Posted by: sistermom1 | March 23, 2011

Day of Healing

I recently participated in a Day of Healing session sponsored by the National MS Society.  This session featured speakers on mindfulness, yoga (chair-based and standing positions), nutrition, and artisitic expression.  The day was great — I learned a tremendous amount — as much about myself as well as the subjects of the day.

This was the first time since my diagnosis that I spent an entire day in activities of my own without help from friends or family.  I took advantage of a monthly transportation program sponsored by the Society, and got a ride to and from the event.  This was a new experience for me, being alone with a driver in a van that could accommodate my electric chair (not the scooter I usually use, but the chair that I sit in all day at home).  It got me thinking about how fortunate I am to have so much support in my life.  Over the past 6 years, I cannot recall many times that I was left to my own devices.  I cannot recall a time when I could not go where I wanted, without the support and protection of my many friends and family.

After the session it occurred to me that this was the first day I have spent away from my family since 2007.  I am astounded by how dramatically this continues to affect me in the week since the event, and I have been overwhelmed by the emotions of that day.  I had a great time and learned a tremendous amout.  Trusting a stranger to get me where I needed to go put me in a very different space (I have not been in a taxi or on public transportation since 2007 either). 

Being with a large group of people who have all been diagnosed with MS left me feeling conflicted —  simultaneously connected to a new group of colleagues, and separated by the dramatic difference of my own experience from what I heard of theirs.  So many of the people with MS who I have met have had major negative experiences;  a spouse leaving, or losing a job, or even taking years to get an accurate diagnosis of their condition.  From my observation, these kinds of experiences often combine to make people very closed/difficult to approach.  Often they seem a bit irritated with life — I might even describe them as unfriendly.

Why is that?   I have always been described as open and friendly by others — long before my diagnosis.  This condition has brought me many opportunities to challenge the way I naturally behave in a range of situations — even question that behavior.  After all, I am sick, so what if I just don’t feel like being open or friendly?  Or, what if my being sick is not an excuse — that in spite of (or maybe because of?) being sick  I still am open and friendly to the people I encounter?  Isn’t that OK?

I am learning how difficult life can be —  with MS.  But I am also learning to accept this pathway as a graduate-level course of life for me.  This is my pathway — not one I would have consciously chosen to take, but one filled with opportunities, lessons and realizations that I otherwise would miss — and have to get another (maybe more difficult?) way.  I am reminded aboout encouragement from Daisaku Ikeda describing the purpose of illness:

Illness is not something to feel ashamed of. It is not a sign of misfortune or defeat. Suffering is the fuel of wisdom, and it opens the way to happiness. Through illness, human beings can gain insight into the meaning of life, understand its value and dignity, and strive to lead more fulfilling lives.

I am working on all of these things, and I can honestly say that I am grateful to MS for exposing me to so many insights and teaching me how to maintain my dignity, openness and friendliness while advancing along this challenging pathway.


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