It is not only teenagers who think they are indestructible. Men and woman approaching middle-age who pride themselves on getting carded at the grocery store, who experience the self-righteous satisfaction that comes after a hard work-out, or believe they are somehow ‘better than’ because the high-school jeans still fit can also fall prey to this indestructible façade. Perhaps this pride is human nature, but it is also a thin veneer when faced with the stuff of life beyond our control.
This was me before I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years ago. For a woman in her mid-40s who had always kept herself in good shape, exercised regularly, ate all the right stuff, and never had any major health problems this news came as more than a shock. I knew people with MS, and while a part of me empathized with their jerky movements, slurred speech, and need for assistance, another part found them pathetic. “I’ll never have to deal with that!” I told myself as I stretched my well-toned legs and munched on my red cabbage. So when the neurologist pointed out the sclerosis flairs on my MRI, I saw the look of surprise on my husband’s face and can only imagine the look of dread that must have been on my own.
After the initial shock sank in and the info shared with close friends, colleagues, and family, I allowed myself an afternoon of self-pity. I didn’t enjoy it much except for one thing: I decided right then not to use my MS as an excuse, a crutch, or an attention-getter. Instead, I would view it as the gift it could be. That’s right, a gift. Because I believe that the universe gives us exactly what we need exactly when we need it for exactly the right reasons. The problems come when we deny this whole universe thing, rail against it, raise our fists to the sky and wail the most ineffectual question of all time- why me?
Why not me? I asked myself one morning as I pulled sweatpants over my tingling legs and visualized a jogging route I hadn’t been able to finish in months. MS be damned! I’m gonna make it over Witham Hill! Corvallis, Oregon usually isn’t as cold and icy as it was this particular morning. And while slipping up this certain section of town didn’t prove to be too challenging, looking back down a long, steep, slick sidewalk with my legs doing their gumby impression nearly broke the universe-spirit I had nurtured so carefully. But instead of looking way down to the end of this slippery slope, I looked directly in front of me. There was a dry patch, no ice at all. I stepped forward. There was another spot that fit my foot perfectly, and another, and another, and another, all the way to the bottom of the hill. I believe the universe gave me exactly what I needed right then, right there. It has continued to do so, and always will. Maybe I am indestructible after all.