Thursday, August 18, 2022

52 Years: Receiving the Gift of a Full Deck

For my 52nd birthday, I have officially received what has to be the most collaborative, creative and heartwarming gift I’ve ever received.  

With two jokers and a couple extra cards expressing
my appreciation, there are 56 cards total. 
My sister thought of the gift after reading my blog post, "Playing the Hand I’m Dealt."

One-quarter of my life lived is post MS diagnosis, and I’ve likely been living more than half of my life with MS. I will turn 52 this year, and it tickles me to compare my age to matching the number of cards in a full deck. I’ll consider myself as playing with a full deck and working on adding another deck. I’m wary of the wild cards, but I will play what I’m dealt.

She started the project two months before my birthday by contacting my friends and family to invite participation. She coordinated sending them individual playing cards from a single deck of cards to sign and return. Some cards traveled across town, and others flew thousands of miles to arrive where they originally departed. Each card physically started their journey as common cards; exact copies existed in every other mass-produced deck of cards packaged and sold. Each card returned with unique messages and travels. She gathered them together, returned the full deck of cards to their original packaging as if they hadn’t been disturbed, gift-wrapped the package, and sent them 1,400 miles to my doorstep. 


The gift I opened appeared innocuous. I chuckled and expressed appreciation for the 52 reference, yet I only opened the packaging when prompted. As I emptied the box and studied individual cards, I slowly digested what the gift was and what it took to create. To have so many people from each life chapter of my 52 years share their love and wish me well was overwhelming. Each was a personal message in their handwriting. There were memories of times shared, happy birthday messages, compliments, inspirational quotes, wordplay and artwork incorporating the card number and the number 52. I share so much with each of the people who helped create this gift, yet we experience this world uniquely. The similarity between these altered cards and people is fitting. Separately each person holds unique identities and value; together we embody a collective fabric of kinship and entwined existence.


We converge and emerge from each interaction altered.  We meet as the person we’ve become, influence each other, create new memories, and continually evolve.  This gift symbolizes and commemorates an abundance of relationships, moments and lasting impressions. A combination of giddiness and brimming tears sits with me days after receiving this gift, and I anticipate I’ll treasure this gift and the emotions it stirs the rest of my days.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

I Wish My Body Had a Dimmer Switch to Relax…

It’s too bad our neurological wiring doesn’t include on/off dimmer switches like some of the electrical lights in my home. The central nervous system and myelin degradation caused by Multiple Sclerosis are often compared to electrical wires with the outer coating frayed or damaged. It seems only fitting that we should be able to extend the metaphor and enjoy the ability to increase or decrease the current through our nerves. The fantasy of being able to turn off or dim misfiring electrical signals to my arms and legs when spasticity is acting up is enticing. 

It’s challenging to relax when my limbs ache and the compulsion to move them won’t subside. Being uncomfortable has become the norm. It’s occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I felt completely relaxed, and the goal of complete physical relaxation hasn’t been on my radar for a long time. 


I’ve felt happy, fulfilled, accomplished, and satisfied, but I have not felt fully relaxed in years. If I’m mentally calm and at peace, my body is still sending erratic and unnecessary signals. I see that my goals for relaxation focus extensively on maximizing my mental well-being while only hoping to manage and minimize the tension and agitation my limbs experience. 


Both physical and mental health contribute to my experience in any moment, yet I notice I expect my mental health skills to compensate for the stress my physical body endures. Medication, stretching, hydration, supplements, nutrition and movement help, but they don’t eradicate the physical pain. I’ve given up on believing they can eliminate symptoms, and I am satisfied that they reduce them.  


Perspective and mental wellness efforts shoulder the bulk of my expectations for coping with what can’t be eliminated.  It may not be reasonable or even possible to outthink or override the physical consequences of MS, yet I keep trying.   


Through yoga, meditation and mental body scans, I have had instances of noticing misfires in my nerves and been able to think of them as curious and interesting instead of frustrating and scary. These momentary experiences show me how mental relaxation doesn’t override physical tension, but it does help me cope with it. 


I learned how to do body scans from a yoga teacher, but there are lots of websites, videos and audio recordings that can walk a person through a body scan.  Search online with the term, “3-minute body scan” to find lots of options to try.  There are longer ones that may be better for relaxing, but I’m a bit impatient. 


Perhaps a relaxed mind is the figurative dimmer switch after all.