Keep Doing What You’re Doing is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help me adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth.
The artistry of words inspires me greatly. The ability to express ideas and emotions critically with nuance and creativity moves me to feel deeply. Add rhythm and melody to the poetry of song lyrics, and it becomes something I can use for managing my wellbeing.
Music is especially useful for coping with any challenge, because it has the ability to replace the thoughts going through my head. If I can recognize when looping thoughts are taking over my mind and mood, I can change my attitude and outlook with music.
Artistry that speaks to me changes given where I am in my life and what I’m experiencing. It may feel completely where I’m at and validate me, and it may give hope for where I want to be.
A soft crooning love song can bring tears of sadness for my losses and tears of gratitude for all I still have. It can be a salve of melancholy for what is slipping away or a provoking plea for getting my needs met.
When I’m angry or frustrated, a nasally punk rock vent can feel liberating. Singing about unfairness or injustice can help me get mad and motivated enough to literally get up and keep going.
I want music that helps me feel strong. I want lyrics that acknowledge hardships yet tell my truth: I can be a victim, but I don’t have to be powerless over my circumstances and future. I want songs I can sing along with loudly that recognize I’m taking a hit but still deserve to live well and feel worthy. I want songs that induce power within me to know I will keep finding ways to keep going and like my life.
None of the songs that resonate with me are about living with Multiple Sclerosis or another illness, but it’s easy to substitute my body’s condition for whatever it is causing grief in a song.
Each person’s songs will be different for them. Our musical preferences, age, point in life and the condition we’re in will shape how we take in a song. I’m sharing a few of my songs just to show how they help me. I strongly encourage people to create their own go-to playlists. I have different sets of songs for different purposes. So far, I’ve created playlists titled Love, Dance, Jogging, Kick Butt, Yoga, Happy Songs and even one for Breaking Up & Moving On.
The first song that I associated with my chronic condition of living with MS was Pink’s “So What.” It was released in August 2008, a short time after I was diagnosed with MS. It gave me hope when I felt really crummy. I still love it for feeling mad, strong and rebellious. MS, you’re a jerk, but I’m a metaphorical rock star. While you let me fall and I’m having a hard time right now, I’m going to show you. You’ve knocked me down, but I’m getting up and I will thrive again.
“My Body” by Young the Giant feels so close to my experience when my body is frustrating me and I want to feel strong. I remember it playing while I learned to trapeze. In that moment, I was defying my body’s tendency to restrict activities, and I was actually flying from a trapeze bar to a catcher! I still can sing along to the song at times and have it apply perfectly to how I feel:
My body tells me no! But I won't quit 'Cuz I want more, 'cuz I want more
When I need a song to express how I accept the contradictions of life and rejoice in them to shape my life, I turn to REM’s “I Believe.” A scattered train of thought, clever in transition and hugely meaningful, it expresses for me the challenges of living in a messy world with a messy health condition but believing in good things and a better future.
“Born to Run” by American Authors expresses my eagerness to take all I can from where I am in each moment. It’s greedy and empowering with a positive vibe. I may lose the ability to physically run someday, and I’m going to do all I can while I still can.
I could list songs for days, but I’ll wrap up with an oldie from my childhood that I’ve loved always: “Anticipation” by Carly Simon. No matter what my life holds right now, I want to enjoy it. We are always living amidst what will become “the good old days.”