Of course all of this is one man's take on his own emotions. It is not for sale because I cannot make the claim that this complicated potpourri is universal, adding up to anything meaningful for others. My theory about the origins of anger does make sense to me, though, and it begs the question, what do I do about it?
Lighten up, is my band aid of choice. Stop taking everything so seriously. Millions of us live with physical flaws. We all have one life to drink from the challis. Why waste our moment on anger? Generally, fate is out of our hands. We can take our vitamins and go to the dentist occasionally, but that is about it.
Let go. We may not view ourselves as all we used to be. The future is uncertain, as it is for the guy getting on an airplane or the woman just crossing the street. Go to the beach or see a movie. Smile. Laugh. Have a nice weekend. I am getting out of here.
A few more thoughts about anger, if you will, known also as more than you want to know about the complexities of emotions attached to chronic conditions. Chronic, of course, means incurable, a one way excursion away from where we wish we could go.
Recently, I wrote about anger. I am not angry about my status as a cancer survivor or that I have MS. I can accept those. Sort of. The anger is fueled by the loss of self-esteem. Self-worth. Self-confidence. Self-satisfaction. Faith in myself. See a pattern here?
I am self-aware enough to realize that strength in those departments actually is fragility, vulnerability masking as a healthy sense of health. Now separate those out, if you will, and define each term. I think they basically are the same, different only in nuance. They are the emotional stew we cook each day and try to swallow as we go forward in a compromised condition.
We are a complicated lot. The sick are like waiters carrying around drinking glasses full of water on our shoulders, trying so hard not to spill a single drop. If we do, I should say, when we do, our faith in ourselves begins to crumble.
The qualities we seek to preserve are intertwined. This is serious business. We are trying to preserve our identities. Friends and family wonder why we can get so emotional. Try making others understand.
I am struck that with all the emotions I hear expressed in our conversations — upset, frustration, hopelessness — there seem to be no signs of anger. I am taken aback only because I am angry all the time. MS has taken away so much. Severely compromised vision, loss of motor and sensory skills mean no running or athletics, even hiking. I cannot drive anymore because I have lost so much vision. Dependence on family and friends have increased dramatically. I hate all of it and am not well adjusted, to say the least. My self-esteem suffers.
When I fall in the house or on the streets of New York, my anger flashes. Falling is like lighting the fuse. I apologize to everyone around me, as if I have done something to them. My anger is turned inward. Clearly, I have done something wrong and deserve all I have gotten. The same reaction comes when I cannot button a shirt or when I knock something over because I can't see.
My family gets upset when they witness these events and see my frustration. The anger is never directed at them. That would be horrible. Still, I know it is not healthy. I wish it would stop and wonder if anyone out there in the land of chronic illness has this problem. Is it just me, which would mean I should check into a museum or circus side show at once.
You are learning for yourself the hard way. For that I only can say I am sorry. We should never give up on others, however, only guard our expectations. Embrace those you hold dear. My only point is, in the end we are alone. Don't make matters worse by pushing people away. Take what you can get and know that those who care probably are trying and may not know what you want and need. Be open and accept, and do not be too disappointed by the size of the package.
Aloneness is inevitable. Accept that and make your peace.
All citizens, should take note of the anniversary of a landmark bill that changed this country forever. The Americans with Disabilities Act is twenty years old . The ADA is a civil Rights Bill, a Bill of Rights for the physically and emotionally disadvantaged. ADA actually is a series of bills, all intended to level the playing field for the sick and disabled.
I wrote a book in which a proud young African American with a disabling disease was asked to define himself by placing the facts of his life in the order of their importance. Male. African American. Disabled. He surprised friends and family by listing disabled first. "That is what others see first when they look at me. It is what I see in the mirror." Do not underestimate the power of disability in the minds of those who must endure it every day.
The ADA protects employment rights by prohibiting employers, governments, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in the privileges of employment. Offshoots mandate access to transportation, public places, and a host of areas too numerous to list here.
Our collective discomfort with illness and disability allowed discrimination to flourish for too long. A society can be judged by how members of that unfortunate segment of the population is treated. We are a better people for the existence of the ADA. In an era in which so much in our national life has gone wrong, we should be proud and allow the spirit of legislation so generous in spirit push us forward on other fronts.
Strangers hold the power to hear and help. Their motives generally are uncomplicated, unfettered by expectations. Strangers are safe and usually want nothing. Listen to them and learn. Speak unafraid. Strangers hold no power over you, and they listen and hear. You are safe. You demand nothing. Same with them.
Someone I know wrote a book called, Consequential Strangers. It talked about the emotional nomads who change lives. To them, you, too, are safe.