Incomplete.

Writing, even as sparingly as I have been, has become a main outlet for me over the last few months. I often find myself mentally writing out a post in my head, talking about the small or large things that happen in my life. I write out in my head what I wish I could, and I think in a moment that helps me deal with the immediate stress I find myself in. It’s become a mental exercise that brings me often much needed stress relief.  And as often as I can find the time, or perhaps more importantly is the energy, to physically sit down and type out my thoughts. It really can take a lot. And doing this now, I’ve been able to learn a few insights into myself. One of the most poignant realization though is that I hate to feel like something is incomplete. I don’t even want to know how many drafts I’ve started, but never quite finished because I just felt like it was incomplete. A lot. And when I don’t know how to wrap it up, or fully articulate my thoughts, I stop. Always meaning to go back and finish. To pull it together and post it. To share it. If for no other person than myself. Just to know that I did. But more often than not, it doesn’t get finished. And that bothers me. I’ve had a lot on my mind today. Well, most of this week. A pretty big fight between some family members. Thinking about the short amount of summer I have left, and my plans for work and school this fall when I start school again. Thinking about people in my life, people who have left my life or are in the process of slowly leaving it. A lot of it is centered on change. All these thoughts (and many, many more) were clanging around my head today as I drove home from work. Like rocks rolling around inside a tumbler they clashed into one another demolishing and dragging me deeper and deeper into a pit of continually negative thoughts. And I knew I’d write tonight. I needed to. I needed that release that comes from hitting the publish button and just letting go. Like an arrow being released from my bow, it just leaves. No, it just flies away at a speed I can’t always comprehend. All the tension is released and focused in whatever direction I happen to be aiming and I’m suddenly lighter and my head is clearer. Now my writing definitely lacks the precision of my arrows. But it does the trick that I need it to. When I let it.

I was scared to write tonight at first. Because I felt like anything I started I wouldn’t be able to finish. I’d start, and it would build, and then I wouldn’t be able to pull it together to something I was happy with. There was just so much going on in my head, how was I supposed to narrow that down to a single, cohesive post? And for the record, I’m not promising anything cohesive to being with. And as I dwelt on that, and turned that over in my mind and tried to find a solution or a fix it hit me. Rather, a question hit me. The middle of my drive, sitting at a red light, and staring at the back end of a Porsche I found myself asking “What is wrong with incomplete?”  I thought about this through the next several blocks, a few turns and another red light. Incomplete. Unfinished. And the more I thought, I realized that I could change my thoughts on my writing, and maybe even some aspects of my life. We’ll see about that though, I mean I’ve only has this thought tonight. I realize though, that my thoughts don’t need to be final. Don’t need to be set in stone and perfectly complete because honestly, I don’t know what that is yet. I’m incomplete. I’m still growing. Changing. Learning, Failing. Succeeding. Trying. Always trying. And that is where I should be. And that’s where I’m happy at. Not happy because it’s easy. Not happy because it’s comfortable. But I’m happy because I can keep working towards learning what my complete will be. Who that will be. Perhaps what it will be.

I realized in a fifteen minute drive that I’m not ready to be called complete. I don’t want to be. . I’m so far from ready for that that I’m legitimately laughing at the idea. No… I’m okay to be incomplete. I’m happy to be, as that means I get to keep going. Keep learning. Keep making mistakes. But to keep seeing successes as well. To find the moments that I feel the sweet feeling of triumph and the dreaded moments of bitterness when it doesn’t work out. These will be the moments and experiences that will ultimately help to complete me. That shape me and keep me going.

 

Bring it on.

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Change

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to watch my best friend get sealed in the temple to the girl he loves. I was, and still am, super happy for them. It’s been over 12 hours since the ceremony happened, and I can still just see how bright and happy they both looked as they faced each other and said their “I do’s” to one another, committing to not only a lifetime together, but to eternity together. That’s quite the thought.. eternity sounds like a really long time. But I have no doubts, just from watching the two of them today, that they both made a choice that they are happy with.

Things change. That thought hit me repeatedly today as I watched the ceremony, and the pictures afterwards, and then the luncheon, and while I took an hour to myself to wander (not to mention find some much needed air conditioning). In my musings I think this sense of change stemmed mostly from a place of desperation. And sadness. I think in part, that when I went to this wedding it was with the thought that I was losing my best friend. Which, wasn’t true at all. I wasn’t losing him. I haven’t lost him. Nothing will change the fact that he is one of my best friends, someone who really has stuck with me through thick and thin and one of the few people I know who is willing and able to put up with me no matter how I’m being. Whether that’s being a pain in the ass or spouting off crazy nonsensical ideas or wanting to try something stupid he has put up with it, talked me down from stupid or dark places, and helped me stay positive and optimistic. I owe him a great deal. And I realized that I was scared to see him get married, and for the most selfish reasons. It was pretty difficult to accept that. And after talking to him at the wedding, I realized that my fears are entirely misplaced. I’m not losing a friend. Not at all. I’m watching him grow, and make choices to progress and to invite someone into his life- someone who is a wonderful person and in my opinion completely perfect for him. That being said, I realized that putting aside that fear, I couldn’t be happier for the two of them.

Change. It’s frightening. In my own life I can sense that changes are coming. Some of them I know of, I even helped to plan their course and set it in motion. Like moving to a new apartment. I have now lived in this apartment complex for the last 19 months. It has been my home while I’ve struggled in choosing a major, in dating, and in my trials recently as I’ve learned of my MS and the resulting side effects from both the disease and medication. I’ve had roommates become friends as we’ve bonded over the stresses of school, work and dating. I’ve learned to appreciate the value of waking up early as I chose to work a four am custodial job, every day and learned that fighting naps as a child was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. Naps are wonderful. Amazing even. They are among my favorite things.  I’ve found a ward here that I love, where I find there are people I look forward to seeing every week at church and around the apartment complex. In short, it has been a wonderful roller coaster ride of ups and downs that I am truly grateful for.

Despite that though, in the last few weeks I can’t help but admit that I have been feeling stagnant lately. I don’t know if that is this perpetual itch I seem to get every eighteen months to two years that I and/or my family need to move again (old habits die hard, eh?) or perhaps I’ve slowly realized that there is more to Provo than this simple apartment complex I’ve come to love. Regardless of the reason, or reasons, I made the decision to move out and find a new place. See what new adventures I can find in a new part of Provo, with new roommates, a new ward, and new experiences to look forward. Going into this next semester I will have a space that is all my own, I will have a major decided on that I’m genuinely and entirely looking forward to studying and progressing in. I will have a new challenge as I work two jobs while I go to school. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be full of change, but, surprising even myself, I’m looking forward to it. To a chance to try something new, to prove to myself how far I can take it as I stretch myself, and to give myself some fresh opportunities.

Change is tough. It’s hard to do and to accept. The more that I sit here and think about it the though, and the more I write this post I feel calmer. More at peace with the decisions I’ve made and the path I seem to be headed down. Or perhaps I’m just really enjoying the conversations I’m having with a couple people right now. Honestly, I have no real idea what to expect. I can see the road moving off in a direction and I can see clearly up until the bend in the road, and from there it’s a mystery. But it’s a mystery I’m ready to follow up on. Who really knows where that road could end up? What fantastic adventures could be ahead? What challenges, trials and good times? I’ll find out, the only way I know how, by doing.

Change shouldn’t be feared. It should be embraced. Because even though change can be hard it also has the potential to bring the best of things to us and for us. Opportunities that we couldn’t dream of. Chances to be jumped at.

DSC09452I think it’s worth the risk. We just got to get around that bend.

What I Wish I Could Say

Thank you for the time you shared with me and the talks, and the drives. The laughs and the serious talks. The support and the honesty. I truly enjoyed it all and I was happy with where it was and excited with where it could have gone. And then it all just changed. Practically overnight. I don’t get that. Don’t get the change. And I understand that things change, realizations are made, truths are faced. But what I don’t get is what changed with where we were at and where we were headed. I don’t get that at all.

But that’s not a bad thing really, because it could be over come. I believe that. You see, when I look at a relationship and dating, I don’t believe in looking for perfect. I don’t believe in perfect in that regard. I don’t think it’s that simple. And it shouldn’t be. Or maybe, looking for perfect becomes too complicated. How many opportunities are passed up because they’re not the perfect opportunity? Or there is the constant worry of something better? So what if there is? Why waste all the time looking for that perfect person. I guess in my mind, it would be a lot like building a house. It’s a little different because with houses you can move or you can build fresh – something you can’t quite do with people, at least not build them from scratch. But if I had to choose a house I wouldn’t look for the perfect house right off the bat. Rather, I’d look for a house that I could picture becoming the perfect house. A house that could be added to, room by room and piece by piece. It wouldn’t need to have the perfect wall colors or layout. That could all come later. That doesn’t mean living there would be perfect right off the bat. As I move in, I might find during the first storm that the roof leaks. Right onto my bed. I might find the water pressure is something awful. The colors could be dreadful. But.. that’s all okay at first. Because I wasn’t looking for perfect. I was looking for do-able. For compatible. I was looking for a place that I could call home.

And then one day at a time, I would change those things. I would fix the hole in the roof. I would check out what possible with the water pressure. I would repaint the walls and slowly do whatever else I needed or wanted to do, and that idea of perfect would slowly be realized. Not because I found it that way, but because I was willing to put in the effort to make it that way.

In my mind, relationships are much the same. That perfect one doesn’t exist. I do believe that you mesh with certain people better than others, and you figure that out by dating and meeting lots of people. And as you meet more and more people you build this vision of the ideal and then you find someone who you believe can get there. It’s a gamble really. An act of faith. But sometimes you have to take the step forward to really see where you can end up. A step up to see where we could end up. Yeah it can be frightening. But it also could be exciting and fun. New and adventurous. That was slowly the idea that I was building up to.

I’m not suggesting that “us” was supposed to be or that I was thinking super long-term. Because I wasn’t and I am not. I’m merely suggesting that I could envision it moving forward and I was really hoping that it would. And maybe it can still. I can’t make that decision. Only we can. But that does involve two of us. It has to involve two of us, because a decision like that shouldn’t just be left to one person or the other.  And I get it’s frightening. I feel like there is so much I need to figure out. And I feel that everyday offers up a new challenge or an unexpected twist and I can’t help but ask myself who would want to put up with that. And I can’t answer that question yet. But, I’m sure someone out there would. Because I know that if I found someone and gave them the chance to have an impact on me and to be a part of my life, I’d want them there for all of the twists and turns and the ups and downs because I’d want to be there for all of theirs. And in my mind it is that simple.

I hope things are working out for you and you’re learning to deal with the stress you’ve been facing. I wish I knew how to help, but all I can offer is the knowledge that I’m here if you want/need me, and if you decide you don’t, no hard feelings.

 

 

Just a moment

July3rdSunsetEdited

I took this picture on my way back to Provo from my parents house  up in Cache Valley. The sun was just going down, and my mom had just talked me back into borrowing her camera for the next few weeks, something I’m grateful she did. I saw this opportunity and decided to pull over and spend a few minutes watching the sun go down.

Having been looking at this photo the last couple of days though really made me realize just how important it is to stop sometimes. Life gets so busy and it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day things that we do. And that’s not to say that those things are completely without meaning, but I really feel, at least in my own life, that sometimes I let those day to day things keep me from slowing down and enjoying the little moments that life has to offer. Like a sunset. And while there will always be another sunset, I don’t see that as any sort of excuse to miss one. I’ve never seen the same sunset twice now, which means there are still a whole lot more that I haven’t seen. And personally, I want to be there for them.

Life is too unpredictable to miss the little moments that are handed to us. So I think it’s good to slow down, pull over, turn off the car engine and turn down the music and just listen to the sounds of nature. Of the distant laughing of kids playing outside. The constant spray of a sprinkler. The hum of the cars going by on a nearby highway. For you, wherever you are or whatever you’re doing the sounds could be completely different. But there’s beauty in them. There’s beauty in taking the time to listen. To hear. To appreciate. I’m glad I did. I want to do that more.

It dawns on me more and more just how uncertain my life is going to be. And that honestly scares me. It’s terrifying. It leaves me wondering and grasping at what could be. And I know that the line of thinking I often take is usually not the healthiest. Life will be full of surprises, the good ones and the bad ones, and I know that nothing will ever change. Life will be a ride of ups and downs, of losses and of gains. Of happiness and of heartache. And to a large extent I will have no control over that. What I do have control of though is looking for the moments like this sunset. The moments where I can appreciate the quiet solace and beauty that the world has to offer me. Moments with friends who only care that you’re there to spend time them. Moments with family to just let go and be myself. To joke and laugh and poke fun at each other. Moments that become memories to be replayed and cherished time and time again. It’s those moments that help me on. That I fall back on when life gets tough and unpredictable I feel like I have no where to turn to.

 

I hope you all can find those moments, and when you do I hope you hold them close.

 

And to the people who have helped me build my collection- thank you.

 

 

Mistint

I have all of these thoughts bouncing around my head right now – probably a result from the drive home from my aunt’s house tonight. And while I debated with myself over what to write, there was one thought that stuck out to me quite a bit. It first hit me today at work. I work as a sales associate/paint mixer, and I was in the back mixing up a few samples for a couple that had just ordered them. As soon as I had one sample mixed but not shaken, the couple called and cancelled the samples and just ordered a few gallons of paint instead. Not a big deal, except that I already had one of the samples made up. So I’m staring at this small, quart sized sample and I realize that even though I know I’ve already put the colorants into it, I can’t see them. Just looking into it, it looked like any of the other unused samples that were sitting on the shelf behind me. But, I knew there was colorant in it. So I shook it up and it changed color and I labelled it as a mistint.

And suddenly it hit me that all of us, as individuals are kind of like paint. We come into the world and we are all unmixed paint just waiting for our colorants to be added and to become a final product. And the colorants in our lives are the experiences we have, the choices we make, and the things that make us who we are. They are the little things that shape us over time. But as the events and choices happen, we can’t always see how they affect us. Sometimes they go in, and we can’t see the effect right away. It’s not until we’re shaken a bit that those colors really begin to come out and blend together and show how we have been changed. We live our life, we form friendships and relationships, we go to classes and learn from teachers, and we learn from experiences and each and every one of those situations leaves its mark on us. Sometimes those marks are small, almost unseen and in the long run might seem completely unimportant, but every little drop can have an effect on who we are and how we continue to see the world around us. And being shaken can be any number of events or just life itself. It’s the moments in life that make us step back and really evaluate ourselves. To look inside and see how we’ve grown and how we’ve changed. 

That’s not always easy though. I’ll be the first to say that there have been times that I have stopped and reflected on my life and have been unhappy with choices I’ve made or where I’ve ended up. This is where the beauty of my little thought comes in though. With the sample of paint, there was nothing I could do to change the fact that I had put colorants into it. Nothing at all. It just isn’t possible. I can’t reach in and spoon out the colorants. I cannot separate them in anyway. But for us it’s completely different. And that’s because we’re working with the master paint mixer, so to speak. And I’m sure it helps that we’re not actually paint.  But we have God and Christ on our side. And because of their love and because of the atonement of Christ – that act of selflessness that made it possible for everything we do to be accounted for and to be wiped clean. Sometimes we stop after we have been shaken and we look at ourselves and it dawns that we don’t like the color that we’ve become. That there is too much of a certain element in us, and it’s throwing everything else off. Because of Christ, those colors, those choices and events can be removed. The effects, I should say, can be overwritten and changed. Completely so. Isn’t that beautiful? There doesn’t need to be anything, or anyone, that’s a mistint. Because we can ask for help. We can ask to be cleansed. Forgiven. For strength to change, to move forward and to start fresh. And it will come every time. 

I’ve always felt that there is a kind of master plan for each of us. A picture of our ideal form, so to speak. An image of our potential, of the best that we can be and I truly believe that very few people really understand how great their potential is. But I also believe that God, our Father in Heaven knows. That he has this image and he helps us to do our best to get there. And he knows that it’s not easy, that the path is uphill and over rocks and ravines across oceans and raging rivers and it just plain sucks and hurts and there are plenty of times that we just want to drop off to the side and stop and announce that it’s not worth it. I know that I have felt that way more times that I care to think about. It is hard. There are times when I don’t know if it’s worth it to keep going. That I can’t see how anything could possibly result in something good or work to improve me. Life is hard. Life is really hard. It’s in those moments that I remember that I’m not alone. I’m never truly by myself as I walk through the paths that are before me on this little journey called life. And the one person that I can count on completely, 100% of the time, is Christ and he has never left my side. Not once. I may not have always been aware that he was there, or I may not have even wanted him there in my life. Despite that though, He has never once stopped being there, watching over me, gently nudging me to keep moving, to keep climbing. I am forever grateful for that. To know that there is a purpose in the challenges that come my way. That when I mess up that it doesn’t need to be permanent, even though it often feels like it is. 

I’m grateful to know that I will never need to be labelled as a mistint. 

My Mask

 

I’m crazy.

At least that’s how I walk away feeling from most of my conversations with people lately.  A part of me finds it amusing and many of the conversations follow the same general outline.

Them: So what are your plans for the summer? Me: Just working. Not much else planned. Them: What do you do? Me: Custodial in the mornings and then I work at a paint store in the afternoons. Them: You’re working two jobs?! How many hours a week are you doing? Me: Depends on the week, but usually between 60 and 70 hours a week depending on what’s going on at each job.

At this point, even if I don’t know them that well, I can tell they’re surprised. It’s in their eyes, the way they widen ever so slightly. The way their mouth will open in a small “oh.” I guess kids around here don’t work that much, and honestly, I don’t know anyone else personally that is. How crazy they look at me usually starts to differ at this point – between people who know that I have MS and people who don’t. A lot of people ask me why I’m working so much, and honestly, I don’t really know. One reason is definitely to save up some money – mostly for school. But I don’t really know that I need to work that many hours to save up over the summer. But it’ll be nice to have by the end of the summer. Beyond that though I’m not sure. I don’t have a definitive answer. The two friends I hang out the most with are both getting married, one in just a matter of weeks, and the other in two months and already I can feel the dynamic changing there. And that’s not a bad thing, not at all, and I’m quite happy and excited for both of them, but I also can’t help but feel that it leaves me needing to find some fresh people to hang out with. But I think I also at some point decided to just take those hours I would spend with friends and just work instead. And it’s at this point in the conversation where I see a look. A look that says you’re crazy and in a few cases it seems to be laced with a hint of pity. Maybe I deserve that, maybe I don’t. But it has got me thinking. A large majority of the people I interact with on a day to day basis have no idea that I have MS. I’m working with a whole new crew of people at both jobs, and while my bosses are aware, almost no one else is. And I’ve realized that while I have no hesitation in talking about my MS with anyone who asks or if it comes up, I’ve become much more hesitant to bring it up first. And the more I think about it, the more I’ve realized that once people know, I become defined. And I hate that. But a part of me also hates that people don’t know – because suddenly I feel like I’m wearing a mask, all of the time.

 

I’ve always been of the mindset that honesty is the best policy, and it matters a lot to me that I’m real. And so I try to treat everyone the same and be the same person with everyone. It’s one reason that I hate that everyone will just automatically ask “How are you?” when greeting someone. To me, it feels like it’s become just an add-on to a greeting, it’s expected that you ask, and yet I feel everyone answers very blandly. And honestly, if a stranger asks that would you just open to them? Probably not. But I have a hard time just asking that. I feel like it’s all a routine anymore. If I ask it’s because I care enough to take the time to listen to an answer. If I offer help I mean it. If I don’t, I won’t offer. It matters to me that I’m real. That what I present is true and what you get. Because taking the time to wear a mask is just… ridiculous.

 

But now… I feel like I almost have to wear a mask – and I feel a large part of that is because when people hear that you have multiple sclerosis, even if they don’t know the specifics of what that even means- suddenly you are branded. As sick. As incapable. As weak. As any number of definitions that in my, albeit limited, experience have not been very kind. And I don’t want to be labeled. I would rather people judge me for the things that I choose to do, the things that are in my control, than for a disease that I have no control over and didn’t opt in for. And because of that I wear this mask. This mask that hides how tired I really feel when I show up for my second job every day. That hides the fact that I feel like I’m barely functioning. A mask that glosses over the fact that I haven’t been able to feel things in my right hand for the last few hours, that I can’t hold a pen properly enough to even sign a piece of paper. I wear a mask to hide that I’m battling a disease that no one I know understands and can relate to – and to try and explain takes more energy than I ever seem to have at any given moment. I hide the fact that fatigue feels like it will be the death of me, that it is slowly dragging me down minute by minute. That there are days where just rolling out of bed is a struggle that I don’t feel confident in winning and it just seems to go downhill from there. It’s not always hard to do and not every day is a bad day, but the bad days tend to stick in my mind more than the good ones do. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe a lot of people wouldn’t make those assumptions about me. Maybe if they all knew it would work out for the best. And this leaves me fighting in my head- facing off with the insecurities of uncertainty. The insecurity of not knowing what could happen and an imagination that is much better at playing out the worst case scenario than it ever has been at looking at the opposite side of that. And I don’t know how to combat that, at least not right now. And when I think about the need to I want to scream in frustration because I just don’t have the energy to do fight it right now. It has been difficult enough to fight the frustration of knowing that the only thing I want to do on my afternoon off is take a nap, and the knowledge that if I do, I better be free for the next several hours because trying to get up will be the struggle of a lifetime.

 

That’s what my mask is hiding.

 

Smile

Attitude.

I believe that you can find some pretty solid life lessons in almost any event that happens. However, I’ve always had an issue with the phrase “everything happens for a reason” and while I cannot say with any degree of certainty that it’s not true, I feel that it’s more applicable to say that “a reason can be found for whatever happens.” Thinking in terms of God’s plan and his purpose, maybe it can be said there is a reason for everything that happens. But when I think about it, and I think about it more than I probably should, I really believe that at the end of the day we simply live in an imperfect and all too often crappy world and sometimes bad things just happen. Whether it’s a someone else’s stupid choices having an affect on us or the ones we love, or the happenstances of life – bad stuff happens.

Welcome to life.

But, in the last sever weeks I’ve really seen my eyes opened to importance of attitude. Of having the right attitude to deal with what comes your way. As a missionary I spent a lot of time in the scriptures and in particular, I spent a lot of time in the Book of Mormon. Part of The Book of Mormon

tells the history of a group of people called the Jaredites. And while some of the my favorite scriptures come from this part of the scriptures, the ending of their story is also a tragic one. Their whole people become involved in wars  with each other, and it comes down to two men, Shiz and Coriantumr, and at the very end, after millions have died, Coriantumr beheads Shiz, and then falls dead to his own wounds. As a missionary, I wouldn’t necessarily talk about this story often, but on occasion I would share it as more of a humorous message. And the ending moral of the story is that shiz happens, but you shouldn’t lose your head over it.

Funny right?

I always thought so. And maybe I just have an awful sense of humour, and that wouldn’t be too big of a surprise to me. But as I think about that lesson now, it strikes me that it has a definite ring of meaning to it. Sometimes in life, shiz is going to happen, and just because it does, it doesn’t mean that we need to lose our heads (not literally, I hope) over what happens to us. Yes, it sucks. Yes it can change our lives, our direction, our purpose. Yes it can make us question, wonder, doubt. It’s a challenge. It’s difficult. It’s a trial, and by nature those tending to be trying. BUT that doesn’t mean that’s all that it is. While those aspect of it will always exist, they don’t have to be the defining highlights of those experiences.

 

I have no idea who said this, but I came across it the other day. “Sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us.” And I’ve been thinking about that for the last few days. We have the opportunity to learn and to grow, even from negative. Especially from the negative. And I as I pondered that, I realized that we still have to make the choice to learn. To change. To see the positive in whatever it is we are facing. When I received my diagnosis, one of my first thoughts was that I probably couldn’t be a special agent, which has been my career goal and dream for awhile now. And even if I could still, I have to consider that I still don’t know what direction my MS will head. I could be fine for many, many years with medication and physical exercise, but there’s always the chance that it does get worse, in which case, where will that leave me career wise. And honestly, that hit me pretty hard, and I was getting pretty down on myself for that. My thoughts were all about what I was going to do now, and I had no idea. And because of not knowing, because I felt like I was back at square one when it came to my life and moving forward, I allowed that to get me down. I became more pessimistic about it. And I didn’t realize at the time just how big of an impact that was having on me day to day.

What made a real difference for me was many of the people I’ve talked to. I met with a few different people here at BYU and talked my situation over with them, and explained what I was thinking and how I felt, and what took me by surprise was how positive all of them were. Each of them expressed high hopes that while I may not do exactly what I had planned I could still find something along those lines that I could enjoy doing. And while I still have no idea what that is, or how exactly I’m going to get there, I do feel better. I do feel that it’s not the end, but rather just a new beginning, a chance to change direction and alter my aim.

 

It’s really the same message my dad has been telling me since I told him I might have MS. He was the first person I called after the call, and I remember I was in the parking lot of the apartment complex, and I had just pulled some trash from my car and walked it over to the dumpster and was walking back to my truck when I called. And the whole time I’m walking my thoughts were along the lines of it’s going to be okay. I can handle this. It’s not the end. I realize now that as much as I had had the initial phone call with the doctor, and she had told me the basics of MS and the results of my first MRI- as much as that had happened and was real, the actual news hadn’t set in yet. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with my dad, that I was the saying “there are several white matter lesions, and the pattern that they are in is really typical of multiple sclerosis…” that it became real. The news really hit then. And it hit in the form of tears, of lost hope, of being lost and thinking that “I have absolutely no idea what MS is, but it’s chronic and the little bit I’ve heard is not positive, and this will change the rest of my life. And what the heck do I do now?”  I’m lucky really. That as tons of negative thoughts began to go through my head right off the bat, my dad was positive. He was strong. He was adamant that we’d figure this out together and at no point would I be alone, that it did not mean the end of the world for me. I’m blessed to have a father like that, who can keep calm and level headed and perhaps most importantly, optimistic.  Because when I broke down and lost it, I needed that wall to lean on. And he’s been there every step of the way.

 

That’s not to put down or forget everyone else who has expressed love, support, prayers and strength to me as I’ve gone through this. It was huge for me to see the outpouring of support that came, and I can only say that I appreciate more than words could ever adequately describe.

 

Back to where I started this though. It comes down to attitude. It comes down to the simple choice to stare a trial in the eye and come out better. Someone recently asked me what I thought the purpose of life is, and while I have answers based upon religion and my beliefs, the simplest and perhaps the most potent answer that came to my mind was this: To learn to smile. Because if you can learn to smile no matter what, you’re winning. That if you can stare down all sorts of hard times and smile, it’s like punching that trial in the nose and telling it that has hard as it can make your life, you’re not going to let it have the final say. Because smiling shows others around you that there is something worth smiling for, even if they don’t know what exactly that might be. Smiling is hope. And that’s something that I feel everyone could use a little more of in today’s world. If you can smile, you’re going to be more positive. You’re going to feel more optimistic. You’re going to see reality, yet see your dreams, hopes and desires also paint their own picture and watch the two of them emerge. Smiling will say “even though shiz will happen, I’m going to smile.”

Smiling won’t erase the pain, take away the fatigue, restore balance and stop dizziness. It won’t ease the loss of a loved one, the pain of watching someone you love go through hard times. Smiling won’t do a lot of things. But smiling does work miracles. And it works them on an individual basis, beginning first with you, and then branching off to all you might come in contact with. In the last few weeks I cannot count the number of times someone has smiled at me, said hey, waved or just reached – even people I didn’t know- and made a difference right then in my life. I sat down in a class and a girl I’d never talked to or seen before began talking to me. And we talked after class. She may never know that that was just the lift I needed for that day. That she happened to talk about topics that were on my mind and weighing me down. But she had a smile and was friendly and I think that counts for a lot more than I’ve ever given them credit for.

Attitude. Is it important? Yeah. How could it not be? I have the choice and ability to decide how I react to every situation I find myself in. And you know what I’ve learned so far? Being positive and smiling is a lot more fun than frowning, dwelling, and focusing on the bad. It’s not easy, and sometimes maybe downright impossible in the moment to feel positive, to be hopeful and to press forward, but we can make the choice to work towards that point. I can make that choice. And I do. I choose to be happy. To be positive. To joke and laugh and plan pranks. I choose to accept that life has dealt me a hand I’m not happy about and one that does make a difference and have a lasting impact, but that at the end of the day I can go to bed knowing that it’ll work out. That I can learn from this and grow, and find a new inner strength. That I can be now be aware of the impact others can have on me and hopefully in turn be a strength to others around me

It’s definitely a process. The decision one day to smile doesn’t mean it just happens. Rather it’s a constant choice throughout the day. It’s a choice I make when I stumble over what I’m trying to say and can’t. It’s a choice to laugh when I get dizzy and walk into a wall. It’s the choice to enjoy the rain and snow that Utah can’t get rid of. Yeah, it’s inconvenient and cold. But it doesn’t mean that I have to let it get to me and affect the rest of my day. It’s the choice that even after I nail myself in the side of my head and will sport a bruise to wind the yoyo back up, laugh and try that trick again.

Life’s too short to not smile.

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Above even the darkest of clouds still lies the bluest of skies.