Creating a Happy Life
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
~ Anne Frank
In This Issue:
- A Message From Shelley
- Don't Just Take My Word for It
- Did You Know?
- What's On Your Mind?
Recently a friend of mine stopped over to visit. As we talked, the telephone rang several times, a neighbor stopped by with an invitation to her daughter’s bridal shower, and a volunteer dropped off library books I had ordered. My friend shook her head and asked, “How do you manage to stay so busy? Every time I stop by your house it’s a hotbed of activity.”
I never thought about it before, but I guess I do stay pretty busy. Considering I’m severely disabled by multiple sclerosis (MS), I suppose people think it’s unusual that I have such an active life, filled with lots of friends and diverse activities.
When I was diagnosed with MS, I was determined NOT to let it change my life. I was a wife and mother of 2 preschoolers. I worked as a teacher of the deaf and had a busy life that included craft club, dinner with friends, and women’s service organizations. But my illness had other plans for me — no matter what I did, how much I slept or what I ate, I woke up every morning worse than I was the day before. Ever so slowly I lost my physical abilities and at the time there were no treatments to alter the progression of the disease. To cope I found shortcuts and made compromises, and my wonderful husband, Dave, began doing many of my household duties, especially the things that required energy and stamina.
As I cut back on all but essential activities, my world outside the home began to shrink. I felt that if I had to give up my outside activities, I’d lose another piece of me, and I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to lose my contact with people. My biggest fear of all was that I’d have nothing but this illness to talk about and it would turn me into an angry, bitter person who no one wanted to be around.
I cried nightly over my frustrations with this illness. Would my condition ever stabilize? What was I going to do? After one particularly bad crying spell, I laid in bed exhausted. What options did I have? Through puffy swollen eyes, I could see the answer clearly. It was one of those powerful “AHA! Moments,” I had to accept what was and use the energy I did have to stay involved. My family would be my first priority, and running a close second would be my friends. I was determined to live a life filled with interesting people and fun activities.
Other people I know with chronic illness are doing the same. It would be easy for us all to fall into a “Gee, ain’t it awful!” pattern, but like me, they’re problem solvers and solution seekers, just trying to make a good life for themselves.
Since my diagnosis, the world as I knew it is gone, but in its place is a world where I can still be happy. I’m still having new experiences — I’ve started raising orchids, attending book readings at bookstores, and tutoring an Armenian woman in English. I’ve even gone sit-skiing!
Chronic illness may have a big hold on me but I must NEVER let it take over who I am, and neither should you. We can fill our lives with positive people who want to be around us because we are so much MORE than our illness.
Don't Just Take My Word for It
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
~ Charles Kingsley
“If we cannot live so as to be happy, let us at least live so as to deserve it.”
~ Immanuel Hermann Fichte
“Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so.”
~ John Stuart Mill
“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale
Did You Know?
If you are out of work and have a disability, even old age (over 50), you qualify for assistance in finding work through the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. This is a state agency that provides job related education, training, resume’ writing, and even a job coach to help you through the steps of finding and retaining employment. If you live outside of Wisconsin, this agency may have a different name, so ask about this service at agencies that provide social services or labor statistics.
What's On Your Mind?
Do you have questions you would like answered about living with a chronic illness? Is there a topic you would like discussed? Help make my columns, e-zine, and TV and radio programs more beneficial for you, by telling us what you want to know. Please e-mail any comments, questions, or suggestions to Shelley Peterman Schwarz at: Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com
©2011 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com