Something that never crossed my mind growing up was being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It wasn’t even something I thought about…or even knew about. I never thought a chronic illness would end up forcing me out of a career that I loved causing me to have to stay home much of the time because of mobility and accessibility difficulties and requiring regular visits from a home healthcare nurse to help me manage everyday life. My plans were so much bigger than that. I dreamed of greatness. I was going places. I was doing things. I had arrived.
It’s important for people to understand that our journey in life can change at any given moment…for the good or for the bad. It will be filled with victories and defeats. It will twist and wind through the mountains as well as plummet into sink holes and ravines.
Yes, the journey is important. It’s great to have goals and plans, to be able to reach for something bigger than yourself, to dream. But what I have found to be even more important than winning and losing, bigger than the highs and lows in life, is learning how to handle those victories and disappointments. That’s what matters. It’s not the actual winning or losing that counts, it’s how you win or lose.
I grew up in a huge football town. We took winning seriously and losing hard. When our team won we would have victory parties in the town square with everyone excited and partying through the night. When we lost, although the atmosphere would be more solemn and there would be a lack of cheers through the crowd, we still gathered and celebrated in our loss.
I learned how to win big and lose gracefully.
So when life threw me a curve ball and brought an end to everything that I thought was wonderful, instead of screaming “Why me?” or becoming bitter and angry at the dramatic change, I shifted with the change to find something to celebrate…even in my loss. I learned how to dance when the music stops.
Sure, I lost my mobility, strength, career and many friends, but I gained something through it all. I found that I was more resilient then I ever thought possible and that I was actually strong in my weakness. I learned how to smile in the pain.
How did I do that?
I decided that regardless of the disease that is ravaging my body and changing my life, that I would find something each day to be grateful for. It may be something little and at times minuscule, but it’s still something.
Today I’m grateful that I woke up to clear skies, birds singing outside my window and a fresh cup of coffee to be able to sip on as I write to you. I wish it was something more than that like I won the lottery or multiple sclerosis was cured while I slept, but I’ll take what I can get.
There is always something to celebrate in a day. Find yours and choose to rejoice in the small victories rather than wallow in the defeats…even if you find yourself laying in a hospital bed, sitting alone on the couch or trudging through rush-hour traffic.
Hold your head high and know that regardless of the speed bumps, the pitfalls and the unexpected turns, you can still find joy in the journey if you look hard enough.