We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy. – Ellen DeGeneres
For the past 5 or so years, I have been fairly entrenched in a certain stage of my life. After having to stop work 6 years ago, I have been seeking to redefine myself and figure out who I am now that I do not have paid employment to attend to everyday. For this period of time, I will forever be grateful. I have really focused on myself and carving out my niche in the world. I can now say that I am an artist, a healer, a quilter and a gardener. In my previous working life I would have said I am a teacher and a counselor. There are still remnants of those roles in my new life. I still feel I teach skills to people and I still do some informal counseling with friends and family, but I have further defined who I am. Living with an illness, I have found it necessary in the past to explore who I am, which is not merely a person with a disease. I have sought to identify myself as things other than a person who has MS. I never wanted what people identify me as to be “That woman with MS.” I believe there is so much more to us than our illnesses.
Although I still desire to be more than my limitations, recently I have felt a pull to move away from the desire to identify as much with the digging out of who I am. I am more interested in figuring out who I am in relationship to the whole and the world. As a species, we require connection. The more connections we can make, the more full I believe our lives are. Seeing what we have in common with each other rather than the differences that we may have, is something I find myself thinking a lot about lately. I feel I am moving into a gentler time in my life. A time when I seek to understand other people more and to not judge as much and place people into the boxes that society has a tendency to place people into. I run a support group for people living with MS. The other day in my meeting, we had some great conversations that came out of having a number of new members attend. We went through introductions and told each other a bit about ourselves. What I always find with these types of conversations, is that we have so much more in common with each other than our diagnosed diseases. We have families that are sometimes supportive and sometimes difficult. We have hobbies and like to travel. We are interested in politics both local and international. We have times when we feel strong and times when we feel defeated. These similarities are what I would like to spend my time focusing on for the next stage of my life.
Our world can often separate us into categories such as “able” and “disabled.” I no longer accept those labels. We are so much more than that. There are some areas in my life where I have limitations. However, there are other areas where I excel. I aim to seek the areas that people excel in. I think the more often I seek to find those areas, the more of a connection I can build with people. When that connection has been built based on the basis of an individual’s strength, I feel it is easier and more likely, that we will help each other through times of distress. When I look at my group of friends, I find that they are quite diverse. However, I am willing to help them all when they need it because I have built that connection.
What a different world we may have if we focused on looking at similarities to build concrete foundations with people that can then transfer into a willingness to help and support through times of difficulty. We could also all possibly find so much more happiness.