usefulness

“The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I returned to yoga after missing the past two weeks for holidays.  After practice — which was surprisingly fulfilling despite how stiff and weak I felt going in – my teacher read the above quote.  At first I was taken aback by the idea that life’s purpose was not happiness, but rather usefulness.  I’d never heard the quote before and thought how much about Emerson I did not know.

But once the quote was completed, I was struck by the power of its message.  And then I pondered on the idea that if one found a great purpose in life, and pursued that purpose with honor, integrity and passion — an immediate by-product of that must inevitably be happiness.  So wouldn’t it of course be more fulfilling to all of us to have reason and purpose first and just have faith and trust that pursuing that purpose would not only “make some difference that you have lived” but bring happiness and the contentment that you have “lived well.”

thanksgiving

Over a month ago, I spent some time at a great retreat in Austin Texas.  Along with teaching me that (basically) I don’t eat the way I should at all, the retreat also focused on mental and spiritual health.  And I found those sessions and that information so incredibly enriching.

To save this blog from being REALLY long, let me just say that OHI really focused on the power of gratitude.  And having just completed a seven day gratitude ‘challenge’ on Facebook prior to arriving, I was completely on that bandwagon.  Thinking about the things we are grateful for on a daily basis — and articulating those things –is incredibly uplifting and powerful.

So in honor of the things I enumerated on Facebook back in September — here’s a re-posting.  Wishing everyone a beautiful Thanksgiving surrounded by those you love.

Sept 20, 2014

Nominated by my wonderful friend Angie — — thank you for thinking of me!  Three things I am grateful for today (and then the following six!)

1 — Most obviously I am grateful for my husband.  He got more than he  bargained for when he married me but his is my strength, my laughter and my best friend.

2 — I am grateful for my Lucy.  To have an animal look at you with the love that fills her big brown eyes — takes your breath away.  It is truly a gift….

3-  I am grateful for my family.  The last two years of MS and cancer (not both me!) have shown the true strength and integrity of my parents, my wonderful second mother (my mum’s twin) and my insanely amazing brother.

When you’ve had the journey I’ve had recently — you definitely see with crystal clarity the things for which you are grateful.  Thanks for the nom Ange!

September 21, 2014

1 — I am grateful for ceiling fans.  They just make everything better — especially sleep!

2 — I am grateful for football.  I just love it, and I’m not going to use this as a place for anything other than positive stuff right now. (Editorial note: Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson were dominating NFL news at the time).  I have been so lucky to have so many great memories throughout my life that have to do with football — PSU, Steelers, PR Rams & Fedko, Womissing Saturday day games & away games on Friday nights — the Flemington Falcons — football has always been a big part of my life.  And Sunday is the best day for a shout out.

3– I am grateful for Starbucks.  And on that subject, I am grateful for Ted — for introducing me to the soy chai latte in college — it has been my drink for over 10 years & I love it.  I am grateful to all my baristas who know me, my hubs, my drinks and my football teams.  They always brighten my day.  I love Starbucks.

September 22, 2014

Day Tre —

I am grateful for —

1 — All the failed relationships and friendships I have had to this point in my life.  Those failures taught me about myself, my strengths and weaknesses and the kinds of people I know to be true friends and in the case of my husband, my partner.

2 — On that subject, here’s to ALL the mistakes I have learned from throughout the years — as my dad once said, if there was hard way in which to learn something, I found it.  Maybe I just liked knowing how everything worked from the inside out — needless to say, those mistakes have helped me figure myself out, and I’m grateful for that.

3 — I am grateful for Aman and Les, the guys who work the floor I park on in my garage.  They make every day better with their smiles, the knowledge that my car is safe and protected and the friendly way in which they handle even the most stressful of parking garage situations.  Five years in, and i couldn’t imagine parking anywhere else.  No matter how bad my day might have been — they are there, smiling, asking about Lucy & John and just generally being good humans.

September 23, 2014

Fourth Day of Gratefulness — the Work Edition

1 — I am grateful for my boss.  He took a chance on me and believed in me and supported me & what I was doing when other people might have been telling him that it was crazy to give me the responsibility he gave me.  And when my whole world changed he gave me flexibility to pursue my health, the time to do it, and many other resources on which a price can never be put.

2 — I am grateful for my co-workers, and especially my two ‘partners.’  It is a great feeling to get to work in an industry you love, with people who are fun to be around — honest, decent people who care as much as you do about the success of what is being done.  People you survived the trenches with — who have your back and you have theirs.

3 — I am grateful for my Aunt & Uncle — it was through them I learned about the art of hospitality, the love of food and the great industry that I have found a home in.  Sitting beside an indoor pool at one of my uncle’s hotels in the UK at the tender age of 8 or 9, he told me with a laugh that I had rich taste (as I sat noshing on delectably buttery smoked salmon & caviar) and should marry a rich man.  Well, Uncle T, I did you one better.  I’m doin’ it myself — and I learned my fundamentals from you.

September 24, 2014

Cinco!

I am grateful —

1 — for the small moments in life — being half awake in the grayness of the morning and hearing my puppy’s snuffles and cuddling up with my hubs … the cool autumn breeze blowing leaves in the late afternoon sunlight … the woman in the elevator who likes my dress … the crackling of a good fire pit … things that create the depth of life.

2 — for my time in Wyomissing.  We moved so much throughout my youth, that I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.  But just being at Wyo for 2 years has impacted my life in such a positive way, even sixteen years later.  I’m grateful so much for that.  Makes me feel like I did actually come from somewhere.

3 — for contact lenses.  I can’t imagine what it must have feel like for people with vision like mine prior to glasses, but contacts were a huge improvement for me.  Maybe lasik one day ….

September 25, 2014

Grateful Day #6

1 — I am grateful for diversity.  Yeah, sometimes people who are vastly different from ourselves can prove to be infuriating.  But minus the idiots from Philly (editorial note: this was written at the time when some real geniuses thought it would be fun to beat up a gay couple … basically in center city) and others who commit just unspeakable crimes — doesn’t being different add to the spice of life?  Doesn’t it sometimes help us see things from an entirely new viewpoint? I like to think so.

2 — I am grateful for my faith.  It’s mine, and it’s personal and when things feel dark and when things feel light, I always feel as though there is a reassuring hand on my shoulder keeping me steady.

3 — I am sincerely grateful for sleep.  I know it’s a necessity of life — but I relish it.  I love slipping into cool clean sheets and snuggling under soft blankets, close to the ones I love. It’s a haven of peacefulness that comes every night, and I am supremely grateful for that.

September 26, 2014

I want to preface this by saying thank you to Angie again, because sometimes, the things we are grateful for become the things we take for granted.  And this exercise has reminded me that even in the tough times, life is a phenomenal adventure filled to the brim with wonder.

On this final day of FB status updates, I am grateful for …

1 — Yoga.  It has helped me climb from a place of physical desperation to a place of acceptance. Maybe I’ll never teach yoga, or be anything close to physically proficient.  But it has reminded me, through this new part of my journey, that even though some things have been taken away — and I often mourn those things more than I should — some things have not.

2 — Humility and self-awareness.  I am a perfectly imperfect human being.  I’ve made a load of mistakes, I’ve inadvertently (and not-so-inadvertently) hurt people.  But I’d also like to believe I’ve lifted some people up, passed along the gifts that have been given to me throughout my life.  I’ve learned that being humble is a vastly preferable alternative to being bombastically egocentric.  Both personally, and in those I spend my time with.

3 — Passion.  I spent the early years of my life pursing a passion, and I may not have found a career in it, but nothing will ever lift up my soul quite the way belting out a good song does.  Transcendent, if I’m being passionate about it.

 

returning

This morning, I returned to the mat for the first time in months.

It felt amazing.  And scary.

Things have changed so much in a year.  I’ve had to learn a lot about living with the limitations that now exist for me.  And the mental stuff that goes along with it.

I sometimes think that people think  they understand what I deal with on a daily basis.  And I appreciate the love and support.  I do.  But the truth is, no one, not even another person with MS, can totally understand my daily struggles.  As I talked through some things with my yoga instructor (my favorite, of past blog posts) I laughed.  A lot.

It sounds ridiculous to say some of the things I say when it comes to my symptoms.  It’s just … well, funny.  And what I also realized was that so many of these quirky things have become normal to me.  It’s just how things are.

Which I guess is progress.  Even though it doesn’t feel that way when things that used to come easily (oh, I don’t know, walking for example) are now a challenge.  Something I’m acutely aware of throughout the day.  Things that change how I make decisions.  How many blocks is it, how many things do I have to carry … how much time do I have/need?

What was wonderful about today’s return to yoga was feeling as though I was making a decision to nurture myself a little.  Work has been brutal and looks to remain brutal for the foreseeable future.  Which means I have to figure out a way to keep work from crippling me (literally ~ because stress is what makes me worse).  Choosing yoga and taking a short day is a step (albeit tiny) in the right direction.

Baby steps, right?

revelations

Once a year, the hubs heads down to Washington D.C. for a week as part of a study through NIH.  I used to dread those weeks ~ so many days alone in my apartment, spooked by every noise, barely able to sleep through the night … Ugh.  Shivers.

I still don’t like being away from him, especially for long periods of time (I weirdly don’t enjoy talking on the phone, which is a necessary part of being apart).  But on Monday, as I prepared dinner for Lucy, and then dinner for myself, I realized that it was the first day since I’d broken my foot and had terrible MS flares that I’d been entirely on my own.  No one to do the ‘tough’ stuff, no one to pick up the slack, no one to baby me or take care of me.  I was completely alone.

And it felt wonderful.

Strange, right?  I feel as though, in turn, I should have felt guilty at the small joy of my solitude, but instead I felt … comfort?  Knowing that as I adjust to my new ‘normals’ of legs and arms and speed and vision, I could do it on my own.  And I was okay.  No husband, no parent, no kindly neighbor baby-sitting me.  Just me, and my furry friend Lucy.

We had a good day, too.  Work was uneventful (a small miracle, or karmic balance for yesterday …  I’m not sure), we went on a walk, and then we settled in to enjoy dinner, some TV and finally, bed.

For our walk, Lucy and I headed to the trails I used to train on for my long runs.  We used to visit them most mornings, and run them from end to end.  I hadn’t been in quite some time, so it was nostalgic and also a little sad.  She was overjoyed, her nose full of so many fall smells that she zig-zagged across the trail, unsure which sniff was superior.  Her tail wagged, and her mouth hung open in a huge doggy smile.  My heart swelled for that, just knowing that this creature, whose care (this week) is solely entrusted to me, was happy.  She’s a funny thing, smart as a whip and so intuitive, and yet bursting with energy from every cell of her body.  We walked a mile ~ a long, tough mile, especially at the end ~ and I tried to remind myself that when I began to run (ahem, jog) I began at a mile, and worked my way up.  I don’t know how this whole MS thing works, but I’m hoping that with practice, a mile won’t be so tough anymore.  I focused on that, instead of the irony of the entire situation.  Learning to walk again, instead of beginning a fitness routine.

I have to admit, this week got off to a bumpy start.  The man & I journeyed to his cousins’ annual Halloween party.  We put together last-minute costumes (purchased exclusively from Lowe’s  ~ now that’s creativity!) because our original idea did not come together well at.all. And then, despite the ratio of one water bottle for each glass of wine, I did not calculate for the jello shots (which kicked my butt).  By the time I curled up in bed on Sunday night (after a great afternoon with my parents watching the Steelers … well, best to forget about that part) I was ready to sleep for days without waking.

However – and this goes to show how far I’ve come regarding being home alone – I still got up Monday morning, made a smoothie for breakfast and got myself to work at a reasonable hour.  It’s small things like that that help keep life in perspective, that help me stay positive and believe in myself.  It was rewarding to get home that night, and instead of feeling adrift and painfully alone, I felt proud of myself.

Last night, feeling a little puffed up and proud of how I’d been handling my week alone, I decided to venture to yoga.  It ended up being a great idea, as work was a bit of a beast.  Rather than heading home and drowning my frustrations in a glass of wine (which would have been delicious, but unneeded) I sweat it out on the mat.  Minda met me there, her own baggage checked at the door, and we both worked our way through class.  For me, it was less frustrating than class a few weeks ago, because I had a better understanding of what would challenge me, and where I would find relief.  I also tried very hard to focus solely on my own practice, so while I know our teacher used themes of Halloween ~ dressing up as someone else, and fear ~ I didn’t dive into those thoughts the way I normally do.  I focused on my breath, and my hands, and my legs, and my movement ~ how the stretches felt now, versus how it used to feel, and how I could use certain clues to know how my body was feeling.

I thought about how Minda and I both came to the mat from situations of angst ~ but how different it manifested for me in contrast to her.   She gave birth to her second child in June, and has been adjusting to  life as a mother of two plus a full-time high school teacher at the same time I’ve been struggling through crutches and crazy MS symptoms.  Funny how life works, right?  Both emotional roller coasters on the best of days, and yet so fundamentally different in their challenges.

I’m glad I took the time to figure out my schedule and Lucy’s to make it to class last night.  I think it was a healthy release for the stress that is weighing down my shoulders, and also a nice, albeit brief, catch up with my friend, whose life is winding down such a different path than mine.  Moments like that are precious, and I think I understand and appreciate that more as I get older.  Everyone makes choices based on their own personal circumstances, wants, desires and lives move in different directions based on those choices.  It’s sort of an interesting thing to contemplate, and to me, is what makes life so beautiful.

Today marks the halfway point of my girls’ week with Lucy.  And I’m okay with that.  I’ve enjoyed my quiet evenings and my early bedtimes, but I miss my husband and am looking forward to having him home.  Lucy is, too.  (He’s her favorite!)

 

past times

Two days ago I went to my first yoga class in over four months. It was uplifting, challenging, frustrating … difficult!  But when it was all done, and my legs had finished shaking, the core feeling I had was relief.  I had been toying with the idea of returning to class for a few weeks but when I got right down to it, fear was holding me back.  I’ve never been a star athlete -and that’s okay! – but I’ve also never had this little strength or control over my body.  When yoga was difficult in the past I  muscled through (just hold on through the breath ~ nothing lasts forever).  That’s not an option anymore.  I lost a lot of strength during the healing of my broken foot, and I lost a lot of feeling, control and balance during my last MS flare.  Stepping back into the studio, I wasn’t sure where I would hit the most challenges.  At the beginning, it was just sitting.  My right ankle was so stiff I couldn’t comfortably sit.  But as class progressed, the things I was worried about ended up being okay, and things I didn’t even think about -ahem, lunges – basically (and almost literally) brought me to my knees.

In the end, it was a relief to physically get through class without having to step out and it was mentally and emotionally a relief to get back to a part of my life that had ceased to exist for over a third of a year.  Slowly but surely, the man and I have been finding a rhythm again ~ getting back to life and the basics.  It feels sort of amazing.
Last night, we decided to do something that we have been wanting to do since our honeymoon.  One of the masterclasses we attended in Aspen was with Andrew Zimmern, who did a whole demonstration on making noodles.  It was fascinating to watch how easily he did it, and we happened to be sitting beside Carla Hall, who was given the finished dish to enjoy.  She graciously shared it with those seated around her … and it was the.best.peanut.sauce.ever.  Seriously.  Incredible.

I have to say, one of my favorite things is cooking with my husband.  Last night was a fun adventure, as neither of us had made a peanut sauce before, we knew we wanted it to taste like the dish we’d had in Aspen … and we had no idea how to achieve that.

The man found a basic recipe online (unfortunately, the recipe for the sauce that Mr. Zimmern made was not one of the included recipes in the Aspen Classic magazine).  We picked up the missing pieces from the grocery store, and went about creating a dish.

The man decanted a nice bottle of vino ~ a staff pick from our local Wine & Spirits store.  It was very bright, and enjoyable.

The man had an idea in his head of what he wanted the dish to be like. He cooked up some bacon and had me chop up some cilantro.  We snuggled up with our wine, and two bowls of fettuccine topped with delicious sauce, bacon & cilantro.  It was a good night.

 

the tortoise

Last Friday, I took a hot vinyasa class, and a lot of what the instructor said has stayed with me … especially this week as I began exploring  a new style of yoga that focuses much more exclusively on the physical aspects of practice.

The instructor – a very knowledgeable man – told us, as we held triangle pose for what felt like eternity, that so often we all focus on getting ‘there’ ~ as though ‘there’ was a place.  He emphasized that there is no ‘there’ ~ there’s only ‘here’ and if we push ourselves to take big strides our progress is often stalled or impeded … rather, one should focus on small improvements and adjustments.  Sort of like the tortoise and the hare ~ slow and steady wins the race.

I held on to that idea this morning.  My body was sore, and I felt overly exhausted (I’m learning this is pretty standard when I shake up my routine and try to incorporate something new).  But I got myself up and made it to class.  And once I was on my mat, in the heat of the studio, I reminded myself that my goal for this morning was to improve on my performance from yesterday’s class.  Which, much to my surprise and delight, I did.  Despite my fatigue and muscle sore-ness.

Hugely satisfying.  I knew I liked tortoises (and turtles!) for a reason.  We are of a like mind.

ups and downs

Sometimes I drink so much water during the day I feel as though I could float away.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise yesterday, when I embarked on my latest personal challenge.

Last fall, out of what felt like nowhere, the yoga studio I had been attending closed it’s doors..  I was dealing with the diagnosis process of MS, things with my mum and the ramp up into the holidays (our party, my birthday, the restaurant) so I didn’t go out of my way to find a new studio.  I’d practiced intermittently for years and even then was only prioritizing one class a week.

When I finally got back to class ~ after all the seriousness of January and chaos of February~ I’d found my old teacher, but I wasn’t completely in love with the studio.  And I also knew that my practice wasn’t going to progress going to class once a week.   I knew that I had to figure out what I wanted to accomplish, and make the choices necessary to get there. I knew I could, because I’d done it before.

Last year, I decided I wanted to run Broad Street.  And I did it.  I wasn’t able to do the half marathon in the fall (too many physical issues … which makes me feel like an old lady if I think too much about it!) but I will do it one day.  If ever the passion to run comes back.

So, after some discussions with the man (who is beginning his own journey this evening and I’m SO excited for him!) I chose a studio about five minutes from our abode, and am on day two of my 30 day unlimited class pass.  My goal is to go once a day (other that this Saturday and Sunday because I’m getting my hair done, and it needs 48 hours of no sweating ~ keratin is high maintenance but oh.so.worth.it.) I feel as though being dedicated will help my practice progress as well as help me stay strong and flexible even as my body does funny, weird and inexplicable things.

I decided last night, that since I was getting all kinds of crazy, I would try hot yoga. Aka Bikram.

Wow! Bikram is a whole new world.  After class last night, I was commended for what a great job I did, and for not getting sick.  Literally ~ the instructor actually told me as I was hobbling out of the studio that multiple people stopped to say how they were impressed with the new girl for not getting sick and making it all the way through class.  A huge compliment, but also, to me, hilarious.  By the end of class, I was giving myself an internal pep talk  … you can do this, hang in there, you can do this, breathe through it.  

When I first walked in the room, I was immediately shocked by the temperature.  I had never been in a studio that hot, and I realized there is a huge difference between hot vinyasa, and traditional hot yoga.  It’s a totally different atmosphere. It’s also interesting how the focus is different ~ the moves are done in a specific order, there’s no meditation or introspective thoughts ~ it’s breath, balance, heat and a lot of sweat.  All that water I mentioned above?  I sweated it all out!

This morning was an express class ~ in usual hot yoga or Bikram classes, each move is done twice, for a minute on each side, and then again for thirty seconds each.  Class lasts approximately ninety minutes.  It’s looong (or at least, it feels that way).  The express class does each move once, and I’m not sure if it’s because I had just done a class the night before, or if my body was just exhausted from Lucy and my morning walk.  Either way, this morning was rough.

Which only motivates me more to go to class every single day until I can make it through and hold the poses.  It’s always scary — for me at least — to try something new.  But I’ve been proud of myself for going outside my comfort zone and being proactive.  It’s easy to talk about the things I want to do or accomplish ~ it’s much cooler when I actually do it.

sincere effort

So, I’m sitting here and I’m trying so hard to compose something about sincere effort ~ because I loved the idea during class tonight, and I think it really pushes you to be brutally honest with yourself.  It’s super easy to think you’re always sincere in your effort ~ in your actions.  Buuuuut … when you get right down to it, there are times when we all phone it in; when we go through the motions.

The past few days have been really tough for me.  All the really “fun” side effects of my new meds (which I’d sincerely hoped wouldn’t exist for me ) have reared their ugly heads, and even going through the motions has posed a challenge.

So having a moment to focus on my actions, and the motivations behind them was really helpful tonight.  I’ve been frustrated and angry by what I’ve felt is my body failing me.  My mind failing me.  Taking a step back and re-committing to positive thinking and sincerity in what I do was more necessary than I realized.

Even though MS teaches me something every day … about what I’m capable of, what I’ve taken for granted in the past, the daily lessons of patience & tolerance ~ there’s so much more to my life than MS.  There are a crazy amount of exciting and challenging things happening (not to mention the man and my wedding!) that it is easy to get distracted, run down and jaded.

And in the past few days, as I’ve fought my frustrations and set backs, I’ve lost track of myself and my commitment to being strong and upbeat; meeting the ‘road bumps’ of MS head on.  I’m tired tonight, and my body is exhausted.  I want to be able to write coherently about how comforting tonight’s class was ~ how much lighter I felt afterwards, thinking of class’s meditation.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t be putting sincere effort into this post.  And even though I’m going to hit publish at the end of my rambles, please do as I say, and not as I do.

When I do put my full effort into something, I feel much more fulfilled at the end of my day ~ as though I spent my time in a worthwhile way.  And I’m writing this post so I can remember today’s lesson in sincere effort.  Even when I’m doing a little bit of ‘phoning in.’

a little thought

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
― Pema Chödrön (** bold is my choice ~ I love the image of leaning in)

 

Just a little share today ~ Marissa (my amazing yoga teacher) read two quotes from Pema during class yesterday and they really stuck with me.  Unfortunately, my copy of the book won’t arrive for a few days, so I chose the quote above to share.  I will say that researching Ms. Chodron made me aware of how wise her words are.  I’m looking forward to further exploring her ideas when my copy of “The Pocket Pema Chodron” arrives.

Until then, here it is again ~ the idea of the strength of language.

I like it.

joy

For the first time in I-don’t-even-want-to-admit how long, I found myself on my mat tonight.  I’d been meaning to get back into my Tuesday yoga ritual since January, but I hit a few road bumps.  And yes, I realize that most road bumps are navigable, it all just depends on one’s determination ~ but I’m going to use the excuse anyway.

I’ve taken my fair share of yoga classes, and as I may have mentioned, I found a teacher at my old studio who just made sense to me.  I rarely, if ever, missed her class.  Unfortunately, the yoga studio closed at the beginning of December and for a while, my teacher didn’t have a regular class.  But now, not only does she have one, but I’ve finally gotten my booty in order to attend.

It was blissful.  I mean that ~ even though my body feels like jelly right now, and I had a sad moment of truth about ten minutes into class when I knew that I might not be completely out of shape, but I’m completely out of yoga shape.

Appropriately (and timely) enough, meditation was about joy.  The opening quote was from August Strindberg (ah, flash backs to college Drama Lit classes, and “Miss Julie”) …

People are constantly clamoring for the joy of life.  As for me, I find the joy of life in the hard and cruel battle of life – to learn something is a joy to me. 

Let me tell you, there are many ways to find meaning in that quote.  As class began, our teacher reminded us that often, we get bogged down in life, and we forget to find the joy.  We instead focus on the endless repetitive parts of our day that wear on us.  Instead, we should make an effort to find the joy.  Find the joy in class, find the joy in folding socks, etc.   At one point, another quote included the phrase “cause-less joy” which for me was the essence of what she was saying. Find the joy, feel the joy, for no reason other than joy.

As I struggled through class, I could think of a lot of things not to be joyful about.  My shaking legs, my inability to do basic things that back in the fall felt like second nature, my frustration at my numb legs and feet …. The list could go on.  And then I re-focused on what I could be joyful about.  And there were just as many — if not more.  I was joyful to be on the mat again, even if things were challenging.  I was joyful to have the ability to still be active, even after losing feeling in my lower limbs in late December.  I felt joyful that I wasn’t allowing MS to define me, I was defining myself.  I was joyful to be back in my teacher’s class, and to be inspired by her thoughts and guidance.  I felt joyful that I’d made the effort to be there, even though new situations usually terrify me and leave me paralyzed in inaction.  I’ve grown up a lot over the past few years ~ part of it is adult-hood, part of it is John, and a lot of it is me finding my balance and creating my own stability and support system.  I was tremendously joyful about that … in fact, I still am.

And even now, snuggled on the couch with my man and my Lucy, I can feel joy.  And I can’t quite define it, or qualify it.  It’s just there.  And that’s pretty cool.