Living, Learning, Thriving When We Need It Most

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by Ralph Yaniz |

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None of us have lived through something like what we are going through today. Some have attempted to equate it with other historical events. But there is a uniqueness to this pandemic.

As far as I’m concerned, these comparisons aren’t helpful. We live in a unique period of technological advancement. This gives us unlimited options for interaction, entertainment, or serious study. If we stay healthy and isolated, the current reality allows for a period of personal strengthening. This can happen without the regular stress and responsibility of day-to-day life.

I am not treating the COVID-19 battle lightly. I realize that for many people, this causes unbelievable amounts of anxiety. For those of us dealing with muscular dystrophy, there are additional unknowns and concerns. And for those of us with family — parents, grandparents, children — we worry about their health and safety. But at some point in this process, and we are now weeks into the shutdowns and quarantines, there comes a time when we can think about life.

I am connected on social media with many rare illness and muscular dystrophy groups. I can say that the immediate reaction of many in our communities was that they were ready for this. People discussed how, because of their disability, they had lived a more isolated life. Many felt they were able to adapt and find new passions. I’d say that in living with a progressive illness, I’ve gone through a similar mindset change. And this change has led to other opportunities.

My column has always been about living, learning, thriving. In fact, my first column was about the excitement of starting something new. The reason I chose this handle is because we survive and thrive by adapting to whatever is thrown at us. During the last few weeks, I have had to alter my routine, my normal life. But as I thought about it, I felt like others. This constant change has been my mantra for almost 15 years and has led me to doing some new things these last few weeks.

The most important for me has been the level of mindfulness of life around me. We define mindfulness as the state of being aware of something. It’s easy to go through life focused on your own thoughts and plans and miss what is going on around you. I am now taking in more of the simple pleasures I used to take for granted.

An example of this is going out. Every other day or so, I venture out for a short drive. As we settle into spring and have some nice days, being out in the world has a newness about it. Hearing the birds, seeing the trees and sun, looking out over a lake — these are magical moments.

On the topic of mindfulness, I want to share a great article I found in the The Harvard Gazette. It focuses on mindfulness meditation, offering a pathway to thriving that is especially needed in times of crisis. It is often said that you need to do a new activity for 21 days before it becomes a part of you. What better opportunity to try this now, when we know we will be home for days.

The other big positive for me has been the interactions with others. It feels a little strange being locked in most of the day knowing that almost every other human being is in the same situation. I see people I know on social media who are living in Europe, Asia, and South America. They are posting pictures of empty streets and life at home with family. This time has led me to more contact with some of these individuals, and a lot more contact with extended family. We even did a Zoom video call for family, and we had people on from six states.

These interactions are so important for us as social beings. I have written about the importance of finding your community. If you are feeling more isolated, take some time on social media to explore groups that may offer you a real connection to others. An added benefit is that many groups that used to meet face to face are now meeting online.

The last great thing for me has been the extra time for reading and watching movies and TV shows. The one goal I have yet to realize is doing more writing. But hey, I have another month or two ahead. I hope that life will begin to return to normal for all of us. But I bet what is normal now will have shifted a bit. I hope we can all stay safe and use this time to grow.


Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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