My sister-in-law Jeanne does not think of herself as particularly brave or inspirational. Those qualities seem to be in the eye of the beholder.
Jeanne lives with the chronic illness Multiple Sclerosis, which has gradually diminished her physical abilities. From the neck down, her body pretty much ignores all commands.
"It's not sad or disabling," she says. "It's just me. People might think, 'Oh, that’s terrible she can’t do this or that' but I think it just depends on your perspective."
As long as I've known Jeanne, she's always been up for the next activity, jumping at the chance to do something new, or finding any excuse to have a party. She's positive and enthusiastic.
Her out-going personality is a plus when she notices people are uncomfortable about her wheelchair. "I try to make them feel at ease by smiling and talking. When kids stare at my wheels, I say, 'Yes! It's really fun.' and tell them I love my sippy cup."
"I bite the button because I can't press it with my thumb. If you get it it on the flat surface of your tooth it works great," she says.
It's no fun to have MS, and annoying when you can't scratch your nose when it itches, but Jeanne is intentional about enjoying everything she can do.
"You can decide to go on about your life, choose to do things, rather than just sit home. You can make jokes about it, and have family and friends who you trust who you can talk to."
You have to choose, do you want to be miserable, or do you want to be happy.
Jeanne enjoys listening to music and podcasts. She can’t read because she's lost her eyesight, but feels it's important to keep learning. She and her husband love to travel.
“We drive in the car, because the airline is difficult, although we just went to Hawaii. We drive all over the United States, you really enjoy the country driving it on the back roads, and stopping different places, eating the foods in different areas. ‘Course we drink beer.”
At left, Jeanne and Bob enjoy the Abyss release party at the Deschutes Public House in Portland, Oregon. In the next month or two they will travel from their home in Western Washington to Florida to visit a friend, Alabama for a wedding, and Colorado for their daughter's graduation from nursing school.
Bob is Jeanne's primary care-giver, chauffeur, housekeeper, cook, gardener, etc. He does all those little things for her that you and I use our hands to do for ourselves on a daily basis.
Jeanne says there are some advantages to not being physically able. "Some people might worry about their hair or something, I can’t even see my hair. There's less to worry about. It sounds funny, but MS is a blessing in disguise because you have to be positive, otherwise, you’d be a miserable person, and then you might as well just go check yourself into the mortuary."
"It's not Pollyanna,
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.
The cause of MS is still unknown – scientists believe the disease is triggered by as-yet-unidentified environmental factor(s) in a person who is genetically predisposed to respond. There is no cure.
Friends and family gathered recently for Walk MS to raise money for MS research and support services for people living with MS. Jeanne's team slogan is: Putting MS to Sleep Permanently. And yes, we did wear our pajamas. The event is lots of fun.
I enjoy writing about brave people from way back in history. But sometimes the best inspiration comes from the courageous people close to us.
What about you? Do you have someone in your life who inspires you? Share in the comment section below.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known history, stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers in the blog comments, by email or social media.