Change of Plans

After I sprinted face-first into a tree playing kickball in 7th grade, a few things immediately ran through my twelve-year-old brain. One, that friggin hurt. Two, maybe I shouldn’t have just lectured my teammates to try harder to catch pop flies in my tree-littered front yard. And three, my future as an international spy was over.

As blood from my lower lip was staining my shirt at an alarming pace, my mom tried to calm me down. But it’s hard to calm down when your life’s career plan just careened off a cliff. (And have you noticed that one always “careens off a cliff” never off a small ledge into a field of flowering poppies.) The hole in my lower lip needed stiches, multiple stitches. And as the doc was tugging needle and thread through my puffy face, he announced that, yes, it would leave a mark. A scar. I was distraught.

Based on my extensive middle-school knowledge of foreign espionage, nothing was worse for a future spy than a tell-tale, identifying scar on your face. Nothing. Granted, growing facial hair, aka a beard, would have solved the issue rather quickly, but facial hair was not yet on my radar at 12. Spying was. And, just as suddenly, was not. My future career opportunities, with the gnarly scar and all, now appeared to be winnowed to driving a school bus part-time or playing a masked cartoon character at Disneyland. Maybe Disney World.

I was mourning the loss of a future I thought for certain I was supposed to have, not unlike what happens when you get diagnosed with a (currently) incurable disease like multiple sclerosis. Everything gets fuzzy, hazy. Certainties become maybes, and maybes become wishful thinking.

Before I got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I had lots of plans, including one in particular: to snowboard until I was 80 years old. My favorite day of the year was the summer solstice, because that meant winter was coming, and this was years before Game of Thrones. I was a daily exerciser, not for my health, but to get ready for ski season. Working on balance, endurance, strength, and explosiveness, my body was always prepared when the flakes started to fall.

Okay, so I only made it to age 40. No, that wasn’t my plan—hell no. But plans change. In the game of life, plans always change. When life doesn’t go to plan, and health issues usually aren’t planned, it’s easy to wallow in sadness, frustration, fear, anger. There aren’t enough emoticons to convey the feelings that rush you when getting diagnosed with a disease. Besides it would max out your cell phone data package and drive your friends bonkers as they try to decipher a string of facial expressions only a crack international spy could decipher. Oh, the irony.

So getting diagnosed with MS (or insert your disease of choice here) means you have to draw up a new play in the huddle, on the fly. So what? Zig left instead of right. No, it wasn’t the original play call, but you can make it happen. Trust yourself and make it happen. Just watch out for the dang trees when you run your new route.