True Grit

I suppose my last post, I do Remember, displayed my flair for the obvious. Of course I remember. How could I not? Every response revealed that bittersweet memories are part of the luggage all of us tote everyday. We would be turning our backs on our own identities if we left those bags by the side of the road. The real question may be, can we insure that memory is good and not a springboard to bitter disappointment?
I believe there is no magical thinking that spares us some degree of, what? Despair? Grief? Pain? Those are strong words. If they apply, it seems to me, something is wrong. Example: the last time I drove a car was nearly forty years ago. It took me decades to get over my fierce, almost fiery resistance to facing facts. My optic nerves were failing me. Probably, that reaction was stupid, but it was how I felt. In Blindsided, I wrote of my anguish at always riding shotgun.
I do not want to write this topic into the ground, but isn’t something off here? I loved driving because it meant independence. That prized commodity has been withering on the vine for a long time. I think I have invested too much in my view of myself. I cannot speak for another, People are bodies in motion. Life is a journey. We cross one mountain and expect the next to be the same. Wrong. Maybe our grit has been misplaced, and we have to toughen up.
No one said it would be easy. Maybe we should not be surprised when it is not.

42 Responses to True Grit

  1. Nancy Cincotta February 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    I try to use memories to transcend the present state of sadness, and grief that I am feeling. The memories can help me get through tough times.

  2. Yvonne February 7, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    I’m in a bitchy mood. I hate when friends expect the me of yesterday because it makes me even bitchier. “I use to enjoy our going out and I miss the fun we use to have” is well intentioned but annoying because it starts the stroll down memory lane. “Remember when we use to…” It’s not always us that think the journey across the mountain should be the same. Many of us know the peaks and valleys all too well. Sometimes we are made to go down memory lane and that can make us remorseful or sad. And if you really aren’t feeling so great, it can make you resentful. For me, I can become a bitch and that person goes on what I call my “caller ID list” for a minute or two and their calls don’t get immediately returned.. Memories can be wonderful and joyous but they can also ruin a perfectly good day when you are coming to terms with limitations. I know what’s ahead and I really do adjust as necessary so I continue to live my life as fully as possible. I just want to control my memory recall so I can continue to toughen up and not dwell on what was and will never be again. I’m a nice person but sunshine rainbows and unicorns I don’t do. 🙂

    • Richard M. Cohen February 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

      How can we get you over your anger?


      • Yvonne February 8, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

        Humor helps puts the ridiculousness of disease in perspective for me. When people get too serious about it I tend to get annoyed probably because I don’t dwell nor do I look for sympathy…ever. You have said before that grumpy is a part of disease. So is bitchy and today is bitchy for me but i’m OK with that, finally realizing the brave face is over rated. When my friends think they need to cheer me up, as they do, I know it comes from a place of love and concern but sometimes I am a bitch because I am not in control and it just sucks when I can’t do something. Memories. Yesterday is yesterday and tomorrow is hopefully better but if not…there’s always tomorrow.

      • Yvonne February 8, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

        Empathy/sympathy is neither solicited nor necessary for me. People who feel the need to tell me about their fatigue, sore back/leg, or other ailment to bond during a casual conversation makes me bitchy because I want to STSOT but I just nod. Guess bitchy is just pent up frustration. Not angry Richard, just bitchy.

  3. Candy February 7, 2015 at 9:28 pm #

    Richard, I wanted to inform you that my friend, KG, passed away this morning. She would have enjoyed todays post. Her name was Karen and she was the epitome of true grit. She battled stage 4 breast cancer over four years. During that time she lost her husband to multiple myeloma. I often marveled at her perseverance and determination. We had many conversations about this blog. She wasn’t one to go sit in a support group and talk about feelings. But she did like discussing the latest blog topic. Karen was smart, opinionated, thoughtful, loyal, hard working, insightful and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She would agree that life is a journey and you have to toughen up for the rough days. That’s exactly how she lived her life.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 7, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

      I am very sorry. I had filed one of her blogs for my next book. I know how hard she fought. Lif sure suck sometimes.


    • Elizabeth February 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      Her last post was so insightful. I was worried when she wasn’t adding to the conversation recently. I was with my Mom recently in her final days with terminal cancer and I just hope that KG left this world in the most peaceful, painless way possible. She will be missed here. Blessings to you Candy. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  4. Jan February 8, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Candy, very sorry to read about your friend Karen, though encouraged by her grit and determination… my sister is fine after her battle however her childhood friend had what appears to be a similar experience overall and losing her battle, too, about ten years ago.

    I write this morning from my phone, wanting to go to church but unable to even get up for breakfast, with inability to walk and severe pain. Daunting. Yet with thoughts of what is really truly important in life.

  5. Amy Corcoran-Hunt February 8, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    Well now there’s some perspective: if you’re reading this, you’re still here. Breathing. With things you get to do.

    • Jan February 8, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      Yes, breathing, but the latter perspective is not spot-on.

      • Jan February 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

        In fact, very far from reality.

  6. Jan February 8, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Folks, I really had not intended to make so many posts but fYI in general “I” and “me” statements, even “what about…” can be most effective, I think… “you statements” can at times, though maybe unintentionally, enter into very dangerous territory.

    Just me, myself, and I talking here!

  7. MB February 8, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    How is ruminating about the past any different than a 50 year old ex-football player rehashing the glory days of the big game when he was a junior in high school?

    When I read this post I couldn’t help thinking about a line from Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” “…Just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days.”

    In your post you stated that, “We would be turning our backs on our own identities if we left those bags by the side of the road…can we insure that memory is good and not a springboard to bitter disappointment?” In my case, it’s more sadness than disappointment. I try not to go there too often because I risk driving myself bat-shit crazier than I already am.

    • Yvonne February 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

      LOL @MB “bat shit crazier” Thanks for the chuckle. It was getting too deep up in here. Sometimes we need to be reminded to laugh.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 8, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

      I think we are saying the same thing.


  8. Hannah February 8, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    I hope Karen is surrounded by all her favorite things and people in an endless summer type of setting. Is it weird when you feel deep sorrow for people you don’t actually know? Because I do right now.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 8, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      Maybe all of us do.


  9. Candy February 8, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    Hannah, Karen and I had numerous discussions about the afterlife. She was adamant there wasn’t a hell and she promised to save me a seat at the bar wherever she is. We always agreed heaven would be 76 degrees and with an all dessert theme. Karen admired the honesty and wisdom of this group. I’m thankful for the discussions she and I had based on Richard’s latest blogs.

    • Richard M. Cohen February 9, 2015 at 8:06 am #

      Bill Moyers used to say that journalism is life’s best continuing education course. Blogging is an extension. I never connected the three of you, though I have been aware of what a pain in the…whatever Hannah is. I am sorry for what you have experienced. You should be too young for that. Sometime, read the famous Aeschylus quote on wisdom.


  10. Hannah February 9, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    It’s so funny when you throw a punch but it misses, Richard! You should do that more often!

    I laugh off my own pains here. I get the sense R can take it and dish it. But it’s all dessert that’s being served…all in good fun. I think. Shall we battle it out with a snowball fight?

    With love from blizzard #2
    (lol, winter, just staph it already!!!)

    • Richard M. Cohen February 9, 2015 at 9:09 am #

      Of course all is in fun. I really did not connect you guys. Can you email me on the journeyman email?

  11. Elizabeth February 9, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    Pride, Purpose, Potential

    Are those positive happy things or sad, defeating, depressing losses? It’s all perspective isn’t it?

    Right now I am in a funk where my pride is hurt from the losses I have had, vocationally, physically, and emotionally. It has left me feeling that I have no purpose. I sit around refreshing the job opportunities, watching TV, reading about things that interest me, but I’m a get up and go person so if I’m idle, I feel no purpose. My potential is different. I may have to reinvent the way I view myself. I don’t have to accept my illness, I can still fight, but I do have to work within new boundaries.

    My goal will be pride in fighting my illness and living my life despite it not as a victim of it. I need to contribute to something. Something other than sitting around waiting for the right thing to come along that pulls me out of my funk. I am going to have to find a purpose that is fulfilling. I still have potential, I just need to stop letting my limitations and boredom eat me up. Then the pride, purpose and potential will be positive words.

    It’s like the memories. They light me up when I’m in the right mood. They limit me when I am feeling like I have lost the potential to make more happy memories. KG like my Mom set an incredible example of strength. It makes the other stuff seem manageable when you think of people who can be encouraging even in the face of obstacles like that.

    • Richard February 9, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

      You used the word, purpose, a lot. It sounds as if you need to find that more than anything. I can be anything, but I think all of us need to feel that we have a purpose. I hate to sound like Ann Landers,m but finding a sense of purpose will allow you to reset your compass.


  12. Yvonne February 9, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    Elizabeth said” My potential is different. I may have to reinvent the way I view myself. I don’t have to accept my illness, I can still fight, but I do have to work within new boundaries.” That’s the kind of thinking that will keep you going when you encounter the challenge of disease. Good for you. I can’t work a 20-40 hr work week anymore. Sucks. The good news is once i reconciled myself with that, I found a great volunteer opportunity that allows me to do what I love and keeps me busy enough to feel like all is not lost because of MS. Thankfully I have LTD through my last company and supplemental income so even though my lifestyle has changed drastically, I can survive financially. Finding a job at 50+ is hard. Finding one at 50+ and a disability can be disheartening. Hope you find an organization that you can volunteer to occupy some of that TV time while refreshing those job oppertunities. Some organization out there needs a volunteer. I tried a fwe before I found the right one. They even offered me a job after a year but my health prevented ne from accepting so I just volunteer. One can only watch so much daytime TV before you want to smash the scream and smash the screen. Been there, almost done that (the screaming not the smashing). 🙂

    • Richard February 10, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      Isn’t one of the lessons here that nothing is perfect. The volunteer work fills a hole. It isn’t exactly what you wanted, but it works. Too often, I feel I have failed if opportunities don’t rise to an arbitrary standard. Big mistake.


  13. MB February 10, 2015 at 7:39 am #

    One more thing. You’re right when you say driving means independence.

    Even though I had to hire someone to drive me to and from work in order to hang on to some sense of self, I still can’t just run out for a missing ingredient when I’m preparing dinner. Instead of asking my husband, who would be happy to do it, I improvise or stick the bowl in the refrigerator and order takeout.


    • Richard February 10, 2015 at 8:24 am #

      I try not to run out.


  14. MB February 10, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    Fighting to hold onto independence is a common MS theme but that’s really just a euphemism for struggling to stave off dependence, right? In the first one we’re fighting the aggressor and in the second we’re just trying to hang on.

    I continue to work even though my body is failing me because I’m fighting to hold onto independence. On the flip side I’ve had to give up driving and depend on an alternate means to get to work. I’m dependent so I can maintain independence.

    Isn’t that weird?

    • Richard February 11, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

      I don’t think so.


  15. Yvonne February 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    Was talked into going to a volunteer appreciation lunch today. People really wanted me to go so I caved in to accepting a ride with one of my fellow volunteers. Riding shotgun is bad enough but having to ask if there was room in the trunk for my 15lb Volaris rollater, now that weirded me out. Beginning of the end of driving independence. Big, big sigh….

    • Louise February 11, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Ugh. I’m sorry, Yvonne. That really sucks. I hope it was pleasurable otherwise. I guess the only alternative would have been to not go at all. My mother always said you have to make decisions in light of the alternatives.

      • Yvonne February 11, 2015 at 11:24 am #

        Had a great time Louise. The driver was on time and she didn’t linger after it was over and…her trunk was clear!!! Two big thumbs up 🙂

    • Richard February 11, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

      I share that feeling, and we have to move beyond it.


  16. Betty February 11, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    SPMS and 20 years in. I drive, but rarely, and not for long for the obvious reasons. I’m taking a break from a 30+ year career to figure out where I’m at, and what it’s going to take for me to live a good life in the years ahead with this crappy disease. I hadn’t left my house for days, (snowed in in New Hampshire) but today the sun was shining and I felt like getting out. Postings about independence, and especially driving were weighing on me as I am about to have the official driving evaluation to determine if, and how I can stay on the road. So I putted along my lonely back roads for a while enjoying the sun, then I hit the highway, turned up some great music and stepped on the gas! I felt so free, and strong and happy. It had been a long time. My destination was to an assisted living facility to join my 90 year old mother in-law for a one hour senior yoga session, and then lunch with the inmates. (Not my term. They call themselves that). My shiny red rollator fit right in. I’ve been to The Riverglenn many times before as a visitor, but today I took my place as an equal among 80-100 year olds in a chair yoga class. There were ten of us, and some in better shape than others. At 59 and fit except that I can’t lift my feet off the ground, and I’m spastic and ataxic I did ok, but it wasn’t easy. Yvonne “Hi, I’m 100” did amazingly well, and even though she couldn’t lift her arms over her head she kept up, and enjoyed herself very much. We all had lunch together. Men and women with pasts, and memories, hopes and hobbies, friends and desires. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis, stroke, and MS, you name it. It was all there at the table with us, but it had to take its place among people who had more to talk about, and live for on this winter day. I’m looking forward to next week when I will join the inmates again for some exercise and camaraderie, and importantly a fresh perspective when I look in the mirror.

    • Richard February 11, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

      You sound like me, so negative and defeated. We have to break out of that mindset.


      • Jan February 11, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

        Yep and start by Saturday…


        Amidst a worst-ever MS attack in 10 years that hasn’t gone away in 1 1/2 weeks (a nasty fall, really barely walking, plenty of pain, head issues), I opted for the Home Depot motto of “Let’s Do This” driving briefly anyway (no snow here) to a grocery and the library to pick up the Wahls book again and “Blindsided” that I first read 10 years ago. “Wow, he GETS it!” I recall thinking at the time (of utter chaos).

        And now, 10 years later, reminded that your book copy revealed your birthday (right there in print), I understand the perspective even more personally.

        And as much as it pains me to admit it, “a family affair.” But I’ve also discovered that I really am “still me” — and maybe more of me in character, even if less in physicality. I can choose to make people around my in-store scooter carts comfortable and matter-of-fact by how I act. Don’t get me wrong, I think this totally stinks… but I’m determined to take up the choices that I can, however small.

        So go enjoy some birthday cake (I’m avoiding gluten right now, so if you’re not, then by all means enjoy it!)

  17. Yvonne February 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    Betty-that was a great recap of what sounds like a day I need to have soon as a reminder that the ability to move, however limited, is still the ability to move. Guess I’ll look a little harder for opportunities for fun. 🙂

  18. Jan February 12, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    This morning’s news and the passing of journalist Bob Simon (if you knew him, Richard, my sincere condolences–I did not) are a stark reminder to me of the uncertainty of life and of a life I want to matter to someone, in however seemingly small a way today.

    • Elizabeth February 12, 2015 at 10:36 am #

      Richard, I immediately thought of you when I heard of the news of Bob Simon. His voice was iconic. He had such a calm, soft, but strong and human approach to his stories. I am guessing he was a close friend/colleague of yours. What a loss. My sincere condolences to you and your other community. Seeing Scott Pelley in tears just made me cry for you all. I’m very sorry.

    • Richard February 12, 2015 at 10:43 am #

      I am writing a post about Bob right now.


  19. MB February 15, 2015 at 12:58 am #

    Maybe a future post?

    I’ve always been curious as to how much my neurologist makes from pharmaceutical companies. Lo and behold, a helluva lot.

    I want to take my ball and go home…