Monday, August 25, 2008

Handicap or Disability. Which do you have?

My father said something to me that I will never forget. He said “You are not handicapped. You may have a disability, but you are the least handicapped person that I know.” He went on to explain that a handicap has entirely to do with a person’s judgment about a disability. This includes the person with the disability as well as the observer.

Are we just talking about semantics? I don’t think so. I think that there is much more to it than that. The language we use not only defines us and how we relate to our disabilities, but also how the world sees those of us who live with a disability.

Am I handicapped? NO, unless you consider a handicap an advantage given to others as they do in horseracing or golf. What are some of the advantages that I enjoy? I get better parking spaces, I get right through airport security and everyone wants to take me to Disneyland so that they don’t have to wait in long lines to get on the rides.

Am I disabled? NO. To call myself disabled would be to say that there is something wrong with me as a person. I am a fully functioning, living person who, among other things, has and lives with a disability. I lead an amazing and incredible life, filled with love, family, friendship, adventure and romance. There are plenty of able-bodied people living in this world who do not have the life I have or the ability to think, feel or communicate as I do. That is their disability. Mine is that I don’t walk so good. (There are other ‘less visible’ conditions that I also have, but the world doesn’t see those.)

I also have an advantage. That advantage, what I have learned from living with a disability, is gratitude. Like most people, it was easy to take my good health for granted. Now, I don’t. Now, I cherish every ability that I do have and do much to preserve those abilities. Do I still take things for granted? Probably, but it is certainly less than before.

Most importantly, I have discovered that there is a direct relationship between the gratitude I feel and the happiness I enjoy. Feeling and being grateful have become the keys to my waking up happy every day of my life. I consider that an advantage.


Hmmmm.......If a handicap is an advantage (like golf or horseracing), then I guess I do have one. Lucky me!

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My last six nights in the hospital are what I call a Speed Bump

I got to the hospital late Friday night. Now it is Thursday and I am going home. Hurray!

It really was nothing terrible, just an infection. But for most of us with MS, an infection too often means fevers, and fevers mean weakness. For me, it meant extreme weakness. So I spent six nights in the hospital being poked, prodded and explored by what seemed like an army of ‘body archeologists on an expedition’ to discover the source of my infection.

Eureka! They found it, treated me with I.V. antibiotics and are sending me home with a bag of pills to take daily for two weeks. Another episode. Another process. I have become pretty good at taking it all in stride. Why is that? Because I learned to see life events as all falling into one of three categories. They are:

The things we CONTROL.
The things we INFLUENCE.
The things over which we have NO CONTROL.

While this sounds simple enough, at times it can be very challenging. Why? Because my most honest answers require me to take personal responsibility for the life event. Take my current infection as an example.

Was getting the infection within my control? No, I don’t believe so.

Is getting the infection something that I have no control over whatsoever? I don’t believe that is true either.

Were there things that I could have done that may have prevented the infection from occurring? In other words, did I have any influence over this infection? I believe that I did.

There were things that I knew I could do to better defend my body and didn’t. There were things that I didn’t know could be done and now I do. For me, seeing and learning the influence that I could have makes me smarter and better prepared for the future.

It would be easy to just say “no control” and call it all a matter of chance, or just ‘one of those things’. But in this situation and for me, recognizing my influence makes me a better participant in the process and a better combatant of my disease.

Getting MS was out of my control. But I intend to exercise as much control and influence over the disease as I possibly can. There will be other ‘speed bumps’ in the road ahead. My taking as much responsibility as I can means fewer of them and I am all for that.

It is good to be home again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The greatest asset that we all possess and our greatest challenge in life are one in the same


Our greatest asset is also our greatest challenge. How can that be? What can it be? The answer is actually very simple. It is a single word that actually makes all the difference in the world. That little, but powerful word is CHOICE.

Every minute of every hour of every day, we make choices. Even choosing not to make a choice is a choice. How we respond to all of life’s occurrences is a choice. So make good choices. End of story. Or is it?

Do we always have a choice? Can you choose your height? Skin color? Make yourself invisible? I don’t have to tell you the answer. Certainly, there are some times when we don’t have a choice. But there is one area of life where we always have a choice. That choice is how we respond. The ability to choose how we respond at any given moment in life is our greatest asset. It is also our greatest challenge.

When I was first diagnosed with MS, I had several choices to make. That first choice was to go ahead and cry about it. That is exactly what my wife and I did. We cried mostly out fear of not knowing what the disease was or would mean to us. But that’s it. That was the only time we cried about it. We agreed then that nothing was more important than what we could teach our children. We made the choice that whatever the disease, we would approach it as best we could. We would learn about it, from it, and be an example to our children and others too. That, I believe, is exactly what has happened.

We made no changes in our lives or lifestyles. We continued to show up and participate in anything and everything we could. We knew that our reaction to this new ‘condition in our lives’ would have everything to do with how our children and others responded to it as well. Yes, we did add a few things to our lives (doctor’s appointments, injections, yoga, reading). But everything else remained the same.

We added language like “if we are lucky enough to live long enough, we all will probably have something to have to deal with,” giving our circumstances as much normalcy as possible. We made choices that proved to be good for the children and for us too. My MS continues to progress and we continue to make choices about it everyday.

What an extraordinary privilege it is to have a choice. Will today be a good day? I get to choose. Will I learn something today? I get to choose. Will I have a positive impact on the people around me, the ones I know and even the ones I don’t know? I get to choose. Having that choice is our greatest gift. Yet, the choices that we choose to make are our greatest challenge.

“Choice” is a huge topic, too big for one blog entry. I promise to offer more about this later. Until then, I hope you choose to respond to this blog and to make every day matter……because it does.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

UNBELIEVABLE VIDEO - Please watch

Here is a video about a man with a great perspective. Enjoy!

video

Monday, August 4, 2008

This "Glass Half Empty - Glass Half Full" concept is BALONEY

We have all heard it a thousand times. It is actually a great metaphor for how one views a situation or the world around them. The problem with this metaphor is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. How do I know this to be true? Because my ‘glass’ is neither half full, nor half empty.

As I have mentioned before, living with a disability has taught me a great deal about gratitude and perspective. I have also learned that I am blessed with a pretty good attitude. In fact, sometimes I will say things that even surprise me. One of those “things” has to do with the glass.
Someone once told me that I always see the glass as being half full. This was my reply: “My glass isn’t half full. My glass is over-flowing. My glass is “HAVE” full.” The fact is that seeing the glass as over-flowing is easy to do when you have the right perspective. The way that I see it, my life is filled with blessings and miracles, more than I could ever count during the course of a day or a lifetime. My glass is truly over-flowing.

Not long ago, I was introduced to Mitchell who is truly a great man. He has been in a motorcycle crash and an airplane crash and lives to tell about it. He is paralyzed from the waist down, suffered third degree burns over 65% of his body and has no fingers left on his hands. He often says "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do; now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left." (http://www.wmitchell.com/) This is a man who sees his glass as over-flowing.

What has he got? Perspective. The kind of perspective that is shaped by gratitude. The kind of gratitude that comes from experience. Our perspective affects the choices we make every minute of every day. Mitchell chooses to see his glass as over-flowing. So do I.

What is in your glass? What choices have you made and what choices will you make tomorrow? Will your glass be half empty or half full? My hope is that your glass will be over-flowing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY EDITION

It was exactly 28 years ago today that my wife Gail and I went to the best wedding celebration ever – OURS. If you could ask any of the 325+ people in attendance, they would all say the same thing – Best wedding ever.

What started out as something great,. has grown into something greater, more important and more meaningful than I ever could have imagined. After 28 years of marriage, we are now in the best place we have ever been. I can honestly say that I am more “in love” with my wife today than I have ever been before. She is, without a doubt, the sweetest, kindest, most caring and considerate, selfless and loving person I have ever known. I am a lucky man and feel truly grateful to be able to spend every day with her.

When you have been married as long as we have, we can look back and recognize the tough patches we made it through. We certainly have had our share of them. We were even separated for 14 months many years ago, from June ’86 to August ’87. During that time an expert on marriage (he’s been married four times!) told me that “staying married is its own reward.” I believe that until you have been married for 15 or 20 years, you can’t really begin to understand how true this statement is. There is an intimacy and level of comfort that comes from knowing someone so well and for so long, that can’t be explained. It is to be experienced.

Ask people who have been married a long time what the key to success is and you will get a lot of different answers. “Respect.” “Friendship.” “Patience.” Those are all good. But I have a different answer and that is “GRATITUDE.”

Maybe it is easy for me to say because I am married to Gail. Or maybe t is easier for me to say because of my disability and my needing so much help that she so readily provides, which makes me feel particularly grateful. Whatever the reason is, I never let a day go by without really letting her know how much I love her and how grateful I am. I believe that if one is truly grateful, expresses it and shows it, than the other stuff (respect, friendship, patience, etc.) will take care of itself. It certainly seems to work for us.

There is a side benefit too. When you really love someone, and feel truly in love, even after all these years, the beauty remains in the eye of the beholder…..and I am truly beholden to my beautiful wife.

Happy anniversary, Gail.

I will love you always,

Michael