Grinning Towards the Horizon

The other day I wondered, where does the phrase “grin and bear it” come from?

I had varied success in tracing its origin, but it appears to be derived William Hickey’s “Memoirs,” published in 1775, as an expression used by sailors attempting to survive a long spell of bad weather.

Although I’m not 100 percent certain this is the true etymology, it sounds like a reasonable explanation.

Growing up, I remember many instances of having to “grin and bear it.” Sometimes I was told this by a parent or teacher, and at other times it just echoed in my head during difficult moments.

Whether it was trying to withstand the brutal August heat during football practice in high school or trying to stay focused during a full day of class lectures, there was a whole lot of bearing to accompany just a few sporadic grins.

Even in adulthood, the grinning and bearing continued as I worked long hours at the office, went to graduate school and learned the (sometimes chaotic) ropes of being a new dad.

In each situation, though, I saw (or at least believed in) the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Even for the sailors, once they endured and survived the storm – grin and bear it, men! – the sun would rise and clear skies would be on the horizon.

Living with MS sometimes feels like I’m lost at sea, holding on for dear life as the waves come crashing in. 
Grin. And. Bear. It.
At times, it’s been hard to see any payoff from the constant grinning and bearing.
  • I wake up, lose balance and fall to the ground? Grin and bear it!
  • Electric shocks shoot through my head as I talk with my children? Grin and bear it!
  • Nausea overtakes me as I’m on a walk with my family? Grin and bear it!
  • I struggle through conversations with friends, trying to remember what I am even discussing? Grin and bear it!
  • Reading time with my family is complicated by how sensitive my eyes are to light? Grin and bear it!
  • I don’t even remember what it used to feel like to have energy or to feel rested. Grin and bear it!
  • Standing, even for just a few brief moments – whether in line at the grocery store, at church or while out with my family, causes intense pain in my left leg. Grin and bear it!
  • I’m struggling with a new symptom this week, perhaps it will go away, or maybe another new one will appear tomorrow? Grin and bear it!
  • I never know what might strike next.  Perhaps I drop another glass, bump into another table, stumble on stairs, lose sensation in my hands or struggle with my vision? Grin and bear it!
Peace Out
All this grin and bearing it with MS is not easy, but I’ve been fortunate to discover an elixir of sorts – finding inner peace

“Inner peace” probably means different things to different people. For me, it meant letting go of who I always thought I’d be and embracing who I am… and who I can still become.

For many, finding inner peace is nothing more than a silly notion, rarely considered or explored because our hectic lives are filled with meetings, conference calls, endless errands or paperwork that command and sap so much of our daily energy.

Living with MS is very trying, and grinning and bearing it is literally a way of life. But in the wake of all the destruction this disease has caused to my health and career, a silver lining emerged:  an opportunity to view life anew and really find out who I am.

That’s my reward…
After each MS storm…
The picturesque blue sky on the horizon. 
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Michael Wentink, Blogger

In 2008, Michael Wentink was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At 31, he was a new father, a recent MBA graduate and a Director at a Fortune 500 company. MS altered this path and after an early retirement, Michael is now navigating life on a road less traveled. A native of Northern Virginia, Michael currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and two young children. Read about his journey with multiple sclerosis at and follow him on Twitter.

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  • Sam   Jun 2, 2017 3:20 PM
    Everything you said is exactly how I feel. I am very lucky that I am alive and can do what I am now capable of. I have said goodbye to the only man I ever loved so that I could maintain a life that is no longer suitable for him. I said goodbye to him so I could live. If I would have stayed I know I would have died as he doesn't understand what MS is doing to me. I finally am at peace now! My brain is no longer capable of Mensa conversation, and today I am fine with that! Thanks for telling your story!
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    tremainemichelle  Jun 3, 2017 1:58 PM
    This made me cry! I have been dealing with this all week! I was really starting to break down! Thanks!
  • Deb   Jun 7, 2017 3:49 PM
    As I am doing my VERY best to grin and bear what MS and life has thrown my way today.... I THANK YOU MICHAEL.... THANK YOU!!
  • Ann Lindstrom   Jun 7, 2017 3:59 PM
    Needed this reminder today. I am so tired. There are so many things I want to do but have no energy. I remind myself that I had a fun and more productive day yesterday. I met with the book club that I help to run, went out to lunch with friends, went for lab tests. I also dropped a full cup of coffee in middle of the library (joy of MS). So - today I am tired. In a two days I will go to a doctor appointment two hours away. Pace myself, pace my self, pace myself.
  • Wendy Newell   Jun 7, 2017 4:20 PM
    I Am So Sick of "grinning and bearing" it
    It hurts
    Screaming for "a cure" for MS
  • Traci   Jun 7, 2017 11:30 PM
    Thank you
  • Rosemary Mejia   Jun 27, 2017 11:29 AM
    Hi, I just wanted to tell you, your words really touched me. You very eloquently described all the same fears and hopes that I've felt. I was diagnosed with MS in 2012. I realized that much of the things I was feeling and simply dismissed as "part of getting old" were due to MS. I refuse to sit back and let it consume me. I still work and push forward every day. I simply "grin and bear it."