Focus on the Positive
Author: Tony Trott
I have a music degree from James Madison University and I was a member of one of the best marching bands in the country for three years. Those two facts tend to surprise people when they find them out. “This guy who uses a wheelchair approximately 90% of the time was in a marching band?” Yes, he was.
My disability, Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), is a genetic condition meaning I was born with it. In most cases, people who have FA begin to exhibit symptoms (e.g., loss of coordination, et al) between the ages of 5 and 18. Looking back , and as they say “Hindsight is always 20/20,” I did exhibit a slight lack of coordination during my teen years, but that was attributed to adolescence.
I turned 50 this past December, and I find myself reflecting on activities that I used to easily do and marveling at them; it’s like, did I really have the ability to ride a bicycle? I did, and feel like I would, in fact, still be able to “ride” one, but safely stopping and steering might be different!
There are all kinds of things I used to be able to do and can’t do anymore, but I choose not to focus on them. If I did, where would my feelings of sadness and loss come to an end? I realize that many individuals, at all stages of life, experience some form of loss of ability to do something that they used to do and experience sadness as a consequence. I can’t give you the “prescription” of what an individual should do to avoid that sadness. But I can tell you what techniques work for me and hopefully they can also apply to others.
When I’m upset about having lost certain abilities, I try to focus on somebody else who needs something I still can do; like cooking or help with a computer, for example. Sometimes the thing the other person needs is just sitting around with them watching TV! There are likely ALWAYS things that you can do for someone else. And that “someone else” doesn’t have to be a spouse or significant other. I’m not ashamed to admit that there still are times when I am alone and upset about something I’m having trouble doing, that I feel like I want to give up. But my life experience has shown me that using the negative energy that it takes to be upset is better for me and for others once I refocus it on something positive.
I realize that may sound trite, but it works for me and I hope it will work for you.