Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Road Back

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats, OR
(Photo Taken By Diana M. Bateman, Sept 2010)

During all of 2006 and most of 2007, I spiraled out of control with my health and my MS started to rear its ugly head. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I stopped caring. 

I stopped wanting to care. Not just about me, nor was it centered on my MS. I simply just didn’t care. I had moments of clarity though. 

During those times I tried to do what I’ve always done when in emotional distress. I wrote. That is when I began this blog actually. It has been very therapeutic for me to articulate my thoughts and feelings in this manner. 

However, my internal attitude was very melancholy for a number of years. I’m sure it was draining for my husband... Just when I thought I was starting to come out of my dark place, many things converged and attempted to drown me even further. 

It was then that I actually hit the lowest point in my life (in 2008). I hated almost every minute of that year. There were so many blessings, but the incessant onslaught and gravity broke me.

In the fall of 2008, the stress had reached a critical point. Not knowing what else to do or where else to turn, I took my aggression out in our unfinished basement/make-shift gym. 

By the time January of 2009 arrived, I had literally sweated my way out of the darkest of it all. The weight loss was nice, but I was still vacant inside. 

It was around this time when I began to witnesses the rapid decline of Don, my father-in-law, from a sudden onset of a very aggressive cancer. 

During one of the early-on evening vigils at Don’s place, I was in a quiet moment where Don was resting on the couch; all others in the house were helping Nan, my bonus-Mom, in some way or another. I felt compelled in spirit and body to sit on the love seat and listen to his rhythmic, labored breathing. I’d seen him struggle and use all his might to be mobile while accepting little assistance. 

That stubborn man was relentless! It was while sitting there that I realized that what I’d been witnessing with him was a polar opposite to my own experience over the last few years. This somehow... unlocked me; I began to unfold right there. Something hit me hard at that moment and I realized I needed to make a change in my heart, my mind, my actions - I was not the person I wanted to be in this life’s journey. 

I was now compelled to internally rise to the occasion of my existence. I had given up on myself in a big, big way. I think some of Don’s determination transferred to me at that moment.

I was immediately compelled to make changes. Somehow a beacon of light turned on amidst the haziness and that light was centered in me. I do not claim to understand it, but something clicked and I knew that, despite my previous inaction, I wanted to live my life to the fullest. I also instantly knew what I needed to do. 

I furiously began making a list of short and long-term goals; forty-one in total. They were organized in order, with the short-term goals designed to help me get to the long-term goals. 

By the time I was done making that list, I was in tears, but smiling from the release... I’d finally let go of myself, so that I could emerge and move on with my life. 

When I was done, I looked up and saw Don looking at me and smirking. I have no idea how long he was watching me, but something told me he knew and could feel the power of the change that had just overcome me. 

He didn’t say anything; he just looked at me, sat up (with labor) and smiled the entire time. He nodded with understanding and the moment left as others came filing back into the room from their tasks.

So far, I’ve achieved twenty-seven of those forty-one goals. In order to see the next goal on the notepad of my iPhone, I have to scroll down the list of goals where “ACHIEVED” is written next to each and every one of those twenty-seven. 

By the time I get to the next goal on the list I am energized, because I’ve just seen repeated proof that the mantra I repeat while running is true and applicable elsewhere in life: I Can, I Have, I Will. 

This experience fills me with a surge akin to the one I had while sitting on the love seat at Don’s. I still feel Don near me in spirit. I feel several people nearby in spirit actually. But it is Don’s presence and light that has been radiating most recently.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Best Halloween Treat Ever!

Tonight I attended a special Military fireside (event) wherein President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was the keynote speaker. This was an absolute amazing treat for me.

You see, in April 2010 at the Priesthood session of the Annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), President Uchtdorf gave a talk called “Continue In Patience” that has meant a great deal to me. 

Though I was not in attendance at that particular event, I was able to later listen to the audio recording. 

This talk is so powerful that I’ve been compelled to listen to it almost every day - either driving to or from work ever since I purchased the recording in June 2010. 

Much peace and good sound advice is shared in that talk and oddly enough, it all boils down to how we consume marshmallows (insert chuckle here).
Tonight, I went through great efforts to make it to this Military event. Several obstacles ended up in my way. The biggest issue was fatigue. 

The day after my MS treatments often leaves me... lacking in energy. When I finally made it to the event location (five minutes prior to it's start), I was disheartened to see that cars lined the road several blocks back. 

I sighed and kept moving forward in the vehicle hoping for a miracle. I neared the parking lot and was stopped by an attendant who informed me that one spot in the actual parking lot would be opened and I could have it. 

It was being used for the shuttle that was bringing people to and fro. There was so much relief in my heart that I wouldn’t have to walk a great distance, because I didn’t have it in me. 

I got into the event to see that it was PACKED, but because I was alone I could squeeze into one spot not too far from the entrance and I was guided by an escort right to the spot. Whew! I made it.
Prior to beginning I was able to take a quick look around and behind me to take-in a sea of military uniforms and their civilian counterparts. 

It was an overwhelming and an awe-inspiring sight. Then the opening hymn of High On The Mountain Top began and I could hardly keep the tears back; there was so much gusto from all the male voices around me, it was amazing. Apparently, the event was being broadcast live to soldiers in Iraq (it was three-thirty in the morning their time); also a very humbling site.

Many wonderful things happened at this event and powerful words were shared; just as amazing as Uchtdorf’s talk on patience - but today, my take home message was wrapped up in these key points:
  • Support courage to do what is right.
  • Advance independent thinking.
  • For our own sake, we need to be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord.
  • This life is a time to learn to overcome challenges.
  • Things of great worth are never “easy”.
  • We can’t banish trials, but we can banish fear.
  • God will not leave us comfortless.
We closed the meeting with the congregation singing, Onward Christian Soldiers and I simply couldn’t get through the song. I was too overcome by the beautiful choir all around me. These Christian soldiers and their families, pressing onward, united and joyful. I was honored to be in their presence tonight.
After the close of the meeting there seemed to be a pathway that opened up, especially for me - just like parking the car and finding a seat, I next found myself in front of President Uchtdorf and his beautiful wife Harriet. 

I was able to shake their hands and in a rare moment President Uchtdorf paused long enough for me to get the words out that I listen to his talk on patience daily and that I was compelled to let him know I’ve not eaten my marshmallow yet (a reference to the main point of his April 2010 address). He chuckled and embraced me with a very warm and strong hug that my soul needed.
I will never forget this night, or the gratitude I feel in my heart. Despite the challenges, I’m so blessed to be in the military world. 

It has all been worth it, simply to hear my fellow military families and service members singing the way they did tonight. God bless you (us) all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Takes A Village...

My Dad and friend Julie, are literally holding me up.
After I complete most runs longer than a mile, I find that my balance becomes frustrated,
but only really once I stop running... today was no exception.

So I had a plan in approaching the 5K run today and for the most part I stuck with it. I broke it a little last night by not getting to bed by nine o'clock. It was well worth it though. 

I convinced my Dad that he’d love to be my date (seeing as how my husband is currently deployed) to a benefit event for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

At this event it was announced via a representative of our local government for Utah that September 25th (Chris Reeve’s birthday) would now be recognized as Christopher Reeve Day for his and his family’s efforts in motivating and inspiring those that have been impacted by spinal cord injury and paralysis. 

It was a very nice and worthwhile event. I was able to actually meet Christopher’s mother - way cool! So last night I fell asleep thinking about the things I had heard and experienced from the Reeve Foundation event.
When my alarm sounded, it rang in a vivid memory of a little tom-girl, whose parents took her to see the Superman movie (starring Christopher Reeve) after having bought her a new pair of tennis shoes. 

After the movie this little tom-girl (i.e., me) ran around the house, yard, and neighborhood thinking that the shoes, in conjunction with her newfound superhuman strength, were making her run faster. 

But now, as an adult, I’ve come to the quiet realization that, I know I can do it. I’ve run so much in preparation for this. This is nothing more than just another run. 

I’m not superhuman, I’m just determined not to let my ailing body win this go-around. Today I got to win [insert huge grin here].
My only goal was to finish without having walked any of it. I got to the race, meditated, stretched and some of my friends and family started to arrive to join me and cheer me on. 

Physically and mentally this was my best run to date. I had the best 5K play list sounding in my ear and I simply tuned out the world and enjoyed my run. 

I not only ran without stopping or walking, but felt good the entire time (minus one scary moment going down the last hill). I bested my practice time by nearly six minutes (total run time 35.19 minutes). But I didn’t do this alone.
There’s an old proverb that states: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” This indeed was the case for me, but recently I’ve seen that, it also takes an entire support group to help an individual succeed. 

I feel like I’ve won something so much bigger than a Grammy or Emmy Award, so I feel inclined to give an acceptance speech...
Thank you, to those who believed in and motivated me. Bill & Meagan for simply even coming up with the idea that I should try running with a jogger stroller to help lend balance. 

To my brother-in-law, DC for figuring out how to properly weight the darn stroller to work best for me. For various family members and distant friends (via Facebook) for believing that I can do this. 

For my trainer, Dave, who consistently motivates me and kicks my butt. Jeanie and Julie, who have supported me on countless training runs. 

And for Josh, who has continually and energetically supported me with his heart and soul - though currently on a Middle East deployment, he’s done everything he can to make me feel like I’m a better and stronger person than who I see in the mirror. 

And to God, for giving me the strength, energy, and determination in the first place.
I am blessed. Thank you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

We Are Never Alone

Last Tuesday I was enjoying an emotional pity party. I think it finally dawned on me that some of what made me feel motivated not all that long ago had been deployed to the Middle East. 

I wanted to go for a run (mentally), but my physical self couldn’t muster the oomph required. Later I found out it was actually a mental oomph that was lacking (not my body), as my body eventually overcame the mental fatigue. 

I thought about the elliptical in the basement and then realized I needed to leave the house. It’s too quiet there! So I went to the gym around the corner to see what my leg could handle on the stair climber and then use the dry sauna. 

In the gym parking lot I sat and stared... getting upset I moved and said to myself out loud, “if not now, then when?” and “What else am I going to do tonight if not this?” So totally ticked off, I stomped into the gym.
I exceed my expectations on the stair climber, did some other leg workouts and headed to the dry sauna. Already in the dry sauna was an Asian woman with crutches outside. 

I recognized her as the woman hobbling through the dressing room when I first arrived. I usually meditate in the sauna, but suddenly I felt myself compelled to talk to her and I’m very glad that I did. 

I found out that “Julie” is from Vietnam and has been in the United States (Utah) for about four years while pursuing her study at the Salt Lake Community College. 

At the age of four Julie became ill with Polio and now as an adult woman uses crutches to aide her in walking. Julie’s parents both died many years ago and her three brothers and three sisters are still in Vietnam. 

I think that Julie is about my age, maybe a little older. Somewhere in the middle of conversation, she got sullen and said that she feels alone. 

She wasn’t saying this for sympathy; it was simply a factual and sad statement. I felt compelled to give her my contact information and invited her to reach out to me anytime, especially during the holidays. 

I’ve no idea if she actually will, but I simply felt so much love and a need to express that she’s indeed not alone. My heart is still swollen from concern and empathy for her.
I can’t seem to get this experience out of my mind. She was so kind and quiet and though I could barely understand her I wanted so much to connect with her. 

This just made me think of the social phobia people have in associating with people who have disabilities, or not knowing how or wanting to communicate with people not of your race; then compounding the issue with both disability and being a minority - with no relations present. 

Who am I not to reach out?
The look of loneliness I saw in her was a look I’ve seen before, in the mirror. The circumstances may have been different, but the emotion of fear, loneliness, and isolation is universal. 

Even in the apparent desolation of our darkest hours, God is there if we but recognize. I’m not the only one who has MS, who has ever been sad, unmotivated or felt alone. 

We may have moments of somber solitude in our lives, but taking in the entire picture we can also see the beauty of the earth and our place within it. 

Our personal light, no matter how dim it is, often times acts as tremendous illumination for the lives of those around us. We are never alone; oftentimes we are the light that brightens the way for others. Thank you Julie. God bless you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mind Games

The last few years have been a conglomeration of really deep thoughts; way beyond Jack Handy’s attempts. 

I’ve come to understand so much about myself, life, my beliefs, marriage, future, goals (personal and combined with those around me), and my journey with Multiple Sclerosis; just to name a few. 

I feel that I’ve really come to understand the power of the mind and the demons within it. I also have a feeling that I’ve only just scratched the surface.

I firmly believe that the minutia doesn’t really matter, just so long as those itty-bitty details don’t take us away from the core of who we are and what we believe. 

If the little things have potential to degrade, distract, or become bigger problems that mess with the core, then we ought not to engage. 

This requires being honest with ourselves - truly honest. Don Miguel Ruiz has it right in so many ways in his books “The Four Agreements” and “The Voice Of Knowledge”. 

Compiling what I agree with in those books to my own personal beliefs has been really eye opening. But it’s more than just the combination of secular and spiritual knowledge. 

It’s the addition of patience, reflection, and discipline. We live in a world of NOW, so patience and discipline are almost foreign concepts. 

Reflection is as well; we are used to having our ears plugged in to something... I know. I am guilty in many ways.

So much of what we achieve, deal with, overcome, and do on a daily basis is defined by our perception(s) and not necessarily reality. 

Yet, if we pause, reflect, apply patience, and use discipline in our actions, re-actions or speech, I believe we might be able to see the situation for what is really is - an opportunity. It’s an opportunity fresh and waiting to be designed, by you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mountains Moved And I Just Ran A Mile - Unassisted!

So there’s a 5K in September that I want to run. I want to do it without the aid of my trusty jogger stroller for the sake of balance.

I want to do this run. I need to prove to myself that I can do this. Today I took myself to the track field of a local high school and decided to see what sort of trouble I’m in for; without the aid of the jogger stroller. 

I walked/jogged/ran that and did a mile in thirteen minutes!!!! I know I could’ve run faster, but safety was at the forefront of my mind.

There was one point where I was doubting that I could or should be doing this and then Pat Benatar was sounding in my ear with “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and it occurred to me, I can do anything I set my mind to. 

Even if I were in a wheelchair, I could push myself around the track. I can do this! I’m not gonna' let MS rob me of what I CAN do, especially when I CAN do it. 

Then “I Believe” by Diana DeGarmo started to play in my ear and I found my focus and released the doubt; I ran. My left leg started to poop out on me in the last lap and then “Dressed For Success” by Roxette brought me in with a strong finish with the first line ringing in my ear.

“tried to make it little by little, 
tried to make it bit by bit on my own” 

And I did; little by little, bit by bit. Because of that song hitting me just right, I smiled the last bit of that run and that smile, that joy, filled me beyond description.

I cooled down just contemplating over the experience and then as I walked back to the car, Joan Baez filled my soul with “Through Your Hands.” 

I’m even more excited because this song means a lot to me and I get to see her in concert this Wednesday. The truth of what this song means to me hit me and hit me hard.

You were dreaming on a park bench
about a broad highway somewhere
When the music from the carillon
seemed to hurl your heart out there
Past the scientific darkness, past the
fireflies that float
To an angel bending down to wrap you
in her warmest cloak

And you ask "What am I not doing?"
She says, "Your voice cannot command,
In time you will move mountains
And it will come through your hands."

I’m in tears as I write this. I’m overwhelmed by the joy that I feel. Because:

...whatever your hands find to do
you must do with all your heart
There are thoughts enough to blow men's minds
and tear great worlds apart
There's a healing touch to find you
on that broad highway somewhere
To lift you as high as music running
through an angel's hair

Don't ask what you are not doing
'Cause your voice cannot command
And in time we will move mountains
And it will come through your hands

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And So It Goes...

When joy happens, I celebrate it. When frustration impedes progress, I swear, dwell a little and then move on. When excitement occurs, I am filled with wonder while enjoying the reaction(s) of others. 

Sadness enters the room and I am amazed at the various responses of those around me, while hoping I’m unnoticed long enough to get a grip before I truly respond. 

Regardless of the type of event and the impact, embracing what was learned and then moving on with the new knowledge is crucial. 

I remember times when I’ve sat down and wallowed in pity and have also compared it to being able to pick up and move on. 

I also recall reveling too long in the joy that I failed to see the reality and impact of what slowing down and becoming lazy can do. 

Josh once shared with me a quote about how when boating, the captain must constantly be checking the direction, monitoring the effects of the ever changing weather and how those conditions can alter, enhance, and hinder the progress of sailing. 

A little checking there, a little tweaking here, being mindful of the subtleties in the wind can make all the difference on arriving at the intended destination on time and safely. 

Suddenly the full ramifications of the term “sailing” took on a completely new meaning to me. Rude awakenings occur when ignorance and negligence are present, whereas being aware of the potential of subtle shifts and tracking them aid in gaining more ground (progress) in the long run. 

This constant action of checks and balances in life make things appear to fit together at the right time, just in time, all the time; which give the effect of “sailing”. 

This sailing may not have always been smooth, but more ground was covered almost by leaps and bounds. 

Though there are scary moments in sudden shifts, and while at times it may also have the appearance of trudging through the mire, you still cover more ground. 

You still are propelled at just the right speed, to pick up and find yourself further along (in a good way) than if you’d just let the wind and waves push you wherever they could; without direction or care from you.

“Life” is what happens when we simply let the wind control our direction. “Living” is a conscious effort of aiding the wind to get us where we need to be. 

Sailing requires more action than drifting. I have drifted. I prefer sailing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free At Last With Trekking Poles!

In April, I asked my husband, Josh, what he’d like to do before he leaves on his deployment to the Middle East in mid-June. He said hiking at Natural Bridges National Monument. 

I then pulled up the website for the hikes and terrain of the area and my heart sank. Hiking the Wind Caves in Logan (experience noted in a prior blog entry “Track, Basketball, Hiking and MS Oh My!”) was one thing, but the Natural Bridges?!?!
I must admit I felt some inner despair and self-disparaging thoughts. Josh said that he thought I might be able to hike if I had some trekking poles. 

I was doubtful, but I found myself silently humoring him (shh... don’t tell him). We went to the store and found a pair of trekking poles and then in May we took off for a long weekend camping and hiking in Southern Utah.
Long story short: I hiked over slick rock, through sand, crossing creek beds, down three ladders, handled an elevation change of probably about a thousand feet or more. 

In total, I hiked for four hours straight (which was the prescribed amount of time that it would take). Never once did I: get wet feet, need Josh’s helping hand, fall, injure myself in any way. 

Because of the balance that the trekking poles provided, I was able to stay up on my own two feet the entire time!!! I did it!!!
Half of the battle in overcoming a challenge is being willing to submit to a different route, in order to accomplish the same end result. 

The other half of the battle is believing that the desired result can be achieved. Thanks to the faith of my husband (when I doubted), ingenuity of Black Diamond Trekking poles, and God’s continual helping hand, I have a new cherished memory and experience. We did it!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sinking, Swimming, Surfing

(Josh & Diana, Feb 2008)

(Josh & Diana, May 2010)

Note to Self:

Don’t forget the personal success that you’ve had this last year. It’s easy to overlook our own accomplishments and to not accept the amazing strides that you’ve made, especially when you’re not exactly where you want to be. 

In 2008 you lost twenty-six pounds in four months and as one of your New Years' resolutions for 2009 you decided that you would loose at least a pound a week (i.e., fifty-two pounds). 

You not only shed the weight (plus three additional pounds), but you have consistently kept it off. I know that you want to lose another thirty pounds, but you need to allow yourself patience to lose it the right way. You are worth the effort, you have the patience, you will meet your goal.

Don’t forget what it was like to go shopping last week for new pants and to find that for the first time in many years that you didn’t find the pants that fit you in the Plus Size section of the store. 

Remember what it was like to box up all of the bigger size clothing in the “Steroids Happen” bin downstairs. Remember what it was like to make a decision about what size clothes that you would never find yourself in again, and what it was like to take those clothes and donate them. 

Remember what it was like to go biking in Ireland - you struggled, but you did it and it was beautiful.

You will have ups and downs in life. That is the nature of living and not necessarily just your disease. You’ve met many personal goals in 2009. Make 2010 even better. 

You have the power to do anything that you set your mind to. Just look at the goals that you have accomplished, even with MS in the picture.

The weighty issue addressed in this letter is not the main focus of what is to be learned - rather it’s the example of a bigger picture. Attitudes, expectations and unrealistic self-perceptions are what are being addressed here.

Life is an adventure of curve-balls, winding roads, epic journeys and emotional milestones. It is our responses and reactions to these things that determine the outcome(s). 

Do you choose to sink or swim? Sometimes, when the conditions are just right, we can even find ourselves surfing; but it requires swimming first.

Best Regards,