December 13, 2006
Inspiration for the Season
The holiday season is a time of abundance and merriment and indeed that is the way we all want it to be. Sometimes it helps to be reminded of people who have suffered critical setbacks in their lives and how they have coped with and transcended those setbacks, not to interfere with the merriment but as an inspiration for it. I have spoken of such people in the past and intend to highlight several for your consideration.
The first is about a very talented woman who at about age 50 was diagnosed with ALS, i.e., Lou Gherig's disease, a progressive neurological disorder that gradually disables all the muscles of the body until one eventually dies of asphyxiation. Not a particularly pleasant prospect, but Catherine Royce, a former dancer and Deputy Art Commissioner for the city of Boston has been able to put the dire prospect and reality of her diminishing powers in incredible perspective.
She begins her interview with a statement that I so heartily endorse and that represents the core of my own thinking about life and the human condition in general: "I believe that I always have a choice. No matter what I'm doing. No matter what is happening to me. I always have a choice."
Those are incredibly powerful words and I would ask you the reader to pause a bit here to take that in: we always have a choice. Can you in any way grasp that? Embrace that? Does it feel real or true to you, or are you immediately taken aback, deeply doubtful, even turned off by the statement? You see, from that overwhelming beautiful and, from my point of view, absolutely true starting point, one can literally do anything, anything that is that one can manage to do. And Ms. Royce manages to do so much with it.
As she notes, while she did some writing and emailing prior to the onset of her illness, she now has an enormous correspondence with a very large circle of people. She has managed this through the miracle of voice recognition technology that allows her to dictate the correspondence to her computer; this is necessary because she has already lost the ability to use her arms. Just contemplate the incredible courage and wisdom of the following statement on her part about her situation:
"Every day I choose not only how I will live, but if I will live. I have no particular religious mandate that forbids contemplating a shorter life, an action that would deny this disease its ultimate expression. But this is where my belief in choice truly finds its power. I can choose to see ALS as nothing more than a death sentence, or I can choose to see it as an invitation — an opportunity to learn who I truly am."
How about that! You can view the whole interview online at the following url: www.npr.org.
It is well worth reading and well worth meditating about. Such people are jewels in the crown of existence; they give hope and encouragement to all of us to love life now and forever. Let me know what you think.
Frank Mosca Ph.D. is a licensed counselor, life and marital coach with a practice in Hampton Bays and Garden City. His views can be seen at puttingmindsinmotion.com.