This piece was first published on the MS Ireland, MS and Me blog.
Happiness is not the point, it is not the goal; it is a by-product of a multitude of actions. The daily irritants and toxic effects of life with MS can be turned into something phenomenal.
A pearl is a terrible beauty. When a tiny grain of sand (or other irritant) gets trapped inside the soft flesh of an oyster, irritating, itching or even poisoning the creature, the oyster gets even closer to the irritant. Not because it is a masochist but because there is work to do. Slowly, the oyster coats the sand in nacre, a shiny substance. Over the years, layer upon layer gets added, building the irritant into a beautiful, shimmering pearl. Today I’m going to tell you about my pearl.
What does a good day look like?
I live beside the sea, a long stretch of soft sandy beach that curves around the coast giving the sharp rocks a gentle coating. My nights are short. Well, not so much short as long-and-interrupted as our new addition wakes and looks for cuddles. I’m usually up before 6 a.m, have the compulsory cup of tea, eat breakfast, shower, dress (all accoutrements, food and clothes I’ve left ready the night before) and take a few minutes to read from someone far wiser than I. This piece of prose I hold onto for the day.
It is dark when I leave the house and make my way to the train station towards work. Stepping out into the fresh, cold air and looking up to the stars I am Antaeus. My mind is clear, my body steady and strong- I am grounded. When I’ve prepared, given myself plenty of time to allow for eventualities (nappy change, leg not working, fatigue first thing), the time flows and me with it, a gentle stream of time. My workday is spent doing tasks, engaging with others, sharing laughter and deep conversations, contributing and being useful. Home time is the precious time with my partner, being a good listener, sharing ideas and in the minutes before bedtime I get to read stories of bears, play with colourful toys and show my little girl how joyful life is. This is a good day.
Makings of a Good Day
- Being useful
- Taking time in the morning to be still (sit with a cup of your favourite, meditate, read)
- Eat the right food, take exercise (move whatever you can move)
- Time with the people I like to be with, who give me joy
- Don’t stay in the same space if it isn’t working for me
- Holding on to my standards and values
- What I do today will effect my tomorrow
- Live in the present
Here’s where my (and perhaps yours dear reader) perspective differs from the general public. I think about how my brain has scars but focus on the scans showing very little progression over the years. How my leg has grown stronger the more time I spend in the gym. How what I do today will effect what I can do tomorrow. I do my utmost to research, react and understand my grains of sand. For the last eight years I’ve covered my grains of sand in all the things that go towards making a good day. The mind can make a hell out of heaven and a heaven out of hell. I’ve travelled, read, learned, met new people, spoken with medical professionals, hippies (becoming a hippie), having lots of fun and learn every day that life is what it is.
When I wear pearls (artificial), touching them reminds me that no matter how hellish I feel or how bad I think my day is, it will change. To have a pearl on me is a gentle reminder that despite the grains of sand that buried me when I was diagnosed, I have taken them and turned them into things I can use, to inform and live a good life. To misquote Maya Angelou, I’m a phenomenal woman who daily turns grains of sand into magical pearls. This is a very good day to be alive.
© Emma Rogan 2016