Karie Bookish Dot Net

Twenty Years & Three Days: Living an Unexpected Life

I receive a lot of lovely messages from knitters who have found the craft in a time of personal upheaval. I understand this perfectly. While I would love to enter into personal correspondence with everyone reaching out, I cannot do this for various reasons. This post is my little attempt at telling my story and how I dealt with life veering into unexpected directions. I hope this suffices.

Twenty years and three days ago – October 14, 1996 – my life changed. It was a Monday. I woke up feeling heavy-limbed and trudged to the bathroom to brush my teeth. This is when I realised something was very wrong as I could not keep water and toothpaste from dripping down my face. The mirror told me the truth: the left side of my face was paralysed. I was twenty years old.

The story is not that interesting nor long.

I had been struggling with flu-like symptoms for two months and my Monday morning was simply the culmination of what happens when you are bitten by a tick carrying Borrelia burgdorferi and you don’t seek medical attention. I was a second-year university student who was too busy enjoying student life to pay attention to fatigue, mental confusion (one time I forgot where I lived) or weird ear-aches. Even with a partially-paralysed face, I was oddly reluctant to seek medical attention. “But I cannot feel a thing It doesn’t hurt!” I told my friend. She barked at me: “There is your m-f-ing problem right there.” She’s always had a filthy mouth.

And so I was hospitalised, diagnosed, treated with heavy-duty antibiotics and got on with my life.


I had my life mapped out at that stage and it was a good life I had planned: university degree, good full-time teaching job, two-point-one kids, a loving husband, a charming turn-of-century house in suburban Copenhagen, three dogs, and a garden. But my plans were interrupted and changed forever.

I actually had to look up the date I woke up with a paralysed face. Twenty years and three days later, it is a fuzzy memory and this is a good thing. My life has turned out very differently as I have had to accommodate things that never really left me: my stamina is rather low, I find it hard to maintain conversation in noisy places, facial recognition is not great, and I have a patchy memory (which it is why I often end up re-watching films and re-reading novels as I rarely remember plots). I am used to these things.

Though my life turned out differently than I had planned, I have a very, very good life. I want to emphasise this: it is possible to lead a full and rich life even if life is taking you on a detour.

June 2015 252

First of all, I let go of any idea that my life going forward would be less worthy or less interesting just because I could no longer tick certain boxes. I let go of the notion that unless things go to plan, things are not going well. I also let go of things I thought I ought to achieve because other people were achieving them (marathons, mountain-climbing, managerial posts in mega-corps). Instead I decided to be kind, open-minded, and curious about the world. I decided to let the small things in life really matter and not sweat the big stuff.

I find my joy in the everyday: my morning coffee, the crunch of a red apple, the fine turn of a couplet, a silly dog gif, and the feel of a well-made yarn running through my hands. I find joy in meeting extraordinary people whenever I teach workshops. I find joy in learning something new from a podcast or a video. I find joy in writing blog posts and articles. I find joy in sharing my passions with the world and seeing what people make. The everyday is extraordinary and I don’t know if I would have noticed this if things had turned out as planned.

When I graduated high school, we wore hats. Our hats were passed around to the entire year and when mine came back to me, someone had written: life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. Years later I learned that this was a quote from a John Lennon song. At the time I loved the quote with the fierce intensity of a teenager. These days it strikes a chord for much different reasons.

13 Thoughts on “Twenty Years & Three Days: Living an Unexpected Life

  1. What a moving and simply expressed account. Thank you Karie

  2. That is my favourite quote. I changed direction too. Glad you are happy x

  3. Very moving xx

  4. So beautiful! Thank you

  5. Cheryl Collins on October 17, 2016 at 7:03 pm said:

    Here’s my favourite quote ” We think when we are thrust out of our old ruts that all is over. On the contrary it is only then that the new and the good begin.’ War & Peace.
    Thank you for your honest and moving account- I’m so glad you have found lots that is new and good in your life.

  6. Jennifer Bennett on October 17, 2016 at 9:21 pm said:

    Thank you Karie, you express yourself so beautifully and speak for many of us too! It is the details of life and how you value them and your people that really matter, not the “big” achievements.

  7. I’m full of admiration for you deciding to be kind, open-minded and curious about the world – in the face of all those difficulties. Thank you so much for sharing this very honest post with us.

  8. You moved me. Very much so. Thank you

  9. Anne Kennedy on October 18, 2016 at 1:46 pm said:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! And I want to emphasize, thank you for sharing your TALENTS with us! Just keep knitting…….that is my personal mantra for dealing with traumatic life events over which I have no control, but which have had huge impact on me. Oh yes, and keep smiling

  10. It sounds like you have the perfect attitude to life! I need to try to stop sweating the big things and take pleasure in the little things (although sometimes its not easy!).x
    P.S. looking forward to seeing your book!

  11. More people should live one day at a time and be thankful for small pleasures.

  12. Seoladair on October 21, 2016 at 7:22 pm said:

    Loved your post – thank you.

  13. beverly burnell on October 26, 2016 at 9:30 am said:

    A most interesting medical story, thanks for telling us. Just want to say how much I enjoyed your workshop on the weekend in Falkirk. You are a good teacher and you inspire. Thanks.

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