Living 2 Extremes: fixing the inside

Clark Mumaw
6 min readApr 20, 2023

Before my stroke while I was kind, I also did not have a strong emotional body. My engineer/technician like existence was thought filled not emotion filled.

My experience of events was through the filter of measuring, seeing the cause and effect and trying to understand the many whys. I did not understand that my weak emotional experience was not common. I understand now that many live a much stronger emotional life.

I fostered this engineer existence by going into computers. Here I was rewarded for learning the rules and following them. Emotions got in my way of problem solving. The 30+ years of making my living though fixing and problem solving put me into a thought dependent existence.

But by doing so I had also painted myself into a corner I did not know how to get out of. I had elevated rules to the point that emotions did not matter. Rules were paramount. I was willing to sacrifice everything (including my health) to fix a problem, to maintain the rule set. I mistakenly adopted rules as my security safety net. I had no room for emotions. I had little patience for mine nor others. Not when my income and security depended on fixing a problem through maintaining the rule set computers ran on.

Then my stroke, got me out of that painted corner by destroying the room. That was the plus. The downside was the pain, the lack, the limits. These brought up some strong emotions and in the beginning they dominated my existence. Also a plus. Learning to deal with these was a challenge to one with limited emotional coping skills. But learn I did.

Where before, my sensitivity to another’s life was limited. Now my own comfortable existence depended on being sensitive to my own life. It was like I was being given the opportunity to see life from the other side. No big spiritual surprise here. Actually it was more like I was being forced to see life from the other side. Another plus.

It was obvious that I could not expect everyone to cater to my needs all the time. I was learning it that it was not feasible to ask the whole world to change for my needs. Just as I had learned it was not feasible to ignore everyone else’s needs. Both of these 2 extremes were not reasonable. Finding middle ground was important. For me to integrate with others, I would have to learn how to handle this new existence.

I went from one extreme to another. From seeing the limits of others as getting in my way. To having my own limits, holding others back. Now when someone went out of their way to help me, I was abundantly grateful.

Sure, I was kind and helpful before. But at the same time there was an inability to see life from their point of view. I was too quickly frustrated by having to slow down and accommodate their limits.

I went from car rage waiting to explode to not wanting to bother anyone. From too assertive/aggressive to too passive/submissive. Not exactly middle ground yet. LOL.

While I was fixing the problems. Before I had limited capacity to be empathic to the other person. Now I was extremely aware and empathetic of the other person.

Just as my capacity to not have empathy reach an extreme. So too now, had my capacity for empathy reached the opposite extreme. Where before I was in a room with almost no emotions. Now I was in a room with too many emotions.

So many emotions, that my ability to positively contribute was just ineffective as when I had almost no emotions.

When I had almost no emotions, my ability to connect with others was limited which in turn limited my ability to make an impact on the other person. Oh I could still impact (fix) the technical problem but not the impact the person.

When I had too many emotions, I could connect with to impact the person, but I could not see clearly enough to fix the technical problem.

Can you say middle ground issue? Finding balance was not as easy as know it was needed.

It is almost like prestoke, I was more like a republican. Expecting others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And the less empathetic to the situations of others.

And post stroke, I was more like a democrat. Filled with empathy and compassion for the other. Believing that everyone needed and deserved a helping hand extended. That everything would be ok if we were all just more empathetic.

The big life insight for me was that both had extremes that did not work. That having next to no emotions was just as ineffective as having too many.

I keep saying this because I had to work so long to understand and achieve it.

The lack of compassion was just as problematic as an overabundance of compassion.

The no emotion state left out taking care of the people involved because of an over emphasis on fixing the problem.

The too much emotion state left out fixing the problem because of an over emphasis on taking care of the person.

I have learned that extending a helping hand does not always make a difference when there are people who will jump back into the hole you just pulled them out of.

I had also learned that fixing the problem does not always make a difference when the person is the problem.

So is there a middle way? I could and did learn to be more patient and empathetic. I also learned to see clearly and fix the problem in spite of the emotional turmoil. So to some degree I did find a middle way for myself.

I am still left with two problems. One, I never did figure out to help fix people when the person is the problem. The ones that want to jump back into the hole, I have to leave alone and walk away from. The ones that won’t change themselves, I also have to leave alone and walk away from.

Another big life lesson was beginning to learn which people I need to walk away from. Someone once said, the poor will always be with us. I now think they are right. If what they meant by that is that there are some people you just cannot help because they are not ready or willing to change.

These are people that are stuck where they are and really don't want to change. The time and resources that you waste on them are indeed wasted because they could have gone towards someone who wanted to change and wanted the support and would have made efficient use of them.

There are some people that work to stay out of the hole. And there definitely are some people who work hard to change themselves. I have gotten better at watching to see how people use the resources given to them. Those that keep wasting the opportunity extended to them I do not continue to extend a helping hand to. I hope someone else is will. I hope that sometime they will change their life and start to make the most of what is around them. But I will not help them forever myself.

But I do not have an infinite amount of time to spend throwing a starfish back into the sea when it keeps crawling back onto the shore.

Another big life lesson was that there are just as many people I cannot fix as there are problems I cannot fix.

The end result of all of these life lessons was to learn how to go inside myself and fix myself so that I could deal with these people and problems.

I had to learn how to be happy in spite of not being able to help a person nor being able to fix a problem. How to not go crazy in the midst of my life. How to continue to improve myself even when I cannot improve life around me. How to not always extend a helping hand. How to not always ignore another person’s condition.

How to avoid the popular extremes of conservative and liberal thinking.

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Clark Mumaw

ex-computer networking technician, post stroke survivor, metaphysical explorer, philosopher, interested in human psychology and spirituality