Proud man standing in an American History Museum.

My Sliding Scale Of Accomplishments

As we make our way through life, we come upon numerous successes that we are proud of. Whether we attained these goals through hard work or luck, or a mixture of both, they are still moments that we celebrate, moments that fill us with pride. The first time you ride a bike without training wheels, when you make the team, graduating, getting your first job, bringing home that first real paycheck, being promoted, getting married, having or adopting a child, I’m sure you know the moments I’m talking about. As I’m coming along nearly two decades of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the type of accomplishments I’ve been having aren’t exactly the ones I expected to be having at this point in my life. I’m no less proud of them though, but that hasn't always been easy for me.

A mountain for me

I started thinking about this a week or so ago when I came upon, what was to me, a pretty nice accomplishment. A local historical area near me had a traveling WWI exhibit that they were going to have on display for one week only. It may not come as a surprise, but my nerd-dom extends far beyond just loving LEGO; I’m also really into history. So this exhibit was something I really wanted to check out. I was also pretty adamant about going to see it by myself (I hate dragging people along to things they have zero interest in; I do it often, too). So, I set this goal to go to this thing, by myself. It may sound easy for most people, especially when the exhibit was only like five miles away, but for me, it was tough.

Waking up every morning hoping to feel well enough

Despite being relatively close, transportation would still be a bit of a problem for me. I seldom drive and when I do, it’s usually only to a place I’m extremely familiar with and is easy to get to (this is exhibit was located in the middle of a sprawling state park). So this was a challenge to me, to say the least. I woke up every morning of that week, not only hoping to feel well enough to go, but to feel comfortable enough to drive myself. The limited time of this event certainly didn’t help me. By Thursday, I finally felt ready to go (the cooler weather of this time of the year was very helpful for me). I spoke with my roommate and demonstrated why I thought I could do it (my roomie has known me a long time and has seen many parts of this disease, and so acts as a great and unbiased sounding board.).

A major accomplishment

I actually did it, too. Drove myself, did get a little lost, even had to pull over and collect myself a couple of times, but I eventually did find the right spot, went to the exhibit, chatted with some fellows who were a bit older than me, and it was fantastic! I certainly paid the MS Tax in the days afterward, but that was to be expected and was well worth it. The thing is, not only did I really enjoy the exhibit, I felt incredible pride that I made it there myself.

Comparisons kill

Not long after that, part of me stopped and thought, “Huh? I took myself to a museum five miles from my house in the middle of the day, and I’m only 40, how can I be so proud if I compare it to all of my other accomplishments in life?” Comparing that feat with everything I’ve done in my past really hit me. Aren’t these moments supposed to go up in grandeur, not down? When I thought about it like that, it did get me down for a little bit. Is this what my life had become? At such a young age? Wasn’t I meant for more? Whew, our minds can really do a number on us, can’t they? At least mine can, I feel like it’s always out to sabotage my happiness.

Getting past myself

I’m happy to say I was able to put those negative thoughts away. I remain proud of my accomplishments that day. No matter what I’ve done in the past or what I’ll do in the future. For me, at that time in my life, it was a major accomplishment to get out there on my own. It may seem silly to those who aren’t in that situation, but for me, it was huge. The thing is, with all of the bad moments that this disease gives me, there are plenty of good moments. When you stop comparing the present to the past, you really do open yourself up to some amazing times. For me, driving to a museum near my house was a major accomplishment. For some, it may be just making it to the bathroom (hey, some days just taking a shower is a big feat for me), and for some, it may just be waking up.

Stop comparisons to the past

There are a lot of things that we do while battling a chronic illness that may seem pedestrian to those that are healthy. We can’t let that mindset diminish our experiences. Many tasks may be “simple”, even in our own eyes, but our bodies and our illness conspire to make them difficult. The scale of accomplishments in our life doesn’t really slide up and down. If you conquered climbing a mountain when you were healthy, but then had to conquer making it to the bathroom because your legs and arms don’t work right anymore, it doesn’t matter, the accomplishments are the same and should be cheered. You worked hard and faced adversity for both, based on your body at the time. If you can stop the comparisons to your past, and take pride in all the challenges you face, no matter how “small”, I think you’ll have a much more fulfilling life.

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