One of my philosophies for living is that a person should try to recognize and be grateful for the many positives that happen every day, instead of focusing on the negatives. I sometimes wake up in a foul mood and have difficulty living this simple philosophy, but every day is a new opportunity to try again.
Today is my birthday. I am fifty-five years old today, and it’s a good day. Every day on the sunny side of the grass is a good day, but today is turning out to be particularly good. The drugs are working, the pain and stiffness are manageable, and my son Andrew and I chatted early this morning, catching up on current events. He’s on a boat about 150 miles northwest of Oahu (he’s supposed to be there – he’s not shipwrecked), and although we can’t talk by voice, he has enough Internet bandwidth to send text messages. He’s an oceanographer (this month – he’s been a graduate student, a communication engineer, and an “attitude determination and control officer” for the International Space Station in the relatively recent past, and he has the mind and heart of an explorer). He makes me proud, but not because of how smart he is or how fearless he is about accepting new challenges. I’m proud of him because he’s a good man, and cares about the people around him (his aging dad included). I’m grateful he’s my son, and chatting with him this morning is a big part of today being a good day.
I chatted with my daughter Rebecca yesterday. She and her husband Chris wished me happy birthday, and she wrote something on Facebook for Fathers Day that I must admit made me tear up a little. She’s a wonderful woman, and not just because she’s my daughter – she would be wonderful regardless. She’s a labor and delivery nurse and she is so good at it not just because she is smart and capable and can start an IV on anyone- she’s good at it because she has a heart bigger than a planet, and genuinely cares about her patients. I’m proud of her, and honored that she’s my daughter. She chooses husbands well, too.
I saw Amy on her way out the door this morning. As she does every morning, she was on her way to her morning run, but she stuck her head into the bedroom as I was working on getting up and wished me happy birthday. She doesn’t hover, and she doesn’t cut me any slack just because I have Parkinson’s disease. Her attitude is instrumental in making sure I don’t feel sorry for myself. She keeps after me about my eating and exercise habits, among other things, but no more than most wives do for their husbands. I sometimes rebel, and we have a momentary conflict over one thing or another (“I don’t need to take a drink after every bite, regardless of what the speech therapist told me. I’m not choking, am I?”), but she generally takes it in stride. She helps me to feel “normal” (whatever that is), even when I don’t want to. We’ve been married for thirty-two years, and I’m grateful she’s my wife.
I’m having dinner tonight with my friend and mother-in-law Jeanette and my friend and father-in-law Gene tonight. They are recently married (fascinating story – read back for details), and they are always supportive and concerned about my well-being. I’m grateful for their presence in my life.
I have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Facebook is no measure of the quality of a person’s social ecosystem, but have been surprised and gratified that I am still in contact with people from almost all the phases of my life up to the point. You enrich my life and help me to remain connected, and I’m grateful to you.
I don’t think I am in denial – no one who deals with a chronic disease like PD, HD, MS, or many others can remain in denial for long. The challenge of living tends to take care of that. There is much more that’s good in my life than bad, though. I’m grateful for that.
I’ve noticed that my blog posts are becoming a bit repetitive. I once wrote that optimism was irritating to me. I don’t have the luxury of an arms-length, jaded, cynical assessment any longer, though. Optimism and a positive outlook are not a choice for me — they are essential weapons in my arsenal for getting through the day. I’m fortunate that those feelings are sincere and authentic in me.
I have PD. I also have a great life, full of meaning, purpose, and people who make all my challenges worthwhile.