Aging With Grace

There’s a certain freedom to turning 40 and realizing that, even now, I am a work in progress.
 
Sure, I wanted to be able to write one of those inspiring posts—you know, the ones that say look at me, I just turned 40 and I ran a marathon, or climbed a mountain, or bungee jumped off a cliff
.

This is not that kind of post. 

The truth is, I turned 40 recently, and I am not exactly where I want to be, particularly when it comes to my health. That’s kind of the nature of the beast when it comes to living with an unpredictable illness like multiple sclerosis.

And yet it’s hard not to feel that reflexive disappointment—to dwell on all the “shoulds.” I should lose weight, I should work harder, I should do more, be more, etc., etc., etc.

But that rabbit hole is never-ending, my friends. So now at 40, I’m finally learning to accept myself where I am. It’s not about giving up on setting goals—it’s about shifting those goals, and managing my expectations.

Appreciate the Good: Instead of focusing on what I haven’t accomplished, I am grateful for my blessings: an amazing husband who is the most supportive partner in life I ever could’ve asked for, phenomenal kids who are kind, intelligent, empathetic human beings; work that allows me to do what I love, write.

Find New Challenges: I’ve also realized that challenges don’t always have to equal extreme physical exertion. I’m finding different ways to push myself out of my comfort zone, including participating in a community leadership course that increased my confidence greatly.

Sometimes Rest is Best: I don’t intend to let my illness stop me, but I have come to terms with the fact that there will be days that it slows me down. Some days, all the gritty determination in the world isn’t going to push through the fatigue. Some days, my body is much better off with a nap than with a workout. So I listen to it.

Learn to Reframe: I still do set exercise-related goals; I just try to be more flexible and realize it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For instance, old me would’ve said, “I'm going to lose twenty pounds by fall.” New me says: “I’m going to exercise every day.” Sometimes I fall short—again, exercise isn’t always possible on a fatigue day. But any day I exercise is better than none.

Give Yourself Grace: That brings me to my most important point: When I don’t meet my goals, I’m learning to give myself a little grace. I intend to keep reaching for the stars, but if I fall short sometimes, I know it’s not forever—and I try to catch myself with grace and acceptance, knowing that I’m trying my best.

In my next 40 years, I hope to keep learning to accept myself for who I am, right where I am—a work in progress, fighting each day to live the best life I can with multiple sclerosis.

This might not be the post I’d first hoped to write. But it’s the post where I get to say that I just turned forty, and I am happy, I am as healthy as I can be, and I am here. And I’m grateful for each day I can continue to say that.
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Elissa

Elissa Dickey

Elissa Dickey lives in Aberdeen, South Dakota with her husband and children. A former journalist, she is now an author who also works in communications at a university.

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    6 Comments

  • teddickey1  Jun 19, 2019 2:40 PM
    I'm so proud of my wife.
  • Randy Voss   Jul 29, 2019 10:37 AM
    Elissa

    Thanks for writing this blog today. I've now read through it a couple times because I appreciate and relate to each of your very important 5 points. Each of them resonate with me so much and reinforced how I need to think about each day. Each one, every day. I will share with you that I am now on the shoulder of 63, having been diagnosed exactly 2 years ago. So I am still trying to accept myself, who I am now, and the fight inside me in that regards. It's a struggle that's real each and every day. Your fresh perspective made an impact for me, so I thank you for that.
  • KylieO  Jul 29, 2019 12:42 PM
    Great article! I can relate. I live in Mitchell, SD and am also 40! Diagnosed almost 5 yrs ago.
  • Christina   Aug 2, 2019 3:43 PM
    Hey Elissa, this article is so inspiring to especially today for me! I too live with ms and today was one of those fall short days!! After reading this my mind is totally changed!! Thank you so much for sharing this!!
  • Marion   Aug 3, 2019 12:49 PM
    I was about 37 when I got my MS dx - so I accepted the fact that I wouldn't be a professional opera singer. By the time I hit 40 I was stage-directing operettas. It wasn't 'til about 50 that I started telling folks I was abdicating from my various new roles... and started looking for roles I could still fulfill.

    It's hard sometimes to accept the need to give up what I love. I seek help when I need it... and rest a lot... but there's always something new to try for.
  • Mark Friedman   Aug 12, 2019 9:51 PM
    Thanks for some common sense reassurance! I am 54 year old male. My 18 year old daughter~ "Grace" is going away to college next week at university of new haven Connecticut! Then I have 13 year old TRIPLETS. UGGH. I hope I make it