Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Everything Happens For A Reason"

I've always been somewhat ambivalent towards clichéd phrases. On one hand, I like them. They get across your point, without having to explain it in great detail. On the other hand, they sometimes seem very trite, because unfortunately, a vast majority of clichéd phrases are used when times are tough.

I believe in fate, yet this phrase can come across as a five letter way of telling someone that the crap they are dealing with is really part of some big master plan. But when people are dealing with crap, hearing that phrase doesn't always help them.

Fate must have known my ambivalence towards this phrase, as it has recently been throwing it in my face, and I have just had to laugh at how strangely true it has become. I'm certain that I do not yet know all of the reasons that I was given this disease, but a few have been making themselves known lately.

If you know me, you know I love quotes which also includes song lyrics and lately this song keeps swimming through my head:

Half of learning how to play
is learning what not to play.
And she's learning the spaces she leaves
have their own things to say.
And she's trying to sing just enough
so that the air around her moves.
And make music like mercy
that gives what it is
and has nothing to prove.

She crawls out on a limb
and begins to build her home.
And it's enough just to look around
to know she's not alone.

- Ani Difranco

If I was the tattooing type of person I would probably tattoo these the phrases somewhere on myself right now. They remind me that, regardless of MS, we all have to learn at some point in our lives to Slow Down. Sadly, none of us is immune to aging, and it has a funny way of creeping up on you and forcing you to take a different pace. Until the MonSter entered my life, I wa always busy - working at my regular job, teaching kids to sing and dance in my spare time, there was always a bridal shower or a baby shower to throw or attend, or a wedding to sing at, our huge family and many friends to socialize with... I was overbooked and overextended yet somehow I never minded because I had boundless energy to do the many things I loved, the many things that made me Caroline.

I've been forced to learn a life lesson, perhaps too early, but an important lesson nonetheless. Sometimes life is about learning what NOT to do, "what NOT to play"... Not about stopping, certainly not about giving up, but about "trying to sing just enough", finding the joy in doing less and yet knowing you are the same person you have always been regardless of what you don't accomplish or do accomplish.

It's why I love that phrase "crawl out on a limb" because somehow it encompasses the idea of reinventing one's self. I think there are few things more frightening than the thought of shedding the skin of who you were in order to become who you want to be. Change is really, really scary. Giving up my busy, busy life, my many activities and many of the things I love in order to accept my current limitations and to accept who I need to be right now has been both terrifying and extremely humbling. But in it I have found new things I love, different types of joy, and the unbelievable power that lies in allowing yourself to be weak, even vulnerable - both words I previously detested, but have grown to realize are actually crucial in order to grow, in order to become the the best possible version of yourself.

Having bad balance, an uncooperative and rebellious left hand, terrible brain mud, pain, spasticity, dizziness, numbness and unfathomable fatigue have all but forced me (even though I am extremely stubborn) to ask for more help with more things than I ever thought imaginable. The stubbornness, the pride-swallowing, the fear of rejection, the fear of burdening those I love have all been met with nothing but open arms and willing hands. I've discovered arms I never knew were open. I've learned that sometimes allowing yourself to be vulnerable gives other people permission to be vulnerable with you, and it is in that space that real friendship grows.

I believe now that I needed to slow down. I believe that I was meant to go back to school and earn my college degree and that fate led me to Oglethorpe and to meeting people there that have filled my soul with joy. I believe that it's on purpose I'm struggling so much right now, because it has allowed me to reconnect with old friends, forge relationships with new ones, and become closer to people I never knew how much I truly needed until now.

And I guess that's the point. It's not about what I do or don't do. It's about just being, about who I want to be, about who I am when I'm with the people I love that love me.

I'm still learning and I'm still terrified and I'm still struggling. But some days it's enough just to look around and to know that I'm not alone.