Finding Holiday Gratitude

We can all find a lot to be thankful for… if we just know where to look.

If you're anything like me, the holidays can be quite stressful. Granted it's supposed to be a very joyous time of year, but the preparation leading up to it can be extremely exhausting.
Of course, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season. With an emphasis on gratitude and loved ones, this time of year can bring up many questions of self-reflection—the biggest one being, “what do I have to be thankful for?”  
As someone living with MS, day-to-day challenges can sometimes cloud my perception of what I actually have to be thankful for. I can't run a marathon, nor can I walk a city block without feeling total exhaustion, mentally and physically. It can make for a very trying day.

I'm sure half of the population will be gearing up for a much-anticipated trip to see their loved ones over the holidays. However, many of us with MS will agree that a trip may have a very different meaning. Hitting the road can become quite literal. The constant challenges sometimes make me wonder why I should be thankful at all.
There are days when I feel like I’m walking around in a 300-pound cement suit, and it’s easy to want to give up.  When I trip and catapult into to a giant heap on the sidewalk, I don’t know whether to cry or laugh at how ridiculous I must have looked. I will say no broken bones is always a plus.
There are days when I wake up and ask myself why I have to try so hard, and yet, my answer is always, “because I can.”
But this doesn’t mean the day isn’t complicated.

As if the stresses of the holidays don't take their toll on a good day, add to it a body that seems to have an agenda and mind of its own. Life can become overwhelming, seemingly unmanageable. It can sometimes be difficult to believe in the old "mind over matter" cliché. 

When I'm having a day where my crazy body tests me beyond belief, it would be so easy for me to say, "what exactly do I have to be thankful for?”

But when I take the time to think about it, I realize I should be thankful beyond belief. I wake up to a new day filled with friends and family more than happy to help me if only given the chance. I'm also surrounded by the beautiful sunshine, even if it is often hidden behind clouds, and the opportunity to help others get through their own challenges certainly puts a smile on my face.

Whether our challenges are big or small, when all is said and done, we can all find a lot to be thankful for. Going through all I’ve been through in my journey with MS, sometimes it may not seem like it (or look like it), but I can honestly say there’s a silver lining somewhere. We just need to know where to look.
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Christine Kajfasz

Christine has lived with MS for 30 years and is dedicated to raising awareness and funds to find a cure. She is deeply involved in Bike MS as team captain of Team Leap Frog and encourages others living with MS to stay active and strong.

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  • Jonny   Nov 22, 2017 1:34 PM
    I enjoyed reading your comments and yes....THANKSGIVING very soon.....That means that my cousin’s Birthday is getting near. Now when exactly is the latest that I can post a card over the POND...The answer to that is....NOW😇
  • Elaine Okonski   Nov 22, 2017 6:48 PM
    Nicely put Christine. I like your perspective, everyday is a gift to be thankful for.
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    bubbadog66  Nov 23, 2017 4:51 AM
    Today is a gift, that's why it is called the present. Appreciate your outlooks on being on the edge of being grateful. As long as I have 51% hopefulness the 49% where being hopeless can be a moment to be thankful for because there is a fighting chance and I could possibly find that silver lining...small silver lining. Baby steps has become my friend, my new way of life.
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    dorinabme  Nov 24, 2017 1:51 AM
    I live in Ohio and during this time of year, the temperature drops and the snow begins to fall. YAY! Thanksgiving is here!

    As a 29 year old female living with RRMS, although excited for the holidays, it's unfortunate the drastic change in the weather affects me with relapses as well as active lesions.

    Every year I'm thankful for my parents, sister, brother-in-law, 2 young nieces and a nephew. All of my family gives me great support when dealing with MS.

    Sadly, Thanksgiving this year, the only family members that could make an appearance were my mother and my boyfriend. It makes me very sad that our feast will had so many empty chairs, especially because this is the first year that cooked the turkey all on my own.

    Although Thanksgiving this year wasn't ideal, I am still extremely grateful that God had allowed me to wake up, have the strength to experience and execute my first time cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. God is great!!
  • Dave Maskalick   Nov 24, 2017 5:09 PM
    The grass is always greener on the other side for some until they recognize their grass isn't that bad after all. :)
  • Donna Sullivan   Dec 21, 2017 5:33 PM
    Well put Christine. My biggest problem is how to leave the family early on a holiday. I'm usually so tired I can't hold my head up and no one understands why.
  • Adriane Landreth   Dec 21, 2017 8:43 PM
    I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 15 and over these past 16 years I have overcome many disabling challenges. I’ve always been an optimistic person and since I started applying gratitude to my daily routine, my illness has changed drastically; I begin each and everyday with thoughts of thankfulness. Since I changed my focus to only positive thoughts, in just six weeks I went from couch to a half-marathon. Anything is possible if you just believe.
  • Ginny Geier   Dec 22, 2017 7:04 AM
    This has been a year frought with physical pain and a decline in my cognitive abilitiees and memory loss. The Bible says that God told Paul that His Grace is sufficient and His strength shows up better in weakness. Well I have felt His love and Grace. However God says over and over, "fear not", and I still have trouble staying calm when I lose things and forget things.. But this is the season when God showed His Amazing love for us when He sent His most valuable Son from the glory of heaven into the womb of a young peasant girl , Mary. Jesus, Yeshua, came to earth to die for us, to pay the penalty for our sin. So rejoice
  • Isabel Ross   Dec 22, 2017 7:06 AM
    It is so true, sometimes we have to dig deep to find something to be grateful for, but a smile, an small act of kindness a beautiful sunset are all reasons to be thankful and they happen day to day we just need to look outwards
  • Tom Unrath   Dec 23, 2017 4:59 PM
    Thank you Christine. Your thoughts make a lot of sense. Gratitude actually is a very beneficial thing for us. Especially for those of us dealing with difficult circumstances it can bring us out of ourselves to a better place.

    Gratitude has only recently begun to be studied in earnest by psychologists. Dr. Robert Emmons is the foremost researcher on the subject of gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and has been working on the subject for about 15 years. Dr. Emmons has several books out now, the most recent, and most accessible for the lay reader, is “The Little book of Gratitude” published in 2016 by Gaia Books, London, England.

    In the book he states “In gratitude, we recognize that the source of goodness is outside ourselves.” We have been, and are, the recipients of many good things. “When we feel grateful, we acknowledge that we have received a benefit and recognize the value of it...We also recognize (perhaps less consciously) that we didn’t necessarily deserve or merit the benefit.”

    Those of us who have lost a lot might wonder why we should be grateful. One reason is that it is a helpful attitude for us! Recognizing that the source of goodness is outside ourselves allows us to accept what is, or is not, within us. Then we realize "I" am not all there is and my circumstances do not control me.

    I can be grateful for what I have and am and not be focused on the loss
  • Martha Hampton   Nov 10, 2019 12:56 AM
    I do exercises almost every day. I have been doing the same ones for some time I need to find new exercises to help me with gait, any suggestions?