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When I was driving my son and his friends everywhere during his school years, I couldn’t wait for him to reach driving age so I wouldn’t have to be their chauffeur anymore. As it happened, soon after he got his license, I had to take myself off the road due to my visual impairment. It turned out to be a tough decision, though, since not being able to drive anymore really limits your — wait for it — autonomy.

As I thought about all of the things taken from me by my MS, I’ve come up with a theory. Instead of calling them deficits, I’m wondering if it isn’t really just the unorthodox method by which my psyche has tried valiantly to protect me.

Trauma from the past we’d just as soon forget getting us down? Inner me waves a wand. Poof! Don’t remember things anymore! Have some memory issues!

Don’t want to feel this bad ever again? Poof! Don’t feel things. Have some neuropathy!

So what if I have to Google “how to hard boil an egg” every time I want to make an egg salad sandwich. I’ve let go of the guilt of not being able. Everyone else can do X. I can’t. Okay, I’ll focus on doing Y. What I can do is tell you my stories and offer encouragement to get through your own hardships. When I’m not sure if my thoughts make sense on the page, I can always rely on Lori and SueBE to proofread for me. Find your team and you’ll find your way. I focus on what I can do, and do it.

We’ve all got our share of dark clouds in life, but the silver lining is this: you’re still you. You’re still here. You’ve got the chance every day to carry on.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Sometimes in my quiet moments, I feel God is putting words on my heart. Things I’m sure I already know, but just needed that small reminder.

It’s a gift. It’s to help you. It’s to help others. It’s to help you help others. It’s to help others help you.

These words have come to me in many situations recently.

Thinking about my hinky eye, which I now call my “energy eye.” I can’t see you clearly, but I can still feel your energy. Sometimes I feel I can sense more of what you’re not saying when I don’t look at you with my left eye (which is myopic, but can see you) and use my right eye (legally blind, but can still feel you.)

Thinking about my brain, which my neurologist tells me has areas of white lesions. I’ve come to realize that my brain is a train, and it can only ride on one track at a time. When new information is introduced, it takes a minute to sink in. Often, I find I have to back up the train to get to that connecting track. It means I sometimes make mistakes or forget things.

Thinking about my life in general. I don’t seem to be one of those people who sets the world on fire with great accomplishments and new ideas. But maybe people like me, who may only have a kind word to any child of God I meet on the road of life (i.e., everybody), are the ones who form the connective tissue of the universe. We hold things together just by being there and being kind.

What may seem like impediments are sometimes gifts in disguise. I may not quite understand it, but I’ve learned to trust God and always listen to my heart.

As I was making my son some Ramen, we sat in the kitchen and chatted. I told him the story of the first time I ever cooked anything for his father, some twenty-five years ago.

Oh yes. It was Ramen Noodles.

So I told my son that back in the days of yore, I made his Dad the Ramen, poured in the little seasoning packet, and put it into a bowl.  At that time, Ramen wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, and I had never had it before. I looked at the package. It showed a bowl filled with noodles, but I didn’t see any broth in the picture.

Is this noodles? I asked myself.  I thought it was soup, but based on the picture, maybe it’s just a noodle side dish.

I drained out the liquid.

Serving it to my then-husband, he looked puzzled.  “Something is missing here….” he said, explaining that it usually has broth in it.

My son laughed as I told the story.  Now, back in our time, I finished making his Ramen and poured it into the bowl. I handed him a spoon.

“Something is missing, Ma,” he said, smiling.

I had forgotten to pour in the seasoning packet!  Dagnabbit.

So I admit it.  I often order out or bring home meals from food places in our town. My son will actually get a better meal this way, with all of the ingredients included.

I used to feel guilty about this. But now I see that I’m doing the best that I can with the hand I’ve been dealt. My MS affects my memory and my cognitive abilities. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to get my side dishes to be done at the same time as my entrée.  I remember once during a dinner party years ago, forgetting the two-cups-of-water to one-cup-of-rice ratio and reversing it. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t seem to master this skill that is so important in the life of a family.

Cooking, gathering over the meal, savoring tasty dishes.  It just isn’t something I’ve ever been able to do well. Some people who don’t do well with plants have a black thumb.  I guess I’ve got a black oven mitt! I’m sure Martha Stewart would look at my caved-in casserole, shake her head and say, “I’d rather go back to jail than have to eat this! It’s a bad thing.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that everybody has something to deal with. Don’t give yourself a hard time for what you can’t do; focus more fully on your gifts, and give that your all. Do your best to work around shortcomings – black oven mitt and all – and trust that God will take care of the rest. And put the pizza place on speed dial.

At the store last week, I noticed that a big SUV was parked across three handicapped spots – laterally.

I started to walk by, having had to park farther away than I’d wanted. No point in confronting someone who obviously has no consideration for other people. If somebody does something like this, clearly, this is a person who doesn’t give a flying fig about anyone else.

But something stopped me and I walked over to the driver’s window, which was rolled down.

“Excuse me, Miss, but I have to ask you.  Why are you parked across three spots?  Now nobody can park here!” I said.

“Oh, sorry, baby,” she said. “I was just trying to get the shade from this tree. I’m waiting for my disabled aunt, who’s inside shopping. All you had to do was ask and I would move.”

Ask? These are handicapped spots. Perhaps her aunt was disabled, but this lady seemed able-bodied. I’d just come from the infusion center, where I’d had my monthly dose of medication for MS. I had a gauze bandage wrapped around my arm. My feet were hinky and I was really limping that day.

“Grace,” I said to God. I had to walk away, because I was about to unleash on her, Jersey-style. I was about to ask her what the bleep was wrong with her. And what kind of idiot she was. I had to bite my tongue, literally, so I didn’t release this venom into the world.

Waiting for my prescription took about a half hour, and I went back to my car. I noticed that the SUV was now parked correctly, in just one spot.

The lady waved me over and apologized again, profusely. She said that after I spoke with her, a man had come over and yelled at her for taking up three spots.

“I was just trying to get the shade,” she said, looking wounded. “All he had to do was ask. No need to get upset with me.”

I realized that sometimes we may not realize how our actions impact others, and worse still, how our words are heard.

She kept saying, all you had to do was ask, as if saying this would make it better. It would make us understand she’d meant no harm.  But we received it as a slap in the face.  We’re dealing with disabilities here. Why should we have to ask to park in spots reserved for us?

It reminded me that even when we all speak the same language, we may not understand each other at all. As I left the lot, I said a prayer for her and thanked God for helping me to restrain myself from saying things I’d regret. I’m glad grace came right on time and realized that it was true what I’d heard: all I had to do was ask.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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