Every day there is much to be learned and taken in so that it can be put to good use. Whether I’m saying it out loud or just thinking it these days, I’ve been giving thought to something Socrates is attributed with saying. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t know that I would agree with this statement so much, however. It’s probably the “not worth living” part that gets to me the most. Even if life is not the greatest, if there is pain or sorrow, significant loss or heartache, no matter! I just don’t want to think of life as not worth living. There is always of something of value that you can find in the minutes, hours and days of our lives. For what I’ve been through in 2016, I can see now some things that have made all the difference. We look for the hope in everything, and then life has value and meaning. With hope, much can be overcome. Hope is such an important thing. Do you have anything realistic to hope for? To hope in? I would say “unexamined” or not, without hope there is trouble. I’ve reestablished my hope in the reality of the eternal, and that gives each day the perspective it needs.

Personally, I’ve come to the end of this year and now I’m staring down another one with some new labels. Maybe I never envisioned myself wearing these labels, but I am nonetheless.

Stroke Survivor – now that’s a label that took me by surprise. It’s a humbling experience to add the “survivor” part onto that label. Lots of people don’t make it out the other end of that hammer mill let alone in a condition where recovery is a very good or likely prospect.

Brain damaged – implied by the fact that I had a stroke, but it’s part of what came along with the stroke. Here with this label, I can be so very thankful that the damage was limited to the areas that can be re-routed and re-established. The time to do that and the work that it takes is more fully understood with every day.

Disabled – albeit a temporary disability, I have to fight every day to gain back something I had going for myself pretty good. I was no dancing genius, of Usain Bolt, but I had enough get up and go to function quite well for what I felt I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t need to back away from anything I wanted to do. That has changed to the fight to get that level of ability back. If I back away now, it just becomes a goal for the future.

Career Changer – Precipitated by the fact that many of my physical abilities will be hampered by stroke recovery, I had to embrace the reality that I won’t be doing the exact same thing as what I’ve been doing. It is no easy task to give up doing the things that you have been working at building as a business for almost 3 years. The worst of the matter is being lost as to how to make the new me work like it needs to in order to actually feel like I’m accomplishing what I would like to. This will take some time to get used to.

I was able to keep some labels that are outside of the hope part of things, but are powerful in how they encourage me anyhow. They are well worth mentioning.

Husband – It’s pride that has us guys in a provider role, feeling we can take care of all the stuff that comes along in life and being able to take care of it. All I have now is that I “chose” well (truth is, even there, she chose me and I came to my senses over time). My wife is the most amazing spouse I could ever imagine. In the times when I was in the scariest place, where the damage had taken over much of what I could do physically and made it as though I was frozen and unable to function, even her touch was healing and comforting. It was like a warm blanket was gently draped over my weary frozen shoulders every time she came near and touched me, or massages my aching hand and arm. It absolutely cannot be overstated how wonderful and healing her touch was to me. There is something amazing in the touch of a loved one. We rob ourselves if we shun loving touch.

Father – This label is one that gives me much joy. Five children is slightly more than the average. We have seen 3 of those children grow up to be awesome adults. This is always good for the heart. And the 2 who remain at home are going to be equally awesome! I can’t claim very much involvement in the good that has come of them. I wonder if other parents feel like this…shocked that the fact that you didn’t know a thing about how all of it would play out and having no previous skill at doing what it would take, but thrust into the fray all the same and demanded to do your best. Parenting is a humbling and scary task!! Thank God for all the good ways that things worked out.

All of these labels are either inescapable or self derived. To end off one year and roll on into the next with those kind of labels aren’t a problem if embracing the labels means you can make the most of life. I’m not bothered by labels…like I said at the beginning, there are some that if I had a choice to go back on and not end up with, I would give it my best shot! But rolling with them is the only way forward, so the best way I can see making labels work is to dig out the best in each of the ones that I acquired over the year and get into that as best I can. I think that allows me to avoid the label I may still choose to avoid. That label is “Quitter”. I won’t be that. I won’t choose that. Time to get rollin’ again. Exit….