MAKING MEANING WITH MS
Perspective of Our Problems: Shifting our Problems to Challenges We Can Overcome
I work very hard for my health. A stable body and strong muscles weren’t given to me. Multiple Sclerosis took that from me with a tough diagnosis in 2001. I didn't claim my health back without effort. It wasn’t easy and still isn't. I put in many hours of difficult exercise. Movements, like running, jumping, and even walking, were re-learned. Hours spent that I could have been home, sleeping, watching movies, or feeling sorry for myself or just breathing easy instead of breathing hard. But I didn’t do that. I've gone somewhere difficult, uncomfortable, and at times downright frustrating. But I put in the work. Lots and lots (and lots) of hard work. It hurts in a good way. Some of it is fun, and some isn’t any type of fun at all. On some days, all I want to do is give up and sleep, but I do the work on those days. I know how important it is to do the work on the days I want to quit. That’s where my true grit and effort is nestled.
In the past few years, my efforts have been paying off. I've completed my first triathlon, five Spartans, climbed to the top of Rockefeller Center, competed in the CrossFit Open, and paddled countless miles in an outrigger canoe.
The Laura from six years ago thought her fate was grim, and definitely not climbing hills, ropes, and successfully completing CrossFit workouts. I decided to change my perspective to make my dreams a reality. Here are my 5 takeaways that I have learned on my journey with MS to conquer my goals:
1. Seek out others that support your goals. Will Smith taught me this through his YouTube video about a Rumi quote that says, “Set your life on fire and seek those who fan your flame.” This is about community for me. It’s every person that shows up in my life. Every. Single. One. My friends, colleagues, family, paddle family, and the incredible athletes I work out with. They all inspire me to do my best and add fire to my flame.
2. Do something every day that support your goals. This was huge and consistency was key here! Sometimes I wanted to quit, but I didn’t! (I’ll get to that with #4!) Since we know forward is always the right direction, I started small and remained consistent. My goal was to run a 5k but the reality was that I wasn’t able to walk around the block. Plus, I had foot drop so I would typically trip and sometimes fall after a few steps. I got myself a fancy foot brace and I started by walking from my apartment to the corner. Then, around the corner… halfway around the block and so on. I did this every single morning. It took time, but walking around the entire block became to the grocery store. Eventually, I found a little pep in my step and that walk became a walk/jog mix. Then I started jogging! Woah! I’m actually doing it! I was able to do this because of many variables, but #3 sure did play a big role!
3. Say Yes! No Excuses! My alarm went off at 5:00 am every morning to exercise and two things ran through my mind: 1. Is there a window close enough to throw this thing out of and 2. It’s WAY too comfortable under these covers to even think about getting up! So, I didn’t give myself time to think. My alarm goes off and I give myself three seconds to get my feet on the floor. Even when I couldn’t stand right away I had three seconds to sit up. No excuses.
4. Never Give Up. EVER. Some days are better than others and not every day is great, but I learned to rest... Not quit. The most important thing I did was listen to my body. I didn’t let a bad day (or week) stop me on my path. I always put a picture on my refrigerator of my current goal so it stays present in my mind. Even on the bad days, it reminds me to NEVER give up.
5. Have Fun! A day without laughter is a day wasted! I learned to laugh and smile much more. Allot of my personality and coping is through humor and sarcasm, so I made sure not to lose that spirit through all of the frustrations, failures, and glacial pace along the way.
If you have a dream or vision for yourself, write it down and do something every single day that honors it. Hold the vision and trust the process. We are all on different paths when it comes to our personal MS journey, but no matter what your goals are, I can assure you that they will come with a host of obstacles. However, I believe deeply that we can live with gratitude, laughter, and abundance by reframing our problems into challenges then committing to taking small steps every day to conquer them.