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Reflections and Observations

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”.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi Joann – I love that quote too and I agree with you – ‘definitely words to live by’. And, I do try. Sometimes harder than I want it to be, but then I focus on the message of the quote – and try harder. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me. Ruth

  • joannmaxwell
    1 year ago

    I love the quote from Edward Everett Hale! Isn’t that so true of all of us! I will not refuse to do the something I can! Definitely words to live by!

  • JDeabler
    1 year ago

    Ruth your post is a perfect expression of what is like to age with MS and to some extent just age. Perhaps for all of us there comes “that time” when things with our MS are changing again or other aging things are happening that we start to wonder, “who am I.” Having to reassess as we get older and for some, me included, re-accept and celebrate who we are, things we’ve accomplished, what’s important in our lives now, things we still want to do…everything that you mentioned seems like a rite of passage to this next part of our life’s journey, with or without MS. Thanks for sharing your amazing perspective.

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    JDeabler – Thanks for your thoughtful comments. We are definitely on the same wave length. Many years ago in a philosophy class in college, the professor had us all examine this statement: ‘Life’s journey is full of cracks and bumps; and you are going to fall.’ He then said: What’s important is not that you fall; what’s important is that you get up’. And being very young, I don’t think I fully got it. Thanks again for taking time to share your awareness and prospective. I love tapping into the articles and responses published on MultipleSclerosis.Net. – Ruth

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi Erin – Your mindful awareness was much appreciated. We are definitely on the same network. Whenever I fall into the morass of being overwhelmed by MS, I try to find a way to move forward. I’m always inspired by people like you who focus on what is. Thank you very much for sharing your kind words and informed comments. Best Regards – Ruth

  • Erin Rush moderator
    1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently, RuthGeller! What a beautiful synopsis on personal reflection and life with a chronic condition like MS. It’s true that we can be inspired and moved to action and change by others who have faced adversity and succeeded. Like you, I believe life is not measured by our failures (which we all have), but by our successes, our ‘tries’, and our effect on the people around us.

    Thank you again for sharing and may 2018 be a wonderful year for you!

    Best, Erin, Team member.

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