous. Do I even know this person? More baffling still, in other cases the names are there for all to see but they are utter strangers to me. I have thought about that quite a bit; what compels someone to donate money to help a complete stranger?

The narrative that I have come up with by way of explanation is that such people, or their loved ones, may have had some similar medical emergency themselves, and they too were helped by the kindness of others and wish to give back. In any case, I think that is my way forward; I must be henceforth someone who gives freely at such times of need. My heart is full and I have a massive karma bill to pay that easily dwarfs my hospital bills.

So, to all of you who have helped me in any way, whether it be financial or with other acts of kindness; some home cooked meal left at my door, or a cheering present or a kindly email of concern, I say a heartfelt THANK YOU, and I pledge to do my best to both earn and pass on the goodwill you’ve bestowed on me.

12 thoughts on “My Karma bill”

  1. Jamie, when you’re up to it and if you want to, please call me. I relate to much of what you’re writing. You are much more public about this than I have been with my multiple sclerosis.
    Let’s tawk.
    — Jana Canellos, May 19, 2013

  2. Jamie, I know that for myself you have it backwards – we’re the ones repaying the kindness. But ‘repaying’ implies ‘owing’ – so it’s the wrong word, maybe ‘matching’ is a better word. We’re glad to step up and try to match the kindness and friendship you’ve shown all of us. Yer pal,
    — Scott Tolmie, May 19, 2013

  3. Hey there James!!!
    Always great to read your letters as your facility with expressive words is soaring. In that, you have some graceful flight.Without a doubt, part of the entire complexity you allude to is the simple fact that we could so easily be in your shoes. In a heartbeat.Us industry colleagues know you as a rich source of ability and wit….things we greatly value, so in completely selfish terms, we’d like more of your creativity!Keep up the good fight! You remain very heroic in our eyes……very inspirational.
    much love from blossomy LondonPhilip and Lisa
    — Philip Vallentin, May 20, 2013

  4. Jamie
    I rather suspect your Karma account has been in credit
    these many years past. No embarrassment, no debt, no guilt. I personally have found it very moving to see the generosity of others. I am sure
    you would do no less for another.

    Keep mending
    Much love xx
    — Kim Craste, May 20, 2013

  5. Completely the other way around, Jamie. You’ve always shown such complete graciousness, sincere friendship, and kindness. You’re brimming with golden character and integrity, and I am quite grateful that you and Julia are friends. We’re rooting for you and look up to you as you heal.
    best, Nadine

    — Nadine Takvorian, May 20, 2013

  6. I suppose it’s hard to get used to, Jamie, that people want to help you out without expecting anything in return, but you need to embrace that, mate. Everybody understand deeply that the world system doesn’t work and we are all really helpless against it – so we band together. Allow your fellow humans this bit of catharsis without a second thought of ever “paying it back.” Kind of why “It’s A Wonderful Life” always got me choked up. Keep on, George Bailey.
    — Jon McClenahan, May 20, 2013

  7. You continue to impress and inspire me. I hope when I have such a challenge in my life I can face it the way you and Julia have.
    Not sure if I’ve said that before on one of these posts, but it is the truth.
    — Brian McDonald, May 20, 2013

  8. G’day son James
    As ever, dear boy, thanks a bunch for your latest eloquent meditations on your recent past , present plight, and mixed emotions flowing from it all.
    I hope you’ll allow me to claim a modicum of credit on behalf of dear Mum and myself; to suggest that part of your present power to be an inspiration to so many of us might spring from your breeding and early upbringing. The fact that the Bros, without any prompting – but with bags of proud approval – from me, rallied with such alacrity to your side owes something, I hope, to the same source.
    The rest – the pride, the privacy, the independence, the steely determination to make the best of things, the high value placed on your legion of friendships, loyalty to family, and so forth – with which you can now credit yourself has been down to you. That’s been so since you left home at 18 to make your way in your profession in Sydney and around the globe. Without the possibility of knowing it, in that formation of the complex entity that is you, you have been preparing yourself for years to eyeball and stare down, with such style and grace, the present trials for yourself and your lovely Julia.
    You have been much in Wendy’s and my conversation of late. Friends of ours have lent us DVDs of the first series of F Troop just now, which has reminded me in thought and word of Mum, me, and you as a little nipper of 3 or so watching it in Hobart. You used to call it “The captain and F Troot”, thinking that Sgt O’Rourke was F Troot.
    Go well, dear Boy, with love from Dad and Wendy

    — Rob Baker, May 20, 2013

  9. Firstly, Blanche,
    It is my personal belief that there is no “accepting the kindness of strangers”. We are all one and the same. When someone else hurts, whether it be a Maldivian community after a tsunami, flood or fire victims, people with no fresh water, a close friend, and old friend, a new friend, family, any animal or even mother earth,…we hurt too.

    I can understand the mix of emotions that must be tooling about in your system. They’ve all been shaken up by the fall and nothing is the same as it was before. Things you thought you’d hidden down the back of a dusty old closet have tumbled out and now everything is probably trying to find where it fits in the new scheme of things. No wonder there’s such a higgeldy piggeldy of emotions surging through you at any one time.
    I have no doubt whatsoever that in time they will all find the right place for them to be, and you’ll become more and more settled within your self, as you need to be now, not, perhaps the self you once were.The constant being your core.

    Though I’ve never had a stroke, my world has been turned upside down as well, through other means, and I’m also finding new places to put thoughts and beliefs and feelings, and as I do, like when you move and have to clear things out, sometimes I look at a thought or a belief and see I’ve been carrying that around for so long, I don’t need it any longer.
    Different strokes for different folks… (-ahem-)

    Ironically, you living in San Francisco, it’s like your being (not just your brain) has suffered your own personal earthquake, after which some things may not be quite the same but you’re here, you are getting through it, and now there is a different horizon before you, one perhaps you hadn’t been able to see before because of all the old stuff that was in the way.
    A Haiku: Last night my roof burnt down, now I can better see the moon.

    In our culture ( especially here in Oz), we’ve been brought up to believe that’s it’s not good to think too highly of ourselves. That it’s vain, or ‘egotistical’. or ‘up ourself’. Without realising, we go through life with a menacing low self-worth, thinking we should ‘deserve’ or need to ‘earn’ things like respect and people’s love and attention. James, this is just my thought, but I feel, you don’t ever need to ‘earn’ or ‘pay back’ anything.
    You have already done so.

    You have accepted our love and said thank you. You have also opened up and included us. What better gift than the gift of oneself. Just keep getting stronger and better.

    love and big squeezy hugs,Janine xoxooo
    — Janine Dawson, May 21, 2013

  10. Jimmy, you remain the eloquent self that you are. Understandably, you feel that you owe but you don’t ! Each of us would, and do willingly help in whatever way we can, knowing full well that you would do the same if the tables were turned. Get well my friend… That’s all we want.
    — Deane Taylor, May 23, 2013

  11. Hey Jamie
    Its been a few weeks since I managed to sit down with some time and write something here on your ‘Stroke Wall’ though we’ve been thinking about you a bunch of course and have ‘lurked’ on the site to avidly keep up with Journal updates.

    The whole insurance bill business is just crazy and how tough for you guys to have been wrestling with all that as well as tending to more pressing matters of recovery
    The healthcare system here just makes me nuts… that we’re all covered (or not) by an insurance system …like a Car…?! .. whoever came up with that?

    all our Brit grumblings about the ‘state of the National Health Service’ seem kinda churlish to me now $186k…yeah I may have gone with the Cuba option
    great to see the online kickstarty thing, glad to have a way to help out a bit ;-)
    Your Journal entries have really been truly moving and inspiring mate
    its great to read that you’re making such progress and becoming increasingly mobile but most of all it great that it sounds like Jamie ;-)

    It sucks to have a pal go through such a traumatic experience and it really makes one think, but to read your thoughts and insights and through this site be aware of so many folks who care so much one can’t help but be humbled, impressed and somehow reassured by a demonstration of the best of human nature.

    don’t worry about the Karma Bill you were waaay in Credit when you started
    All the very best Go fella
    All those anonymous ones who donated. That was me, just sayin. XXX

    — Simon Dunsdon, June 6, 2013

  12. Happy to hear your financial burdens are lifted. I agree about the Art for charity auctions idea. I’ve also been thinking about it too. Maybe a nonprofit or something. Call it Gallery of Love. .. let’s work on that name.
    I remember working in the Maverix auctions. What made those events so successful was the love and friendship that was shared. Bid wars!
    Continue on your speedy recovery Jamie. You are breaking through obstacles and making progress sooner than Dr expectations. That’s exciting. Go Super Jamie!
    — Charlene Kelley, June 23, 2013


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