“We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test” – Isabelle Allende
Isn’t that the truth? Over the years, I’ve been blessed to have some great mentors, teachers, family & friends, that taught me some important lessons about life. Not to mention some hardships and challenges that have shaken and tried to break me, but the last 4 years have been the most relaxing, self-reflecting, sometimes rocky, life changing and possibly some of the most impactful years of my life (particularly the years since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis). With each year that goes by since being on long term disability, I find that I am learning more and more about myself. And yes, sometimes it’s been hard both on me and on the people I love. But, here’s the thing, I am wiser today than I was 4 years ago and I thought I would share with you a few of the things I now know, you may just need to hear them too.
I can’t control other people words or actions – So simple and obvious, but not so easy to live by. I’ve also come to realize that what someone thinks about me, isn’t any of my business. What is in my control, however, is how I respond to these people and situations – and this, it turns out, is much easier and way less stressful than trying to control every situation (even though I am a bit of a control freak)! Getting to choose to opt out of what no longer serves me or from someone else’s drama is really freeing. It’s not easy, I’m still failing at times and learning, but those moments when I get to say ‘ok, you do that, I’m just going to keep doing my thing’ are when I feel like I am winning and you know how I love to win! (Something that my beloved Denver Broncos have forgotten how to do this year).
I’m not responsible for everyone else’s happiness – I mean, obviously I’m not – who would ever even think that?! Me, that’s who – because I want those I love to be happy and to feel loved. I’ve always been a fixer but what I have learned is that there is a fine line between supporting and fixing someone. It’s not ok when I make someone a project or when I think that I know better than they do about how they live their life or the choices they make, whether I agree with them or not. Being able to give someone their own life back to live it how they choose to is an amazing feeling. I am a better wife, friend, mother and sister when I am “supporting” instead of “fixing”. And to add one more thing to this, Don’t Judge. Just because people make different choices than me, does not mean they are stupid, or incompetent. I’ve had to really work on this one but I think I am getting there.
Boundaries are an actual thing and everyone should have them – As it turns out, healthy personal boundaries are pretty much the answer to living a happy, intentional life in a world that is often chaotic, stressful and full of drama. Boundaries are the lines we get to draw for ourselves that say, nope, this is not going to happen, not today, not ever. When I set boundaries for myself and made the decision where my personal line was, I felt secure in knowing that I never have to worry again about anyone crossing those boundaries. I’m owning them and I’ve stopped apologizing about them. It doesn’t mean that I can’t change where those boundaries are depending on my circumstances, but I’m setting the boundaries for myself and it feels pretty good to do it.
Things that are meant to stick, stick. Deep friendships, honest relationships, memories and good quotes never go away. There’s a reason why it’s not easy to get rid of things that are meant to stick around.
I am a reflection of those closest to me – There is a theory that says “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and while I think that is a little restricting for a social butterfly like me, I do choose my company wisely, with people who bring out the best in me. If I am influenced negatively by someone, it negatively affects how I am with the people I love. I’m not afraid anymore to let go of people who are not adding value to my life. It may sound harsh but I find that I don’t have the emotional capacity to spend my energy on things or people who aren’t good for me anymore.
ME, has to be enough for myself – It’s awesome to have a cheering squad behind me (and I do) but to expect it or rely on it is unhealthy and can lead me down a path of disappointment and of questioning myself and I am working hard to not allow myself to go down that path. I’ve always looked for validation that what I am doing is enough and only recently did I realize that I don’t need to do that. This is fairly new and is a work in progress, but I figure that acknowledging it is the first step and I don’t know that I have ever genuinely felt this way before now.
I am stronger than I think I am – With my Multiple Sclerosis and the challenges and changes it presents me with, it’s quite normal for me to think of myself as weak. 4 years ago, there was no way I could look in the mirror and say the words, “You are strong.” At times I felt like giving up, like running away or burying my head in the sand. Everything seemed out of whack in my body and in my brain because it was. My emotions were running high, physically and mentally I was struggling. The stress of trying to keep up to what I had always been able to do was taking a toll on me both physically and emotionally. After a particularly rough year at work and an emotional meeting with my Neurologist, I sat in my living room surrounded by my family and they helped me to begin to look deep within myself. I had been through and overcome a lot in my life and up until that day, I felt that if I could get through the things I had come through, then I could overcome this chronic illness, but I finally had to admit that I couldn’t continue the way I was. It took me a couple of years, but slowly I started feeling like a new woman. I am now able to look myself in the mirror (some days, not all) and say to the woman staring back at me that “you are stronger than you think you are.” This disease will not define me, but it’ll continue to mold me into the woman I am becoming. That woman will fail but I will also get back up. I’m powerful. I’m strong. I’ve got this.
I’m blessed with an incredible support system around me – I have a support system around me that gives me everything I need sprinkled with lots and lots of love. For a while, I kept my diagnosis to myself. I didn’t want anyone, not even some of my closest friends, to be in on what was going on in my personal life. Then one day, I realized I desperately needed support. I knew I needed to hit this thing head on and hiding and keeping things to myself was counterproductive, so I finally reached out to people, if someone asked, I told them. And do you know what? Not one of them judged me. Not one of them was disappointed in me. Instead, they lended me their ears, their hearts, and their unwavering love for me. They are my Balcony People and I am so thankful for them all.
I am happy – genuinely happy – And this is the most important thing I know. While having a diagnosis of MS is challenging I can really admit that I am genuinely happy. Yes, I have struggled and had internal battles throughout the years and I know there will be more of them. I have had some changes recently that go along with MS but I am working through them and it’s been tough, it’s been painful and it’s been eye opening. But even with all that, I am happy. Can I say that I am happy every single minute of every single day? Of course not. I cry, I feel sorry for myself, I lash out at those I love, but I am happy. I have spent the last 4 years getting to know myself along with my new normal which is constantly evolving and learning what I am truly capable of while embracing all that I have to be thankful for. I wake up each morning with a renewed sense of purpose. I am taking control of my health one day at a time, and with that I know that I am strong and that I am happy. I know that these strengths will help carry me into the next chapter of my disease as I move from one stage of MS to another. Does it scare me? Yes, it does. Will it stop me from being happy or will I allow it to dictate my future happiness? Absolutely not. Every step I’m taking is as important as the last. I’ve been learning to give myself a little more credit, to be kinder to myself but I know that the challenges and hardships I’ve ever faced have allowed me to find myself, to learn new things about myself and to be truly happy. Isn’t that what we all strive for? Genuine happiness
Well, that’s about it for me right now. I will be offline for awhile as I am having a little procedure done on my thumbs and typing will likely be out of the question for the next 4-6 weeks, but I will be back just in time to to update you on our snowbird status – you are forewarned!
Tell me, do you have anything you know now that you didn’t know a year ago?