Quote-Sir Edmund Hillary: “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”.
It’s January and we’ve ushered in the New Year. The scene from my window with snow tipping the branches of the evergreens takes my breath away as it presents a beautiful painting. And then I realize I’m grateful to be ensconced in the warmth of my home; where I’m not outdoors, uneasy about walking or driving. For much of my life the New Year has prompted me to look at and examine the events of past years where I can anticipate the future; where I could revel in treasured memories; or ruminate adversely about the bad and the ugly (without regard to its emotional effect). On a path to personal transformation I could anticipate future happenings with a lack of restraint; or unrealized hopefulness or promise, where I might face new challenges and gain new confidence.
What has changed for me are the daily experiences of living life with multiple sclerosis – for several decades. There is a sobering awareness of how that fits into my life; and how life’s unpredictability presents each and every day with chronic symptoms, frailty, and impaired function. Here I am trying to keep my head above water while my body is drowning. The question echoes ‘who am I’, and how do I define myself within the framework of this disease that now instructs my very being?
Many of us incapacitated by chronic illness have learned to discard the susceptible ruminations of the past; and to thrust aside the anxiety and worry about the future. And many of us have elected to be in the present moment – and that’s true of me. I am now a convert; one who has adopted to being in ‘the now of life’. That focus has helped me examine who I am; choosing to discern how to define myself. And,within the context of that recognition I’ve asked myself ‘who am I’. So, am I pigeonholed; a person first and foremost characterized by my MS? Or, do I have room to re-evaluate; to observe life through a different looking glass?
We spend our lives dissecting and evaluating others; learning from the people who grace our lives; trying to examine the meaning of our journey. What I’ve learned is that your dreams can inspire but won’t change your life. What permits you to achieve, is your own ability to transform; to adjust; to accept; and too move forward. In years past I’ve read about the lives of people – like Steven Hawking suffering from ALS; Michael J. Fox afflicted with Parkinson’s; Helen Keller experiencing life totally blind; Montel Williams and Richard Pryor beset by MS (to name a few). And, I’ve adopted their teachings. Little by little I became inspired by their mindful awareness of who they are; and by their ability to characterize themselves as complete and intact, irrespective of their chronic illnesses.
So if you would ask me today to define myself, I would chart it this way. — I am a woman who is a wife, a mother, a grandmother. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, co-worker, teacher, volunteer; and a person with developed relationships that have sustained and fulfilled me. I’ve succeeded and presented in vocations that were creative, stimulating and mundane; but always gave it my all. Regretfully I know that I’ve sometimes blundered and made mistakes; but I try and I care. – And – I have MS.
Quote-Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can”.