Well, this is awkward…
I’m not really sure how to start.
This is definitely a pretty ignoble beginning as a contributor for this website! You see, I was harboring visions of an introductory post, highlighting some of the amusing insights about parenting with MS, courtesy of my 3 sons. Instead, I got nailed with a remarkably persistent case of writers block.
Today, I finally stopped forcing myself to write a light-hearted piece about my unexpected journey into single motherhood, and made a command decision to focus on a very different topic: being Authentic.
In late 2011, over a year after I was diagnosed with MS, I told a good friend: “I think the first year I was so busy assuring myself and everyone else that I was OK and life would be fine. But now I’m into the second year, and I realize accepting I have MS didn’t relieve me from the heartache of learning how to live with it.”
That was the most authentic way I could explain why “MS: Year #2” was significantly harder for me than “MS: Year #1”. It was sheer survival that occupied my attention during Year 1, which seems to be true for most MS patients I’ve met; for me, that meant adapting my then-kindergartner and –preschool sons to the “new normal” of Mommy’s illness, just after the arrival of a baby brother. I spent 2010 up to my elbows in dirty diapers, Sesame Street, and syringes—though to be clear, not all at the same time.
Eventually, the initial chaos of diagnosis subsided and life continued its onward dance. My friends and family remained supportive and engaged, but understandably resumed their own lives once they determined it was statistically unlikely I’d spontaneously combust into a heap of diseased nerve cells. It became evident that hosting an MS party I never wanted to attend required more from me beyond conquering a lifelong fear of needles or pulling together a freezer casserole for health emergencies. And frankly, it didn’t really matter if I felt I’d suffered enough already; to self-confidently move forward, I needed to undertake some significantly private adjustments to determine where my illness fit into my personal narrative. Sorting through the exhausting personal journey clichés of “MS: Year #2” was incredibly demanding, but it was worth it—because for me, the evolution was authentic. (Also, I secretly anticipated earning well-deserved time to focus on 1st world problems like what color to paint my kitchen cabinets.)
Yeah, that didn’t exactly happen… And that post-diagnosis struggle is eerily similar to where I’m at now; except this time, the chapter is called “Single Motherhood: Year #2”.
A hidden silver lining of MS is that we patients become veterans of crisis management. I fell back into the chaos of survival for myself and my sons last August after my husband and I embarked on what I hoped would be a brief separation. But it wasn’t to be—it took less time than any of my 3 pregnancies for our marriage of 14 years to dissolve in an uncontested divorce. My now-ex-husband moved out of state before the judgement was even entered, leaving me as the sole custodian and caretaker of our school-aged boys. Meanwhile, I could hardly wrap my (lesioned) brain around the fact that any of it had actually happened.
So for the second time in 5 years, I’m transitioning myself and my children away from overwhelming losses and towards the adventure of life evolution. But it’s because I’ve been down this road before that I finally got it— why I couldn’t create that funny piece about how we have laughed and learned together in spite of the personal devastation around us.
I’ll write that another time; but for today, it’s just not Authentic.
Having MS toughened me enough to start from scratch for myself and my sons, but it also humbled me to be honest. And right now, I’m pretty overwhelmed about what the process actually looks and feels like. So while I have plenty of humor to share as a writer (who just happens to single mother with MS!), it inevitably complements a raw, grueling discovery of what is truly Authentic.