What began happening to my life and the way I saw it as a result didn’t surprise me as much as it did inspire me. MS, after all, has helped shape my life and career.
I began looking at everything I did a little bit more carefully. Apart from staying on-track with medication, I began waking up earlier, working out more, going to yoga and swimming, learning new things all the time, reading the news and more books and eating healthier. I went to more museums, parties, social gatherings. I started writing for fun and sometimes getting published. I started taking chances, asking for help, and hearing yes. I was fueled by hope, and by gain, ad hominem, and really didn’t fear losing anything. And that’s how I am right now.
In a way this diagnosis provided the discipline I needed and I know wasn’t getting before. That’s not to say certain things are and won’t be compromised; but as the most important things have come into focus, my happiness has improved suddenly and immeasurably.
The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) asked me to be their first national ambassador in the fall of 2011. Standing in the middle of Times Square, I almost dropped the telephone through the subway grating — a million emotions rushed through my mind. I was feeling honored, fortunate, and inspired. But as with all major decisions, there were a few immediate doubts.
I deliberated it with my publicists and I had a meeting with several members of the staff at MSAA, I thought about it even more, and when I said “yes” to them and to MSAA, my story went public. Press releases, articles, Wikipedia page, etc etc. Would this mean I miss out on opportunities because people are scared of an unfamiliar disease? Weeding out riffraff clients? I never cared an inch whether people judged me for any reason before, so, why start now.
This position gave my photography – doing what I love most – a whole new personal significance. It spun me around full circle; I was honored that such a big-hearted heavyweight in the fight against MS saw something in me to represent their ideals and speak on behalf of their mission, helping them reach their goals.
Now I have the clarity of my limitations, sharpening and shaping my happiness. Colors have gotten bright again in the space I move around in, and I have comfort in knowing that when I can drop this one little story in with the oceans already full of them, it’s one more person saying something, and one more friend that knows a little bit what it’s like.
As ambiguous a condition as MS is, we can treat it, help it, acknowledge it, move around in our lives, and be who we are.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned is that I can’t control my circumstance, people, or exterior situations. What I can do is control my reactions to them, and live on. MS of course is far from ideal, but it is true that who I am, now, I’m better for it.