Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I went outside this afternoon, to enjoy the finally warm Southern California weather. And I'm enjoying the air, and the sunlight, and the smell of the trees... and I look at the bits of Backyard Project that are undone thanks to not my usual lassitude, but to the ravages of The Disease. A workbench I used to use a lot... but don't any more. Potted plants that I used to care for more assiduously, but don't any more. Sometimes because even walking up to them is difficult, sometimes because standing and dealing with them is difficult, sometimes because both are too difficult; sometimes because standing and dealing with them is (maybe) dangerous or (usually) just plain non-doable.

For all of us, there are Things that were once part of our lives, but are no longer. Things whose time has come and gone. Some of those Things, we left behind because we had no choice—we would have hung with them longer, if we could, but that possibility simply didn't exist (for example, the college we left because we at long last graduated from it, and once you do that, you're outta there). Some Things we left behind because their time had come, and we knew it; and depending on our relationship with them, letting them go was bitter yet sweet, or Not! Soon! Enough!!!

And there are the Things that we would have loved to keep a relationship with. But the Things themselves decided that the time was up. Or, in our case, the whatever-it-was that brought The Disease to us decided that it was time for us to travel a different road; a road without those Things.

Now, what is it exactly, that makes the letting go of some of those Things easy, and some difficult? The Buddhists would call it "attachment," but even if that term explains it correctly, it doesn't really speak to the way those Things are hooked into the depths of our being.

I hated my college for the first two years, I loved it with an amazing love the final two years. I hung around for three years after I graduated from the college (two of those years in the master's program). But eventually, even I had to agree that the time had come for Something New. That it was time to let those Things go, beloved as they had been. And really, many of them, the part and parcel of the Undergraduate Experience, were already gone. They had departed when my diploma was signed, and delivered to me on the day of Commencement. And interesting choice of words, that... not an ending, but a beginning.

And here I am, surrounded by Things whose time—for the moment, at least—has come. And I am facing a barrage of "Commencements." In so many ways... even in the once simple tasks of standing up in the backyard, walking across the back yard. The ways I used to do those little Things... those trivial, quotidian, almost unnoticeable because of their simplicity, Things... for now, at least, they're gone.

Somehow, "commencements" were easier to take when you knew they were coming for years. When you worked your ass off to achieve them. I'm sure there are some who might say that I actually did work my ass off to position myself to travel the M.S. Highway (and I don't mean with regard to the huge amount of weight I've lost) in some sort of mystical, non-immunological/neurological way; that I chose these "commencements" for myself; as Marley's ghost told Scrooge, that I forged this chain link by link and girded it on of my own choosing.

So these are among the gifts of M.S.: Commencements. Delivered daily. Sometimes even hourly.

The past is over. Time to begin the new. The past created precisely what is necessary to deal with the present. We couldn't deal with the present if we hadn't lived through the past.

Which means that the greatest gift that M.S. gives us is the ability to deal with the M.S. Highway.

But oh, the past... the wonderful, wonderful past. Was it really that wonderful? I certainly like to think so...

But as a very wise friend once said, there are many paths to enlightenment; but nostalgia is not one of them.


lindagrace said...

It's nice to meet you. My name is Linda Grace Cox. I was diagnosed in 1995 when I was 32 years old. I decided in about 2002 that just like you said, the bag of gold from this MS experience is enlightenment. Your post brought tears to my eyes because even though I really am happy, when I take a stroll down memory lane I forget that I've already grieved and accepted...

Laura said...

Lovely perspective, Robert. I'm so happy to have found your blog through Lisa's Carnival. I'm waiting for the day when we all graduate from the world of MS with a cure.

Laura said...

"The past is over. Time to begin the new. The past created precisely what is necessary to deal with the present. We couldn't deal with the present if we hadn't lived through the past." exactly so Robert and here we are, not were we expected to be and yet there are blessings, more than we would have thought in the midst of a disease debilitating more some days than others. It just is. Life just is.