Every quarter, a copy of ‘momentum’, the National MS Society’s magazine arrives in my mail, and without fail, an article meant to be inspirational, someone harping on about how having MS has been a gift, a wake-up call, a blessing, makes me feel like a right old curmudgeon. In my 21-years with it, I’ve never been grateful for it.
Of course, I’m grateful for everyone who’s helped me over the years; grateful for technology that enables me to see and chat with friends and family now travel’s hard and I can’t drive or work; grateful to live in a house that’s one-level and wide enough for my wheelchair; and grateful for my kind partner. But am I grateful for having MS and having these experiences? Nope. I’d much rather have nothing to do it.
The other day, a thought so big burst in my brain like bubblegum: “I’m grateful I’ve been able to stand, walk, run, and dance, and for all the experiences I had when I was able-bodied.”
As blindingly obvious the breakthrough was, it’s changed me. It tattooed itself in my solar plexus and when I visit it conjures a sweet memory filling me with happiness - like the daily bear hunts my kids and I went on to the neighborhood park when they were little. We’d march single file along a short stretch of road lined with California palms and redwoods. “We’re going on bear hunt” I’d sing, “we’re going on a bear hunt,” my two replied. “We’re not scared” I sang, “we’re not scared” and so on until we arrived at the playground, where they ran and hid in the play structure tunnels, waiting for me to find them and begin our epic game of hide and seek.
I’m quite certain my light bulb moment occurred because of a couple of things I’ve been doing since becoming disabled nearly two years ago: attending adaptive yoga classes online at Mind Body Solutions, and ACT (acceptance and commitment) mindfulness therapy through the University of Minnesota.
Mind Body Solutions is a non-profit that offers ten, free, online adaptive yoga classes a week, taught by skilled and caring teachers. Founder, Matthew Sanford was paralyzed in a tragic car accident when he was 13 and began yoga at 25. He’s a leading figure in teaching yoga to people with disabilities and trauma, and has trained over a thousand yoga teachers. As well as yoga, MBS presents four Yoga, Disability and Transformation workshops a year, a free library of classes on YouTube, and, it offers community.
During covid, MBS moved from being a brick and mortar organization to completely online, making it accessible internationally. I’ve made friends with people in England, Ireland, France, and all over the USA. Students were paralyzed in accidents, have conditions like MS, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, aging and a smorgasbord of other stuff. After class we chat, laugh, and share stories about anything and everything.
These classes have given me a reason to get out of bed. I look forward to moving in my wheelchair, connecting with my body and quietening my mind, and seeing friends, all in a safe and supportive space.
Part of my world now are daily naps. Fatigue and neuropathy demand I stop and rest in order to make it through the day, yet forty percent of the time getting in or out of bed I end-up falling on the floor. Now, instead of panicking while I wait for help to come which can be up to half a hour, knowing that my MBS community have got me and focusing on my breath I’m able to remain calm.
As well as the practical, Matt’s teaching has given me magical glimpses into yoga poses I loved doing before disability kicked in. He’s an incredible teacher who instructs from the inside out, to all levels of ability and experience.
For the last ten-years, the major fundraiser for MBS has been a week of yoga with purpose, Kiss My Asana. This year it’s running April 22-28, and I’d be ever so grateful if you supported my fundraising campaign, also, you’re more than welcome to attend a class to see what what it’s like. And, it would be brilliant if you spread the word about MBS and let people who need to exercise sitting, regardless of age, ability, or yoga experience know about it. You can even join me and fundraise too!
I could go on forever about the stuff I did before MS got the better of me, but I am a lot happier now I’ve got mainline access to my memory bank. I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who says they’re grateful for MS, but I am grateful for the people who support my journey in their many different ways. x