It occurred to me that people might think it a wee bit odd that the URL to this blog is TheMonsterStory. What's that about?
Giving credit where it's due, it was a friend in California who used to call the disease The MonSter (get it?) and hoo boy, was she right. This really is a monster of a disease, especially for those of us who want to believe we have even minimal control over our lives. For years, my life was ruled by my calendars. I shlepped a blue leather binder that sported a little brass place with my name etched on it everywhere -- at work, at home. It was ubiquitous. The more appointments and dates I could cram onto each page, the better I felt about myself. I was doing stuff. I was accomplishing stuff. I was competent! I was worth something. That binder represented so much to me, now that I think back on it (and I have no idea where it is these days - I might have tossed it when we moved to Portland). It carried more than physical weight - it represented my success, as surely as my job title or the number of people who clamored for appointments on my crammed schedule at work.
Of course, that was all illusion, sure as I'm sitting here in an old t-shirt and fuzzy slippers. I'm not saying that my efforts at work weren't valuable, or that I wasn't effective. It's just that those jam-packed pages listing meetings and assignments had just about nothing to do with my worth as a human being, even though that was the value I ascribed to them. Unfortunately, at least as far as the rest of the world knows, whatever contributions I was able to make in the past, or those I make today, really can't be represented with numbers or entries on a calendar. If I made a difference, it was with the people with whom I worked, and it's almost impossible to quantify those experiences and interactions.
The MonSter continues to try and teach me that Life Lesson. The first thing I think about every morning as I wake is a 'to-do' list. What do I need to accomplish today? There's the usual morning routine (focused mainly on cat-related tasks). I can add a few more chores like cleaning and re-filling the hummingbird feeders or trying to run the Dyson vacuum without tripping over the cord or losing my balance and tumbling into a chair. Maybe I can manage a half hour on my trusty Theracycle, getting my arms and legs moving and my heart rate up a wee bit. It's pretty certain that I can't add a visit to the supermarket if I've already done the stuff I listed above. That will need to wait 'til tomorrow or the day after - or maybe even the day after that. So I've gone from being a much-sought-after, high-paid corporate manager, one who traveled extensively and worked 24/7 to - what? A sixty-year-old woman with a not-very-interesting life who can barely fit one outside event on her calendar, much less a long list of appointments. Does that mean I'm worth less (or worthless, either will work, I guess)? That I'm a walking waste of oxygen?
Intellectually, I know that's not true. But damn, there are days when the MonSter's impact on my life makes me feel that way.
So it's not all about MS, is it? Isn't it also about the way we - our society - values people?
Whew. This is way too heavy all of a sudden. I think I need to climb on the old Theracycle and watch a light-hearted DVD...