Not so long ago, it really would puzzle me when someone would tell me what an inspiration I was. Generally, I would smile, say thanks and think to myself, “You really should strive to find inspiration in something a little higher than me and my Multiple Sclerosis.”
I mean, has anyone ever told you what an inspiration you are? An inspiration not because of your latest accomplishment but because you’re living with MS or some other illness.
Really, like you had a choice in that matter?
It wasn’t as though some great mystic force said, “How about living with a chronic illness for the rest of your life?” and your reply was, “Why, yes. That sounds good like a good plan.” And your inspirational life began.
But it was my amazing husband, Dan, who made me realize people are not inspired by my just having Multiple Sclerosis: it is how I live with the disease that inspires others. My choice to move forward optimistically and with purpose regardless of what the disease dishes out may inspire some. I don’t live hoping to be an inspiration, but what a nice side effect to the decisions I make.
Honestly, there are times when my positive attitude tank gets a little low, too. Fortunately I’ve realized that inspiration can be found all around us. For example, after finishing my graduate degree and unburying my nose from textbooks, I’ve rekindled my relationship with my neglected television and have found some great sources of inspiration.
The Sundance Channel program Push Girls follows the lives of five women who have been paralyzed by either illness or accident. The reality show chronicles the day-to-day challenges and triumphs that Angela, Tiphany, Mia, Auti and Chelsie each encounter. Since my becoming wheelchair dependent, I had never seen such honest, accurate depictions of life with a chair.
These ladies are role models, inspirations and my peer group all at the same time. When Mia or Chelsie used a standing frame, they were strengthening their muscles—not thinking, “Hope this inspires someone.” But it did inspire someone – me. After buying my own used standing frame, I now stand 2 to 3 times a week for 30 minutes at a time. My circulation and breathing has gotten stronger. I feel more powerful and better about my abilities.
Just as the summer season ended for Push Girls, I slipped into Lifetime’s hit fashion show Project Runway another one of my other TV favorites! But never did I expect this program would introduce me to a designer who inspires me in my life with MS.
Justin is a 27-year-old fashion designer who is deaf. He is incredibly talented and lets his work speak for itself. As he has gotten closer to his fellow designers, Justin has taken the opportunity to gradually educate them about his deafness and the deaf culture. His opening up to others about his realities is the same way I aspire to help others understand MS and what it’s like to live with this chronic illness Dan and I share.
This is why he and I advocate, blog, speak and lead a self-help group. In addition to helping to better our lives, these activities also provide opportunities to help others move forward with theirs.
Like all five Push Girls and Justin, I don’t believe any of us are trying to be inspirational. We are just living our lives as best we can—much like so many of you who are inspiring so many others just by the way you live.
Do you ever think you are an inspiration to others? Whether or not you realize it, you are. Every day.