It once again has been a while since I’ve written. Sometimes, it’s because I’m busy (not often, unless you count picking up broken drone parts as “busy”). Sometimes, it’s because I haven’t had any new thoughts for a while (unfortunately, that is more often the case). And occasionally, the reason is that I have to, as we say here in Texas, “let it sit and stew for a spell.” I don’t really say that, but it’s the thinking that counts, and that doesn’t happen as quickly as it once did.
I wrote several years ago, and periodically since then, about my fears for the future. None of the things that I envisioned have come to pass. We are not destitute and living in a refrigerator box under a bridge, although there are those that are, by no fault of their own. I have not bankrupted us through compulsive gambling or uncontrolled spending (I have tried, but there are just not that many new models of drone multirotor aircraft, and little tiny screwdrivers are not that expensive).
I do not have MSA, CBD, or one of the other Parkinson’s Plus syndromes that devastate far too many of us. I did not have a bad experience with DBS surgery; on the contrary, I owe my life and ability to function to the expertise of a very skilled and dedicated neurosurgeon and his team, to an extraordinarily gifted neurologist (and world-class athlete, I recently learned), to one of the best DBS programmers anywhere that I am honored to also call a friend and colleague, and to a host of other healthcare professionals without whom I simply could not live.
I have not dived into a pit of depression, either from the basic effects of the disease or from the reasonable and normal response to incurable illness, although many have (some publicly and heartbreakingly). I have not become isolated and marginalized by PD, and I have not become irrelevant. I can’t and don’t do some of the things I did even after I was diagnosed, but I can still function, and my days are still filled with joy and satisfaction. I’m doing worthwhile volunteer work with great people (they do the work, and I show up and take the credit – it’s a great system, and I wish I’d found it years ago).
I have not lost my friends and family or driven them away, as sometimes occurs in these circumstances. I have the best friends anyone could ever hope for (some of them I have known for over half my life, and some are new, but all are extraordinary). I’m so proud of my children that I talk about them to everyone I meet (and it’s not about what they do, it’s about who they are). They make good choices and are genuinely good people, and I even like THEIR friends (even, and maybe especially, the Aggies, although it’s painful to admit). Although my own parents are gone, my wife Amy’s mother is loving, kind, compassionate, and tough as Texas when she needs to be. It’s easy to see who Amy takes after.
She’s simply a gift from God.
And I had nothing to do with any of it. I don’t deserve any of it. I can’t claim that my blessings are the result of exemplary behavior on my part, any more than I can claim that tragedy only happens to those that deserve it or that someone is always at fault if you just look hard enough. It may be fashionable to do so, but it just ain’t true. All I can be sure of is that we spend too much time picking out who to hate, and pointing fingers at what’s wrong, and not nearly enough time marveling that ANYTHING is right, much less that so much is right.
This isn’t a religious statement (although I’m now inclined to make one, whereas I was not two years ago – maybe I’ll start another blog). It is not a political statement (politics is becoming painful to me, and I suspect those who might be fit to lead us would never make it through the sausage factory in one piece). Nor is it intended to minimize or discount the enormous suffering that exists, just in the little piece of the world that I can see. It’s just an observation that not all choices are of equal value.
Focus and attention determines reality – what you see, and how you respond to it, is mostly a choice. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian author, neurologist, psychiatrist, and survivor of one of the most horrendous events in human history, put it elegantly:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Freedom to choose – either to focus on what’s wrong and be consumed by it, or to raise your eyes a little, focus on what’s right and be elevated by it. The choice seems clear to me, but you’re free to choose, too. As a friend of mine loves to say, “So, how’s that workin’ out for you?” Choose well, and if it’s not working out for you, choose again. We’ll get it right if we just shift our gaze a little.