Living the Best I Can in a Changed World

By Stacie Prada

My goal is to not just make it through this pandemic, but to enjoy this time. I don’t want to wait for things beyond my control to change to be able to be happy, have fun, and be fulfilled.

If I wait for someday, I’ll miss now, and now may last a while. It’s unsettling to live with uncertainty and be required to change my normal routines. A lot of my routines have evolved over a long period of time to help keep me living as well as I do with multiple sclerosis. Uncertainty is a fact of life when living with MS, and adapting is a skill developed and constantly tested. Sometimes I’m faster at adjusting, and other times I’m a bit stubborn to see how I can adapt and lessen my suffering.

It serves me well to acknowledge the change, accommodate the limitations, and adapt. If I can figure out what I truly need in life to be happy and recognize why it matters to me, I can usually find a way to have it. It may not closely resemble the past, but a kernel of it can grow into something new that brings me joy.

When adjusting to new limitations in my life, I succeed when I focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. When I learned I had food sensitivities, I had a list of foods to avoid. Referring to that list while grocery shopping was frustrating. It felt like punishment, and often I left the store very unsatisfied with my purchases. When I created a list of foods that I could eat, shopping became a joy again, and I was much more successful keeping my food choices consistent with my dietary needs.

I could focus on all of the closed stores and restricted activities, but it puts me in a mindset that doesn’t feel good. I’m trying to focus on the things I can do. It brings me joy to live in a mindset of abundance and possibilities instead of scarcity and limitations.

When I design my perfect day, it includes doing things that are productive, mentally stimulating and physically active. I want time to relax and recharge, and I want to spend time connecting with others. I want to eat nutritiously and indulge in something decadent. All of these things can be done in countless different ways spanning an infinite range of exertion. No matter what I’m doing specifically, I would feel love, I would laugh hard, and I would feel useful during my ideal day. These feelings are crucial to my happiness. I’ve learned that when I feel lacking in these emotions, putting a little effort into being kind to others usually leads to having all of these emotions fulfilled for me. The pandemic may require me to reach out virtually rather than in person, but I can do that.

When I look at my plans through this lens, I’m better able to include things that will help me feel fulfilled. If I can’t fit it all into one day, I’ll extend the time frame. Often, I think of what the minimum is that I need to do in a day, weekend, week or month to be fulfilled. When I have a ton of things to do, I’ll get most or all of them done. When I have nothing that absolutely needs to be done and very few things on my radar, I might get almost nothing done in a day. Seriously, the length of time I can spend not moving is impressive. I could beat myself up for that, or I can think that I really needed the rest, the break or the escape.

As I navigate a new reality where I can’t go everywhere I want to go, I can’t see people I want to see in person, and I still need to maintain my health, I need to create a long list of what I can do. It’s necessary for my sanity and physical health to have options at the ready and be kind to myself. This pandemic is taking a lot from a lot of people, but I will do my best to live well in this changed world.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/

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The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

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