A woman is riding a bike with hearts flying up around her. There is a large heart coming off her back wheel.

Words of Encouragement: Good for You!

Three simple words: good for you. These words are special to me because they do not ring with judgment but only encouragement. These words also make me feel more relaxed and positive about myself. They seem to remove the sting of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ words.

Tougher than you know

Cycling in the winter. That’s a new concept for me. But this year it is exactly what I’ve been doing when I can. In the process, I’ve learned that I’m tougher than I thought. Who believed that I would ever voluntarily gear up and go riding when it’s less than 40 degrees outside? Not me. But recent activities have proven it’s possible.

Good for you for being adventurous in the face of doubts, Lisa.

The ‘what if’ of MS

Living with multiple sclerosis is unpredictable. Even when the disease is stable, there is always that fear of ‘what if’ something goes wrong?

What if I have a relapse and lose my abilities to do what I enjoy? What if I go blind again; will my vision return to normal? What if MS interferes with my relationships? What if my legs stop working and we have to move to a more accessible house?

But what if 'what ifs’ are not all negative?

What if I learn a new skill and find that it becomes my passion? What if my disease stays stable for years? What if I can actually cycle 266 miles in the first 26 days of January? What if I can do more than I thought?

Good for you for moving outside of your comfort zone, Lisa.

Freezing Saddles: A crazy winter cycling game

I learned about Freezing Saddles from a member of a local cycling group on Facebook. I was intrigued with the idea but would have never considered cycling in the winter when it’s cold, wet, and dreary. There’s a group of about 250 people in the greater Washington, DC, area who love doing just that.

Cyclists are randomly assigned to teams and points are awarded by miles ridden. The point system is weighted so that just getting outside and riding earns more points per mile than riding long distances. This helps to keep people like me motivated just to get out there. The 1st mile earns you 20 points. Five miles totals 50 points. Ten miles totals 65 points. Each mile after that earns 1 point each.

I've only missed 4 days!

So far, at the time of this writing, I’ve ridden 266 miles during the first 26 days of the year earning 1464 individual points. I’ve only missed 4 days, one of which I was sitting in an infusion chair all day getting my Rituxan infusion. I really didn’t feel like getting on the bike after that.

Good for you for taking care of yourself, Lisa.

Be open to encouragement

Although it is fabulous to get out and ride my bike, there have been days that I wanted to ride farther or faster or whatever. One day, I came home and told my husband, “I rode 10.5 miles. I wanted to go for about 14 miles but decided to come back early. It was just too windy.”

I felt disappointment. My husband responded with a very kind, “That’s okay. You don’t have to go that far.” But what I really wanted to hear was, “Great job! Good for you!”

I questioned myself WHY his words didn’t provide the comfort and encouragement I needed. This really took some time. The best reason I could conjure is that the, "You don’t have to," felt like something was being missed or omitted. It felt like a “less than” moment. But what my husband’s words meant to communicate was that what I accomplished was amazing and that it was better for me to take care of myself, honor my body in that moment, and be proud of my accomplishment.

Listen to the kindness in our loved ones' words

How I responded was less about what he said in a few words and more about how I viewed myself. As people living with chronic disease, sometimes we can be extra sensitive in what others say because we might feel self-conscious or disappointed that life isn’t what we dreamed. My recommendation is to open our minds and hearts to listen more closely to the kindness and encouragement fueling the words that are shared with us.

Good for you for viewing yourself through your husband’s loving eyes, Lisa.

Be well, my friends,

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