Freeway of Life

I’ve always enjoyed drives and driving. As a kid I was always excited for road trips and can remember fondly the drives my family took from Washington state down to California, or to Utah to visit family. I remember us driving up the East coast on a vacation at one time. Once I was able to drive I quickly found I enjoyed drives even more. It’s relaxing. A way to clear my head. Just focus on the drive and put on some tunes and let the miles flow by.

I can’t remember when I first had this thought, but I distinctly remember it happened while I was in the backseat, with my family in the car, and we were on the freeway. And I remember looking out at the cars around us, seeing families, people who were alone, pets, just all sorts of different vehicles and having this thought that all of us, all of us completely different in every way possible, were at that very moment in the same place, going the same direction. I’m sure almost none of us were going to the same place, but that didn’t matter. Some of us were going faster than others, some were going slower. Some of us would be on that highway for a long time and for other the destination was the next exit. But for a brief period, we were there together. All of us having some small influences on the other, both positive and negative.

I’ve thought a lot about that since then. And while it is by no means a perfect analogy, I think that life is a lot like that. We are all on this adventure. Moving forward at different speeds, all towards different places. We meet people and for a period we go the same way. Sometimes we decide to let those people into our lives for an extended length of time and sometimes the meeting is brief. Sometimes it seems like people are just near us for a time, no real interaction, nothing more than a friendly face on the road for awhile until one or the other turns away or slows down/speeds up. And sometimes, like a car accident, those brief moments are brutal impacts that derail us and change our very lives.

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I’ve had some recent experiences lately that had me thinking about this analogy. The biggest one has been the return of Kent- my grandfather. Kent has been in the Philippines for the last decade or so. He went there while I was still in high school and I honestly never expected to hear from him or even see him again. I didn’t have much of a relationship with him to begin with. In part because my family has always lived away from extended family. My last clear recollection of him visiting my family was while we lived in Washington when I was a lot younger and I can recall spending time with him when my family visited Utah. But suddenly he was gone. And there was really no chance of ever reconnecting after that.

Honestly, it didn’t bother me much. I had one brief period where I lamented the fact that I didn’t have a living grandfather at all, as my dad’s father had died while I was really young, and for all intents and purposes Kent was now dead as well- I never thought that he would come back at all. I don’t know how everyone else looked at his choices, but in my mind, Kent ran off to Philippines to meet some lady he met online. In my mind he chose that family over his own family back here. And that was that. I never really looked back.

I can count on one hand the number of times I spoke/wrote/emailed Kent in the last 10 years. I didn’t really want to. Saw no need to.  And so, I never did. His family over there added me on Facebook and after some time I eventually added them back but never reached out to talk to them. They never felt like my family. I didn’t know them. I’m not even sure why I added them in the first place.

And life goes on. Graduate high school. Move to Utah. University. A mission. Get diagnosed with MS. Work. Life goes on. And suddenly, out of the blue, I learn that Kent is coming back. He’s not doing so hot and is seeking medical treatment in the states and by the sounds of it, he needs it. He gets here and I find myself going to the hospital to see him. There are no words to describe what I expected to feel and no words to describe how it felt to be there. I spoke with him. For the first time in my adult life. I visited him several times over the coming weeks. Seeing him in various stages of health. Briefly he was at my aunt’s house and I saw him there. More often he was in the hospital. Recovering from surgery, fighting cancer. Fighting other health issues.

I struggled through this time. I was distracted from working a new job that I’ve done my best to put my heart and soul into (and I love this job, for what that is worth) and didn’t want to pull any focus away from that. I was torn because Kent was family, technically speaking, though I honestly didn’t feel a connection. Even the many times I visited him, sat with him, watched him go through procedures, watched movies and TV shows with him I never felt that connection really start. And I was bothered by that on a personal level. Shouldn’t I feel something? I mean. This guy is supposed to be my grandfather. Shouldn’t that mean something? Over this period of time I got to talk to his wife, back in the Philippines, and her daughter and learn about them. I learned more about Kent’s life back in the Philippines. The things he did day to day. His callings in the church and his service there. With me, he only ever lit up when talking about the Philippines. I told him of my new job and how it was going, but it felt empty. His other family was what seemed to make him the liveliest.

Still, I went back. I checked in on him through my mom. I realized early on that the main reason to care was for her. She cared. And for her I would do anything. It’s my mom. And I kept making the effort to be there. Maybe not as much as I could have, but especially when my mom was there, because I could do it for her.

Last week, on Thursday, Kent said it was time and he let go of this life and found peace, at least from his disease wracked body. I was there, right at the end.  If I’m honest, I never intended to be around when he died. I woke up the morning of and had this feeling I should go. And I did. I ended up there about an hour before he passed away and found myself standing next to him, holding his hand as he faded away. I watched as pain medications allowed him some small measure of physical respite from what I would call a tortured body and counted the seconds between his last breaths because I wasn’t sure what else to focus on.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but that experience was hard. I think standing next to anyone, feeling the life leave their body in such a person way would be hard no matter who it was. But for me, it was hard because when I first walked into that room, I’m not sure I could say that I loved him. It almost didn’t seem fair that I found myself there, just to watch the final moments of someone I had such mixed feelings about. But the biggest thing was that I didn’t really want to be there at first for someone I only thought of as selfish. So selfish to come back into the life of people who loved him despite everything he put them though. So selfish to open old wounds and salt them with the knowledge that he was here just to die. Selfish because he left another family behind, repeated the same thing he had done a decade earlier to us here in the States and never looked back. Selfish because he has this long line of people who just loved him and accepted him as much as they could despite everything they knew and he never seemed to care. Selfish that I felt he didn’t know me any better after hours and hours spent around him in the hospital, and he didn’t seem to want to know me at all. Selfish because he was my only shot at having a living grandpa and he ran away, just to come back into my life so I could watch him die. Selfish because the truth of who he hurt and how died with him, never to be known in this life.

And somehow, despite that, I found myself next to him as he died. I found myself holding his hand, something I couldn’t bring myself to do just days before. I found myself praying for him to pass quickly and to find relief from his physical pain. I will forever be grateful that in that final hour I had the chance to be there for him in a way that he will never be there for me. To be able to hold his hand and silently offer strength and prayers. I’m grateful that for that brief period of time I was granted the strength I needed from the Spirit to be able to put aside my own feelings and feel nothing but love for who he was at the base of everything else: a child of Heavenly Father. No matter what or who he chose in this life, he was a child of God. Just like we all are. We all have moments of weakness, where we struggle. Moments where we are not the person we are completely capable of being. And I hope that when I’m struggling there is someone willing to look past my flaws and just seem me as a child of God and offer their hand, even if only for a moment.

For a moment we collided and now that moment is over. I don’t have many memories of what he was like. Yet I’m willing to let go of the negative. To let go of the pain and heartache he caused and let it flow away. I’ll hold onto the little good memories I do have and thank God that it will be enough. I can’t say that I love him as any grandchild should love a grandpa, because there was never the chance. I can’t say that I love him for the example he set or the choices he made. But I can say that I love him as a child of God. And that is enough for me.

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I hope that for everyone who loved Kent, for everyone who came to the celebration of life held in his honor and for those that didn’t come, for whatever reason, that they find whatever peace they are looking for or believe in.

That Little Voice

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This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post. But I thought it was neat when I took it.

Mondays are my day off right now. One of them anyways. Monday is my Saturday, so to speak. And as such I’ve been trying to get into the habit of doing laundry and other things on that day, so I don’t have to worry about them throughout the rest of the week.

And seeing as I moved to a new apartment a few weeks ago I decided to take the last of my boxes and finish unpacking. It was mostly clothes. When I went to Texas for work I loaded up most of my clothes into a large container and kept it in the back of my truck, and every so often I would open it up and swap out my daily clothes for some different ones. Most of the clothes left in the container were summer clothing which, shocker, I didn’t need in the middle of winter in Utah. But I had time to kill. And I’m trying out this whole responsible adult bit. So, I pulled them out and organized them into drawers and then I set into my socks.

Socks. First off, you gotta know that my least favorite chore in the world without a doubt is laundry. I hate it. It’s not hard. And I have no issues with doing it. In fact, doing laundry is simple.  You load it up and start the machine. At some point during the week remember you left it in the washer and go move it to the dryer. Voila. Clean laundry. I think the main reason I hate laundry is that it’s never truly done. It’s not like cleaning the kitchen or vacuuming, where you hit a point where you’re done. No, with laundry, you finish one load and there’s already more ready to go in the machine. But the worst thing I hate about laundry is socks. I hate washing them. I hate pairing them later. I hate wondering how there is always an odd number of them. I hate folding them so they look nice and are easy to pull out of the drawer when you’re awake super early in the morning and are still half asleep trying to get ready and be somewhat presentable.

To combat this, I decided a few years ago that I would only buy one brand of sock and that way they would always be the same. And I stuck to two colours. Black and dark grey. I really went out on a limb with those choices, eh? And I guess at some point over the course of time I kept adding new socks to the mix. When the madness of my sudden adventure to Texas happened, I took most of my socks and threw them in a laundry bin. I only pulled enough for me to live off and meant to just get rid of the rest and never think about them again. Well that never happened. Moving back I found myself in possession of this bin again. Thanks mom and dad for not throwing all my stuff away. I threw it my truck, moved it into my apartment, put it in a corner of the bedroom I didn’t have to look at very often and forgot about them. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I decided to finally dump out this bin and go through them. And I learned two things from this experience. Okay. Let’s make that three things. First, I suck at starting something. Second, I think I have a serious problem when it comes to socks. And third, I absolutely hate folding socks. I’m quite good at it now though. You’ll see why.

Starting is always the hardest part.

I tell myself that a lot, despite never thinking too much about it. But a quick internet search tells me that I’m not alone in this way of thinking, and a look back at conversations I’ve been a part of in the past reminds me that others feel this way too. And I ask myself – “Why? Why is starting something so difficult?”

I want to start something new. I think about it. I realize it’s a good idea. It will benefit me. It will benefit someone else. It will be a positive. And then nothing. The idea fades. It gets put away on the mental shelf for a later time in my life. Maybe to be revisited, maybe not. I un-pause the show I was watching. I start another level in my game. And life goes on, much the same as the day before, which was the same as the day before that.

And sometimes the days before weren’t that bad and reliving those days isn’t such a terrible thing. But I find that even on the best of days there is usually something I would like to change. And to be clear here, I’m focusing on the things I can change, which ultimately almost exclusively comes down to myself. The only thing I can change is me. I can change my attitude. My reactions. Myself. And there is always room for improvement. And if you know me, it’s a lot of room.

There’s a little voice deep inside my head. Sometimes so deep it’s pretty dang easy to just shove something over it and muffle it just enough that I don’t listen to it. No need to, obviously. But that voice is a persistent little bugger. And maybe I should listen to it more. Maybe.

This voice is the little voice that was telling me to take care of my socks. And I did this by dumping them on my bed and then promptly leaving the room for the next two hours. I mean, those episodes of Psych weren’t going to just watch themselves. Eventually that voice won out though, and I turned off the show and headed back into my room and stared at this pile of socks. And struggled to do the next step. Struggled to get going. But, I realized if I left it, I would have a problem in a few hours when I decided to go to bed. There would be a huge pile of sock on my bed. I couldn’t have that. So, I pulled a chair up next to the bed, turned on some background noise and began pairing. And I kept pairing. And I kept pairing.

And this is where my second lesson comes in (and my third). I ended up with a grand total of 111 pairs of socks.  This number is the number after I threw out a bunch. Any that didn’t fit my theme of one brand and two colours was a goner. That means, that if I wore one pair of socks a day. I wouldn’t run out of socks until May 25. If I buy 11 more pairs, I can literally go 1/3 of the year before I need clean socks (rounding slightly). That’s ridiculous. Even I realize that’s ridiculous. And If I didn’t know it right then, I definitely knew it as soon as I let my dad know my little secret.

I have to admit that I’m amused that I have the same number of socks as the age that Bilbo celebrates in the beginning of Lord of the Rings. His eleventy first birthday. I guess there is a little irony there since hobbits don’t wear socks.

My sock drawer is huge, but every single pair in there is paired and folded. It will make getting ready every day a little bit simpler and that much easier. And I have a new self awareness about socks that I wasn’t previously aware of.  But more importantly, I’m glad that I listened to that little annoying voice. I’m glad I did something it suggested and came out on the other end.  And in a moment of self reflection I decided to resolve to try and listen a little more often. To maybe step back from the humdrum routine that I often let myself fall into and challenge it a bit. Mix it up and see what happens.

That little voice isn’t the enemy. That little voice has the best me in mind and often has the best idea of how to get there. And maybe I won’t be able to quote all my favorite shows word for word, but maybe I’ll find a way to better my life. Whether it’s something huge and ultimately life changing or something as simple as having a pair or one hundred and eleven pairs of socks folded and ready to go on the next adventure.

Through the Lens of a Camera

I’m sitting here trying to recall when I first really began to have an interest in taking pictures. And the earliest time that I can readily identify would be while I was in high school. I can’t for the life of me remember why photography caught my attention above everything else in high school, though I do remember the girl I really liked all through high school was very much into photography. And I’m pretty sure it was the Christmas of my junior year that I received my very own camera, or my first “real” camera, as I came to think of it. It still didn’t have interchangeable lenses, but it felt like proper camera, or at least my 17-year-old brain seemed convinced of that. I also don’t remember what I wanted to take pictures of. But I do remember I just began taking pictures. I was very much a quantity over quality guy. I took hundreds of pictures. I always liked the idea of landscape pictures but never liked the ones I took. But it didn’t stop me from taking them. And pictures of everything else. And slowly I started gravitating towards taking pictures of flowers – though very general pictures.

My picture taking took a multi-year hiatus after the theft of my beloved camera. I rarely remember a time where I didn’t have that camera with me. And I really felt it’s loss after it was gone. Despite the feeling of loss, because I was so close to my mission I decided to postpone getting a new camera. After I got home from my mission I often talked about getting a new camera, but always seemed to find something just a little more useful to save money for. A camera just seemed like a luxury, one that I didn’t see myself needing at that point in my life. Though, I talked about it a lot.

Eventually my absolutely wonderful mother took pity on me and loaned me her camera- the camera I’m still currently using today. A nice mirrorless camera that I quickly fell in love with and soon it began to accompany me everywhere. I started taking pictures again., though this time I felt I was a little more focused in what I took pictures of.

Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and my whole world seemed to take a tumble and everything seemed to be changing and I felt like I had no control over any aspect of my life at all. That diagnosis really threw me off. I remember prior to that I felt like everything had finally really begun to come together for me. School was going well. I felt like I was studying something I enjoyed and found interesting. I was getting out and being social all the time. I was going on dates and just enjoying my life as much as I could. And suddenly everything wasn’t right. I felt like I had been thrown from a luxury plane into the midst of a storm- the likes of which I had never felt in my life before. About the only thing that stayed relatively consistent for me personally was that I was still taking pictures on a daily basis. Amidst this storm I felt trapped in I noticed I began to find solace from behind the lens of my camera. I began to go for walks, if you care to call my stumbling gait a walk, and on these adventures I would take pictures of anything and everything that caught my eye. A flower along the crack in a sidewalk, the way a leaf hung from a tree. Sometimes it was the myriad of cracks in the pavement or some neat looking graffiti. And slowly these pictures began to turn into something, something I didn’t even recognize or have a name for yet. They began to be the turning point for me mentally in my fight against MS.

I wasn’t completely lost in life, but often felt that way. I was still grounded in my faith in Jesus Christ, still surrounded by friends and family who I knew loved me without a doubt. But for whatever reason it was from behind a camera that the still small voice of comfort and solace really began to speak to me. So quietly at first that I wasn’t even aware it was happening.

Next came the research. Up until now I had never really cared to learn so much about my camera, but suddenly it mattered. I wanted to know what all the settings were. I looked up the terms. ISO. Aperture. Shutter speed. I began to play with the settings. See how the same picture looked as I tweaked my camera settings. I was still taking tons of photos, but I was taking more photos of the same thing and merely looking for the difference in how the image turned out. I can’t imagine how this would have played out if I was shooting digitally. Then my dad let me have an old camera lens from his film camera. I got the adapter I needed and I soon learned the ins and outs of manual focusing. I felt like a door had opened into a whole new world of possibilities as I tied in all this knowledge together as I took picture after picture. A new world where I could spend the time to get exactly the picture I wanted to get. And slowly my pictures became less about quantity and more about quality.

I began a project to make my own camera strap. I chose paracord as my material, decided on a weave I wanted to use and soon made myself a camera strap- made the strap I wanted, even choosing exactly how I wanted to attach it to my camera. It wasn’t easy, I changed my weave, altered the colours, and often seemed to spend more time undoing it then actually making it. But at the end it was mine. It wasn’t until I was done that I noticed that about two thirds of the way through my strap I had accidently reversed my weave and made the colours suddenly reverse. As I stared at the finished product I debated if I wanted to try and pull it apart and fix it, but ultimate I kept it the way it was. This was to be a part of my learning experience. A part of my story. And I realized that that story didn’t need to be perfect. In fact, I think I liked it better knowing that it wasn’t perfect.

Why bring all this up? Why ramble my way through all of this? I’ve had a lot of time to think lately, working out in the middle of nowhere. And I haven’t found very much that I’ve felt inspired to take a picture of, though I’ve had my camera with me and had it out quite a bit. Instead I found myself thinking more and more about what I do with my camera. I realized as I sat in this dusty and semi run down trailer that I’m currently sort of calling home, that when I looked at the blinds drawn over the window above the sink, I wasn’t just seeing the dirty blinds. They were there and they were definitely dirty, but I noticed instead that at certain times of the day the light would really come through and highlight the slats in the blinds. Creating a super powerful and alternating pattern of light and dark. It was oddly beautiful. And I realized that that is what has become a part of my process. All these years as I took pictures I slowly began to whittle down what I really enjoyed taking pictures of. And the pictures I enjoy the most are the ones where I take a seemingly normal item and try and look at it from a whole new perspective or at the very least from a different perspective. And that’s really what it’s been about for a few years now. About the perspective I take in my pictures.

Thinking about this inspired me to change the bio part of my Instagram page. It used to say something like “just the things I find beautiful in this world” or something to that effect, which was in a large part probably true. But as I mulled it over in my head, hidden away in the middle of nowhere trying desperately just to avoid the heat, I realized that the pictures I tended to share were more than that to me. They were of things I thought were beautiful or neat, howevert they were representative of the tiny changes I constantly went through every single day to do everything I could to maintain a positive attitude. Dealing with MS and everything related to that is like sitting down and taking the same picture over and over again but slowly adjusting the shutter speed and/or the aperture. It’s taking something that is there and can’t really be changed and seeing what I can do from my perspective, from the “camera” so to speak, to see what I could change about how I looked at it. The inspiration for my new bio was suddenly there in front of me and it now reads- “Fighting multiple sclerosis through the lens of my camera one picture at a time.”

My pictures don’t change the facts. MS sucks. Bad days will always be there. My world will spin and my relationship to the ground will often get more and more intimate. But having different perspectives has helped me to get back up every time I stumble and fall. It has helped me to ground myself despite a world that was somedays literally spinning around me. Helped me to laugh more than I’ve cried. To know that even though bad days will always come so will the good days, and no matter what happens, the good can always outweigh the bad.

It’s hard sometimes to go back and look through the photos I took a decade ago. Some of them were just awful. Actually, most of them were awful. But more than anything I’m glad for them now. They show me the path I’ve been on to get to where I am today. They show where I started. They show how far I’ve come. And just like the mistake in my strap it tells a story and has since become a part of the whole process. When I share a photo now, which isn’t terribly often, I love seeing that people have liked that photo. Especially when that someone is a photographer. It means a lot to me that they took the time to look at my picture and to tap it twice. But the reality is I share those pictures for me. I share them to ground myself again. To remind myself to step back from what is going on in my life and check my perspective. I share them to remind myself of the good and beauty in this world. And I can only hope that others see that as well.

My hope for everyone, regardless of whether or not I know them or how often we talk or don’t talk, regardless of whatever good times they are having or whatever trial they may be facing. Whether it’s a health problem or a bad day at work or home. A failed relationship or just dealing with the weight of a crazy world. My hope for them, for you, is that you find your own ‘camera’. Your own way to counter-act whatever the world throws at you and remember there really is hope and beauty in it all, no matter how it seems at first.

One of a Million

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Quite recently there was news that a study had revealed there to be more than twice as many people living with MS than previously thought (https://www.nationalmssociety.org/About-the-Society/MS-Prevalence). My dad was the one who first sent me a link to a news article talking about it and soon the news was popping up in my social media feeds, and I found myself reading through a few of the comments. One of the most common was the simple phrase- “I’m one of a million.”

Now most of my life I have heard the term “one in a million” in regards to being special, unique and rare and I’ve thrown the term out loosely when talking with friends without ever really thinking about it. Which definitely means I had never thought of being one in a million. And suddenly I find myself being not just 1 in around 400,000, but one of a million. There are more people out there going through the same things that I go through. The same struggles. The same health and mental concerns. The same challenges with balancing work life and personal life.

And it’s amidst these challenges that I live every single day and if there is one thing that it’s easy to succumb to it’s the feeling of loneliness when dealing with MS. Honestly, it’s probably easy to feel lonely when dealing with any problem. I just know the MS ones in particular right now. It’s hard to describe how you’re doing to someone who has no basis to relate at all to what you’re going through. It’s hard to wake up day after day and not feel any different and have the people you love ask you how you are doing and not having a good response. It’s hard to have the same response day after wretched day and that isn’t made easier when you hate how you’re feeling and wishing that you could feel almost any other way. The worst for me are the days where I wake up and that’s all I can manage. I don’t even feel like I have the energy to roll over in my bed, let alone get up and actually do something. Some days my only goal is to make it to the shower and back out again (ideally having managed to remain standing the whole time). And being completely honest, lately there have been days where I haven’t even made it to that goal. Those days are the worse for me. Usually I can put up with a little dizziness and vertigo. I can deal with a subdued or loss sense of feeling. But the lack of energy to do anything is what kills me.

And I’ve yet to figure out how to explain all this to people when they ask me. And that leaves me feeling lonely sometimes. Some days it feels like I’m merely a shell, or a ghost of myself, stuck watching the world revolve around me. Watching everyone else live their lives. It’s hard. And having the reminder that I’m one of a million is a huge comfort to me. Maybe the people in my immediate life have no idea what I’m going through, but there are people who do understand.

None of us is alone. And that truth goes far beyond just having MS and just dealing with my problems. I truly don’t believe anyone is truly alone. Everyone in their own way is one of a million. I’m not trying to take away what makes us unique and what makes us special- but rather focusing more on those things that bring us together. That remind us that we are all here going through this experience called life at the same time. And in a world that, to me anyways, feels completely divided by everything from diet to politics, sometimes we need to remember that we are of a million. We are part of a group. We are part of a people that understand one another and can lean on each other and find the support that we need.  And that peace of mind is something I desperately need.

I’m one of a million.

The Need to Start Somewhere

I just want to write. I just want something to come out – ease the weight of the jumbled mess that I feel my mind has become of recent. I want to ease the clutter – clear a pathway. Anything that allows me to feel I have some semblance of a direction.

I spent a majority of the day cleaning out the garage. Usually that’s something we only get around to in the spring, however this last spring my father decided to surprise my mother by renovating the den into a craft room for her to use. He went all out – painted, raised surfaces on the walls, new flooring and trim, decorations, and even made a table. But, as tends to happen around here, we never fully cleaned up from the project. The saw stayed out on the work table, the sander left lying around. And slowly the area became more cluttered. Occasionally it would be cleaned up a bit – usually for another small project or in search of the right screwdriver. My dad will be coming home soon and it was decided that it will be nice to offer him back his half of the garage for his truck. I mean, supposedly snow is coming soon.

And so, with my little brother in tow and a pretty generous Spotify playlist or two, decided it was high time to clean up from our project and once again reorganize the garage into a space that resembled.. well.. a garage.

It was relaxing. There’s something about a good speaker and some great tunes and a clear objective that really sets me straight. I like having a clear goal. And in the garage there isn’t anything of my families that I will accidentally move or destroy. I mean, in all honesty the only real things of use out there are mine or my dads. And if it belongs to the rest of the family the odds are very much in favour of them never knowing where it is again as it is. And so we organized the shelves, brought in the Christmas decorations, put up the fall decorations. We picked up the surprising amount of empty cardboard boxes that had appeared and flattened them. We cleaned up the tools, organized and put them away. Wiped down the tables and shuffled them into different spaces. We collected wood scraps and left over pieces and put into once place. We shuffled around bikes, scooters and a skateboard. Tossed a toy football for a few minutes. Swept the floor. Battled with the wind and leaves coming in through the open garage doors. And ultimately, I pulled my pulled my truck into the now vacant and rather clean looking half of the garage (I said my dad was coming soon, just not yet).

And I realized that I wished cleaning out my thoughts was just as simple and straightforward. I wish there was a mental broom I could use to sweep things together and into a dustbin and then simply toss them aside. It’s not all that simple, at least from where I currently am it doesn’t feel all that simple.

But… often the most difficult part of any project is beginning. And I really hope that this is what this becomes for me. A beginning. A start. And I that I can take the next steps. So it’s not much, but at least it’s something.

Silver Linings

It feels like forever since I really took the time to sit down at my laptop, open up a new blank document, and just begin typing. There are a few reasons for this. I’m no longer in school and that means my laptop is no longer what feels like an extension of my being. Sometimes I go days without pulling out my laptop and truthfully I can do almost everything I need to on my phone. And for a while last year, I let some events that happened really throw me around and I wasn’t doing a lot of the things that I enjoyed. And I kept telling myself that I was just too busy.

While going through an older hard drive of mine I came across a bunch of writing assignments from my senior year of high school. I took both a normal English class that year as well as a creative writing class, and it was pretty interesting to delve back into my writings from seven years ago. (It also blows my mind that that was seven years ago. Time flies!) But that got me remembering just how much I enjoy writing. And more importantly, it got me remembering just how much I was missing writing. I do miss it. And then the next day I saw a motivational post that said something to the idea that the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The next best time is today. And so I’m writing. Today. Or rather tonight.

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I’m coming off of a work week that was more stressful than it needed to be, still recovering from a relapse that I wish I hadn’t had, and altogether just kind of feeling like I was accidentally tied behind my dad’s big blue truck while he decided to go on a long drive. To add to that, in two days I will be upon the two-year anniversary of my diagnosis. And while it was not necessarily that singular day that forever changed my life, it definitely is a day that I will always look back on. And I mean, Facebook would never let me forget it, right?

If I’m being honest, when my first year rolled around I was more bitter than I ever admitted or perhaps even realized. I feel like I’ve managed to stay positive a majority of the time when it comes to having MS. And when I’m with most people it is the positive side that I allow them to see. But I wasn’t doing so hot last year. This year, as I face down this anniversary and look it in the eye, I feel like a completely different person. As I look back there are a few things that really stick out to me as the silver linings to a curve ball that forever changed my life.

And before you read on, just know that these aren’t in any particular order and that there are so many more than I could list tonight or perhaps ever.

1. Family is everything. I simply don’t know where I would be without my family. Honestly? I don’t know a group of people more capable of pushing every button and driving me up the wall more than my family. They are, without a doubt, experts in the art of driving me crazy. But, on the flip side, the thing they excel the most at, once again without a single doubt in my mind, is being nothing but a completely understanding, caring, loving, forgiving group of people who I’ve been blessed to have in my life from day one, and will have in my life forever. I don’t know what I would do without them sometimes.

2. Family is more than blood. I have some pretty amazing friends. And when I talk about these friends I really talk about my family. I talk about the people who have had nothing but chances to meet others and build up their own circle of friends, and yet despite the billions of options to them in the world, have decided to call me friend and brother. These are the people who have shown a level of understanding I never understood in friends before I had multiple sclerosis. They love me in the good times, and even more so in the bad times. They understand when I don’t have energy to do something we had planned, and know when to ignore my excuses and show up. Sometimes they drag me out and sometimes they just come and sit by me on the couch. They remind me that life doesn’t slow down because I do but that they’re willing to help take up the load. They help me find the reason to get up and go in the morning and to hate having to go home at night. They’re amazing. From funny pictures and crappy jokes to long conversations or silent drives. They’re by my side.

3. Different is not bad. Change can always be hard. It isn’t always wanted. It doesn’t always seem needed. But the fact of the matter is that change will always happen. Life moves forward. And if I’ve learned anything at all from having MS, it has been that change will come and things will be different. I am different. And that’s not bad. Sometimes I have to do things differently. Sometimes I can’t do things, at least not yet. But that won’t stop me from trying anymore. In fact, I think, most of the time, that I’m pretty grateful that I find many things more challenging at first. I’m glad I have a good reason to try harder and give my all. And it’s taught me that I can do it. Sometimes that simple lesson is the only thing I have to continue going on. I can do it.

4. And speaking of continuing on- There is no such thing as a small victory. There is just victory. Just accomplishment. Some days the last thing I feel I have energy to do is roll out of bed and drag myself out of my bedroom. Let alone across that room to the couch. Or up the stairs to the kitchen. And other days I come off of a 12 hour shift and I feel ready to keep going. To open up a book and read, or go outside and shovel the driveway. There never seems to be a rhyme or a reason to when these different days will strike – but they have taught me to take any victory that I can. And when I don’t quite make it to what I wanted to do, that’s okay. There is always tomorrow. There is always later. And I’ll be able to get to it then, and I’ll succeed and I’ll move onto whatever comes next.

5. Perhaps the most important single lesson I’ve had from my diagnosis and the adventure I’ve lived since then is just simply that the Lord is always there. I spent two years on a mission and I knew that truth then. I taught that truth to anyone and everyone I could for those two years. I have shared testimony and shared my belief that God loves us and that he is with us for as long as I can remember. But I can really say that I believe that and know that more than ever after the last couple of years. Sometimes it is so hard. Sometimes I feel like no one understands what I face on a day-to-day basis. No one understands the hard days, the tired days. No one understands the pain of needing a cane to get around on my 25th birthday. No one understands the sad and pity looks I would get when I walked around the store, the restaurant, or even church. It was all too easy to fall into that trap and begin to feel that same pity for myself. And when my world began to go gray I was always reminded of one thing. He is there. He loves me. And He understands. I can’t express my gratitude enough for my Saviour and everything he has done for me. And I can’t express adequately in words just how much strength that has given me to be able to pick myself up, sometimes both literally and figuratively, and to keep on going.

Silver linings. The name seems inadequate almost as I sit here and think about it. Because it’s a lot more than just the linings that are silver in my perspective.

To My Golden People

To the people in my life who have stood by me. The people who have supported me. Who have had patience with me.

Thank you. Thank you for being my golden people.

Some of you probably call me friend. Some of you call me family. I hope you know that to me, you all are family and that family is so much more than blood.

You’ve stood by my side while I’ve figured life out. Especially in the last year and a bit while I’ve learned about MS and figured that out. You’ve shown patience with me, especially when I haven’t had patience with myself. You’ve been my rock to lean on and to bounce back from. And words will never be able to adequately express the gratitude I have for all of you. I won’t name you all here. But I think of you often, even if I don’t reach out like I should. I hope you know that I will be there for you too. That no matter what life brings to your front door that I’ll be there to help you through it, just as you all have been there for me. Time and distance will never diminish what you mean to me.

You have kept a smile on my face. Reminded me that even on the worst days there is a reason to smile – even if that reason is just because my smile might be the only good thing for someone else’s day. It’s the texts asking me how I am or saying hi. The funny pictures and memes. The random questions and deep conversations. It’s knowing that there may be nothing you can do and asking anyways.

It’s the concerts and movies. Invitations to dinner – whether a home cooked meal or a fast food joint. It’s the reminder that every day brings a new and fresh start. That setbacks are just that, a setback, and not a wall I cannot get around or over or through. It has been the hugs. The tears. The acceptance of my bad days and making the most of my good days. It has been laughing at the little quirks that seem to come with MS and allowing me to see the humour in them as well.

It has been the silence. The power of just being there, even if words were never said. Of sharing a moment or two to just exist together and appreciate that life isn’t easy and sometimes I just want to scream at the world. It has been the moments where you help me realize that those moments of silence and frustration cannot last forever and my voice has a place in this world. That no matter how I am knocked down that I can get back up, and more importantly- that I will get back up. And then you help me. You offer a hand, an encouraging word, and understanding when it takes me time.

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It has been the push to pursue what I love, especially when I didn’t see a point in it. The push for me to be better. To make more of myself today than yesterday and to always remember there is a tomorrow and today, no matter how bad, is not the end of the world.

It’s been the love of a 12 year old girl who I’ve only known for a few months – who upon learning I had MS began to save money for MS research. It is the tears that her act, and all the other acts that have been done on my behalf, have brought to my eyes as I realize time and time again that I am loved. That you see past my imperfections and shortcomings and still just love me for who I am. And that you refuse to let me forget who I am and who I can become.

You are my golden people. You are my rocks here in this life. The ones I know will be there for me. The ones that have taught me it is okay to ask for help. That we are not meant to endure this alone. And that you won’t leave me to do it on my own.

And while I don’t always believe that I deserve you, I don’t know where I would be without. Thank you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.