Monday, June 22, 2009

What if you couldn't?

This is not about sex. It really isn’t.

My friend has a beautiful, sweet, smart wife that he loves. They have two kids and a beautiful home and life together. What they don’t have is as much sex as he wants. He wants to have sex every morning (what he calls his “Breakfast of Champions”) and every night. His wife doesn’t have his appetite and so they only have sex a few times a week. Because of her ‘unwillingness’, he is thinking of leaving her. WOW! When I heard this I was shocked. Such a beautiful, happy couple on the verge of divorce and for what? Not ENOUGH sex. To me, that was an odd priority to base a relationship on.

One of the benefits I have gained from having a disability is that it makes me uniquely qualified to say and do certain things. This was one of those instances. I asked my friend what would he do if something happened to him and he no longer had the ability to have sex twice a day? What would he do then? I also asked him if he ever got really sick, who would he want by his side?

It was a fantastic moment. He understood immediately what I was asking and the point I was making by asking the question. You could actually see him re-establishing his priorities at that very instant. It is now several years later and they are still happily married. I haven’t asked how often they have sex. But I would bet that it is still not twice a day. More importantly, I would bet that they are going to be together, happily married, for many years to come.

As I mentioned, this is not about sex. It is about priorities and self examination. Most people will never have to deal with these questions. That is a good thing. What is also a good thing is taking the time to ask yourself questions and examine your own identity. “What if I you couldn’t” may only be hypothetical today. Having asked yourself the question and having considered it as a possibility, may prove to be beneficial if circumstances ever change and you are confronted with a new reality.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do we really have a choice?

The moment we choose to have one thing, we are choosing not to have something else.

It is that simple. We cannot choose to lose weight and eat unlimited amounts of ice cream and cookies all day long. We will not have a monogamous relationship if we have sex with multiple partners too. We will never save $10,000 if we spend all of our money. Get it? It really is that simple.

Now the good news, make that the great news. We can have whatever it is that we want. It is such a simple statement and I hope you don’t miss the point of it. We can’t have everything. But we can have whatever we want. Why is that? Because we have choice.

It is true that the moment we choose to have one thing, we are choosing not to have another. But the real beauty and real power is that we have choice. We can choose to have whatever it is that we want.

Hold on! Wait a minute! That can’t be right!

Let’s look at it again. Our choices are limited, but not very. They are limited to whatever is within our control. I can flap my arms for hours, but I will never fly. I can buy a lottery ticket every week, but may never win. World peace? End hunger? That is not entirely up to me.

What is up to me and what I get to choose is whatever is within my control. What I eat, monogamy and how I spend my money are all within my control. Winning the lottery, world peace and ending hunger are not under my control. But they are subject to my influence. How do I influence the lottery? I buy a ticket. Influence world peace and hunger? Vote, make donations or volunteer. Flap my arms and fly? Not within my control.

Wanting things that are within our control may not be enough. We must also be willing to pay the price for them. Sometimes, the best way to know if we really want something or not is to ask ourselves “Are we willing to pay the price?” If not, then perhaps it is not that important to us. If so, we do what it takes to get it or get it done.

Our great challenge is in recognizing whether we control, influence or have no control over the events and outcomes in our lives. Once we know that and recognize that we have a choice, life becomes simpler…..and we can have whatever it is that we want.

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

Monday, June 8, 2009

Everything in life happens for a reason.

Experience has taught me that everything happens for one of two reasons. Those reasons are that we either have something to learn or something to teach, often both. I may not know the reason or understand why things occur and I don’t have to. Just trusting that there is a reason helps.

The real prize is that I or we get to decide what that reason is. It is up to us to find, create or associate a value to life’s circumstances. Why did someone lose their job? Why did someone have to die? Why do I have multiple sclerosis? I can answer that last question.

I have learned volumes about myself, the world around me and what it means to live with a disability. Much of the judgment I held about people with disabilities has been erased and I have become much more sensitive to how accessible our world is to those with physical challenges. I have also learned that though there are some things that we cannot control, we have influence over matters that we often never exercise.

Living with a disability has also been an extraordinary lesson in gratitude. All of us take much for granted. I now take far less for granted than I used to.

Most notably, I have something to teach. My children, friends and family all witness how I choose to live my life. Is it difficult for me to get from Point A to Point B? Yes, but I do it anyway. Do I ask for help when I need it? Yes, I have to and have discovered in the process that the world is filled with kind people. Have I found new ways to express myself and participate in the world? Absolutely.

People who know me can see by my example that “when life deals you lemons, make lemonade.” While all of that may sound like what I have learned (and it is), it is also what those who know me best have learned by observation.

“Everything in life happens for a reason” is not some cosmic or new age approach to life. It is a practical, humanistic approach that allows us to determine the meaning we give to our lives and the events that take place.

One can assume that life is a series of random, meaningless events. Perhaps it is. Perhaps not. Either way, giving reason and purpose to my life makes it all the more worth living.

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