INTRODUCTION - LETTER TO MYSELF
Hey you, yes you Trish...busy mom of two kids. Are you really about to put your baby into kindergarten at age 33? You started young with parenting, didn’t you? You will find out soon that is just one of a multitude of ways God watched out for you and is going to make this path smoother than it may seem at times.
I see you are training for your first marathon. Good for you. That discipline will also be needed. You have a race to run that is going to last much longer than 26.2 miles.
Last thing before we get started...let’s talk about your obsessive need for a schedule. That will permanently change also. From here on out you may make your plans, but be prepared to have them changed without notice. You will learn how to travel around the world in a wheelchair and enjoy a much slower pace of life. It all turns okay, really. I’m 18 years ahead of you.
So where did it begin, I always get asked. Chasing after the 5-year-old as he tried riding his bike without training wheels for the first time. Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. Literally. I would be one of 200-300 people that week diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, otherwise known as MS. As I write this letter to myself 18 years later, these are a few thoughts I have.
1. CHANGED --- My world changed instantly and permanently. The question I needed to ask was, how do you want me to change spiritually God? Change in my priorities? This is a constantly evolving process of self-evaluation.
There were lifestyle changes. No more heels because of the permanent drop foot. Hence, I either wear boots or geeky shoes with dresses. Frankly it saved me a ton of money! Moving to an accessible home, buying different vehicles, my husband only took jobs with major employers to guarantee I would be covered by health insurance. As I reflect, I have the best neighbors, my husband loves his job, and the car runs. Life is good!
My husband came home from a conference once with a button that was intended to be worn on the lapel of a jacket. In big letters it had WIN. It stuck with me: What’s important now? As I navigate a journey full of twists & turns, knowing what and who are my priorities is tantamount. If I have spent my energy on the wrong things, family and friends are cheated.
I have changed in my understanding of how God sees me, values me, desires me, created me. The book of Ephesians has changed my life, as Paul tells me about God’s blessings, forgiveness, power and so much more.
Patience, compassion, empathy...these are just a few areas I’ve changed exponentially. If you want to learn patience, try getting an electric wheelchair out of a vehicle in the driving rain with children in tow. As soon as you make it inside, someone WILL say I wish I had one of those so I could get a closer parking space and not have to walk. I am learning self-control as I choose to not respond. I’m a work in progress.
2. USED --- I still have purpose? I most certainly do. I have time to send emails, texts, letters, and personal phone calls just to check on them. No agenda, nothing needed in return. I have time to pray. I have time to listen. In short, I have time to listen for what my purpose is for today or for this moment. I’m not in competition with anyone.
I have time to spend with a family member in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. Every day we have the same conversation but it is always a good visit for two simple reasons. I am the only family within several hundred miles so I am the sole link to her past. Secondly, I always make her smile. That is a rare commodity today. I am extremely thankful for this time and forced slower pace of life.
3. CONTENT --- I made a decision from the beginning that I was going to look for the joy this journey. This does NOT mean I am happy about the disease, its effects, tremendous bills that accompany it, or the like. I can, however, ask one or two questions that change everything. God, I am dragging. Can you send someone to encourage me? Or likewise, who can I encourage right now? I don’t drive very much now, so I can look at this two ways. Complain that I don’t have the energy to drive for a day’s worth of errands OR step out of my comfort zone, ask to tag along, and regularly invite friends over, messy house or not. Enjoying the beauty of the rose blooms ìn my yard. True contentment – joy – is a muscle that needs regular exercise to move and grow.
So here I am 18-years-later and counting. I didn't believe them when they said ‘incurable’, I thought this would be a few years and then back to the way things were. What have I learned? Hold on tight. To your faith. Your family. Your friends. Most of the things people told you to worry about never happened. The rest? With patience, wisdom, and perseverance it has worked out. You are doing just fine.