Friday, May 29, 2009

The Friendship Journey

"A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I recently joined Facebook and began getting friend requests. My Facebook "friends" consist mostly of former co-workers I haven't spoken with for a while (and I guess we still aren't), and a couple of people I've known for years. Being added as a Facebook friend may be a flattering way to up your social status, but true friends are of course much better, and much rarer.

My two oldest and dearest friends live out of state, so I haven't seen them in ages. But the bonds are still there - we cherish all the memories we share and still feel the connections we have, even across the miles.

I've lost touch with most of my school friends over the years. It's sad how some friendships don't survive. The nature of friendships is always changing, though. The real friendships endure, through the good times and bad. As the journey of our friendship continues, the passage of time and our memories converge.

One minute, you're meeting for the first time as little girls on your friend's front porch. Fast forward almost thirty years and you're grown women saying goodbye at the airport, still mourning the tragic loss of her younger brother.

Friendship has evolved with the help of the Internet. These days my "best friend" is now my "BFF" and with a click of a mouse we can add Facebook "friends". We can update each other on Twitter and have online get-togethers - social networking via the computer keyboard allowing everyone to share in the goings on and LOL. And we can find old friends and acquaintances right on our computer screen.

Still, the friends who mean the most to us and the time we spend with them in the real world are what truly matters. A hundred Facebook friends cannot take the place of the one true friend you've known for almost your whole life, the one who knows you best and is always there for you.

It is our duty to make sure we never lose contact with our true friends. Even if we aren't always on the same path, we started a journey together that may have seen some rough spots along the way, but has always been filled with love and understanding, and the desire to continue on.

Some friendships come and go, but for some the journey will last a lifetime.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No Cure for the Summertime Blues? What's that?

Memorial Day weekend has come, and that means summer is about to begin. Summer can be a troublesome time of year for me, due to the fact that the heat worsens MS fatigue. But the season brings to mind fond summer memories and also holds many joys.

Growing up, summer vacations were always the best because they meant no school for three whole months! Just lots of hanging out with friends, going for bike rides or to the beach. I can remember trips to the zoo and Sea World with my family and amusement parks with my friends. Lots of good times.

My summer schedule isn't as packed with activities these days, and while I dread the sometimes sweltering heat, around this time I find myself eager for summer's simple pleasures - the Fourth of July fireworks lighting up the sky, cookouts, popsicles, going barefoot outside, planting flowers, squirting friends and siblings with the garden hose.

I remember when I was a kid, the bees seemed to have it in for me. I got stung a few times. But after the stinger was removed, I ran back out to play. A summer day is not to be wasted after all. Even now I find I can't hide indoors for the whole day - the summer beckons me outside. I stay out as long as I can until the heat sends me melting back inside to the comfort of air conditioning.

I'll always love summer, even though there are bees (I haven't been stung since childhood) and even though I was diagnosed with MS in the summer. There are some things you just can't allow to be ruined completely.

And what's not to love about summer? A time of year that takes you back to the fun of being a kid, with its swimming pools, ice cream stands and roller coaster rides, or maybe lets you lie in a hammock and daydream for a while?

And thank goodness for air conditioning!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Creating Your Perfect Retreat

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. The countless demands of a job, the endless emails and text messages, the invasions of privacy and infringements on what is supposed to be your free time.

Sometimes we need a sanctuary, a retreat from all the pressures and problems we face each day. An everyday place we can escape to and forget about everything, at least for a while.

To maximize our retreat, the first and foremost rule is to turn off the cell phone. Voice mail was invented for a reason. In fact, turning off all the electronic intruders is a good idea. Shut off the computer and give yourself a break from the Twittering and all that. Also:

Keep it simple.

Your retreat could be anywhere, but home is the best one of all, I think. Just turn off the computer and phone and make yourself a quiet, uninterrupted evening curling up with a good book or working on a hobby.

You could go to a luxury spa, or you could go the more simple (and less expensive) route and retreat to your bathtub, just lying back in the warm water, perhaps listening to some relaxing music and surrounded by aromatherapy candles. (The soaking in a warm tub part not being an option for us MS fatigue folks, unfortunately. Oh, how I miss that.)

Find an empty spot.

If you're at home, send the family to a movie or dinner out so you have the whole place to yourself. If you're in a public place like a park or library, try to get the spot that's the most isolated and quiet.

Sometimes you can find the most perfect spot, to contemplate, to daydream.

Choose different locations.

Of course you can have more than one retreat. Mine include my backyard, where I like to sit under the big tree behind my house, my car, when I go for a drive with no particular destination listening to my music and singing along (not well, but I try), and of course any quiet spot I can find at the park, where I can be surrounded by nature.

Some of the most ordinary places can offer us such great relief from a world that can be so demanding.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Remembering my Mother

With this Sunday being Mother's Day, I decided to remember my Mom today. She's been gone for almost ten years, and I really do miss her.

I've realized more and more over the last few years how she really held our family together. I feel like without her, our family has fallen apart, and I don't have the magic touch she had to bring everyone together.

I am very proud of my Mom. She was a struggling single parent who worked hard to become a nurse. She had a great career; she specialized in home health care the last few years of her life. I met some of her patients and could see how much they loved and respected her. She was an awesome nurse, and I can honestly say she was an awesome Mom.

Though we had our differences, as all mothers and daughters do, we were very close. We saw each other through some tough times during our journey together. We shared a bond that couldn't be broken, and I always knew that I was loved.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Wherever you are.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Finding the Right Path

Lately I've been feeling a little lost, like maybe I took a wrong turn somewhere. Things just haven't been going according to plan. I feel like I need to head in a new direction, but I am not sure which way to go.

I've been thinking about what went wrong, and what I might be able to do to get back on the right path. But first I need to figure out which path is the right one for me at this point.

I'm doing a lot of soul searching. I feel my goals have pretty much stayed the same, but I wonder if maybe my timing is off. Or maybe this is the right time, and I just need to step things up.

I find myself thinking:

What is keeping me from getting what I really want?

What do I need to do to achieve what I want?

Sometimes our plans get derailed. I had started out the year wanting to get back to work. For now, my job search is on hold until I can decide whether this is something I really want to do right now and work through some of my concerns about becoming employed again as a person with MS.

I had lunch with a former co-worker the other day, who is now looking for work, and we talked about the fact that I have very specific needs when it comes to a job. Obviously, there are things I cannot do, and my fatigue is going to limit the number of hours I can work. I told her I just don't think I can find the job that is right for me. She encouraged me to stay positive, which is good advice of course. But I am still having doubts about finding a job.

I think sometimes in life it's okay to take time to make sure we are headed in the right direction. Sometimes we need time to reflect on the situation and do some self examination.

In looking over what has made me lose my way, I find there are both external and internal circumstances.

External circumstances - Unfortunately there are those things that happen in our lives that we can't control - we lose a job, we have an illness in the family - sometimes forcing us to put plans on hold or change paths.

Internal circumstances may also play a role. Like uncertainty that keeps us from deciding on a path or fear that keeps us from staying on a path. Sometimes as we start to pursue our goals, we worry about failing and we stop in our tracks, afraid to move forward.

My biggest problem is that I find myself in the above situation. It's frustrating wanting to make changes in your life and at the same time irrationally delaying doing so. In large part I know what is keeping me from pursuing my goals and getting what I want out of life is me. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

I do fear failing, and sometimes I question whether my goals are even really reachable. I sabotage myself; I second guess myself constantly. In deciding what path to take, I have to make sure I can overcome my fears and follow it.

The external circumstances are difficult to deal with because they can't be controlled. I can't change the fact that I have MS, but I know it does not have to interfere with my pursuit of the things I want in life. It may not be as easy to get there, though. It may take more time.

It's a struggle to balance our dreams with the things we need to do. Fatigue gets in the way sometimes. Stress gets in the way. Some things were easier when I was working, but I wasn't able to make the time to pursue my goals. Now I have more time, but less energy. I have been trying to balance those two things when it comes to doing the things I need to do, but not in doing the things I want to do.

This blog has been helping me to get my thoughts out and express how I feel about life and being appreciative of it. I find it very therapeutic to let my thoughts kind of ramble. This is something I would like to continue doing.

As for finding the path that is right for me, I think if I take some time to figure things out, try to have a positive outlook, try to see possibilities instead of impossibilities, and try to use more of my energy to pursue my goals that I will find it.