It’s not polite to stare.   Don’t stare at others, it makes them feel uncomfortable.  It is rude.  But, people don’t always notice when someone is staring.  Is it okay to stare if I don’t get caught?  People are so busy, maybe they are too busy to notice me staring at them.  I find myself watching people walk.  I notice if they walk slowly, or if they are using a walker, yet seem kind of young for it.  I stare because I wonder what they are struggling with.  “Do you have MS,”  I want to ask? 

I like staring.  I don’t stare only at people.   Maybe it is the photographer in me.  I am always looking at everything.  I stare at the clouds, or at light playing through the leaves.  There is contemplation in a stare.  I stare at a flower.  I fix my gaze, and looking intently with my eyes wide open, I take note of everything.  As my thoughts deepen, my eyes glaze over, and I am no longer looking at the flower, but almost looking through it.  I stare, and the flower goes out of focus.  Like looking through a veil, no longer a crisp image, it becomes soft color and dappled light.  I am inside my head with thoughts that swirl all around that flower. 

Lately, I have been staring at my life.  I look at my leg, the one that has lost muscle.  It is my nemesis, my own body fighting against me.  I feel like it doesn’t belong there, not the way it is at least.  I stare at it, contemplating how to conquer it, how to gain strength and maintain health.  My answer is calf raises and stretching.  I could do 30 or 40 raises at a time on the left leg – pop, pop, pop, up strong every time – but the right leg struggles for 15 slow movements.  My left side is literally unaffected by this disease. 

I am staring at myself, staring at my life, trying to find the will to get out of the chair and attempt exercise or do a little housework.  Am I really that tired, or is this depression?  I never use that word.  No, not depression, I really don’t believe that for a second.  The possibility flits in and out of my thoughts, but, no, that is not me.  When I saw Dr. Kita, she told me that lesions in the spine tend to cause fatigue.  Is tiredness a good reason not to push?  Am I being lazy?  Just look at yourself.  Really look.  How do you feel?  This isn’t laziness.  I am weak.  Why is it that my nervous system not working affects the strength of my body to such a degree?  I guess if  my brain can’t get the message across to the leg to move properly, strengthening will be difficult.  Everyday, I try to stand on my right leg more, hoping that will help.  I do a little exercising, but I have overdone that in the past and experienced set backs, so I am tentative.  Exercise puts my nervous system on edge.  Every neuron starts firing, it is as if they are working overtime trying to get my leg to move.  Then when I am done, I am exhausted.  Is 20 minutes of exercise really going to make a difference if I need a nap afterward?  It has to help.  Right?  Right. 

There are problems with balance.  Not horrible, and some days are better than others.  Standing in line at a church pot luck the other day, I was glad my friend was there to hang onto when I suddenly lost my balance just standing there.  I needed a person or a wall for a second to regain balance.  Do I need to use that cane?  I tried it one day.  (Hated it!)  A walker would be easier for exercise.  I am way too young to use a walker.  Besides, then people will be staring at me!  But if I had one, I could take a nice walk in the neighborhood.  Wonder if they make one with bigger wheels for hiking?  Silly girl, you are not going hiking.  I like going to the grocery store.  The cart is easy to hold on to, so I can stroll slowly around without advertising my unsteady gait.  Maybe I will get a grocery cart for that walk in the neighborhood.

What is life going to look like if I can’t walk?  I know I am not there yet, but so much of life is wrapped up in our physical ability.  Even I kind of define myself by what I can accomplish.  What’s my definition without my physical ability?  What will accomplishment be for me?  Well, it won’t be yard work.  That is for sure.  Do I write?  Do some accounting?  Paint?  Photography?  Even my photography is limited by the MS.  Unless I set up a nice studio here at home….now that might be something.

Staring into my life with MS becomes a constant conversation about the what ifs, and how to overcome, and what if I can’t overcome?  The truth is, there is not a way to “overcome” MS physically, but I can have a positive, overcoming attitude, and realize that I can trust God even in this.  The difficulties I am having are more than I had anticipated at this stage, and my thoughts about it are never-ending, but I know I can’t keep staring at the leg.  I need to take my eyes off myself and focus on new possibilities, possibilities I never would have considered or explored if I were relying on my own strength.  Trusting God means moving forward, not just sitting and staring. 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters,
   I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
   they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
   you will not be burned;
   the flames will not set you ablaze. 
For I am the LORD your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;                                                                                  ~Isaiah 43:1-3


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