October 2023

What can PD Teach us?

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself,
I am large, I contain multitudes “

~ Walt Whitman

It bears repeating, there is nothing good about Parkinson’s Disease. What is good or bad is how we respond to it. So, how can we learn from something that has no redeeming qualities? If, as it is said “Every man is your teacher” Parkinson’s Disease can be a teacher too. What can this malady teach us? Plenty.

There is no guarantee of the future – Man plans, God laughs. You may be running with the best of them, at the peak of your form, only to have your stride broken by a lightning bolt from a clear blue sky. You may have done all you could to ensure your good health, eaten right, exercised daily, slept well every night, and still be a member of Club PD, an exclusive, highly non-discriminatory society. Congratulations!

Live in the present – Find joy in your life today, it’s all you really have. The past is gone, the future uncertain. Live in the moment, as if every moment matters, because surprise! Every moment does matter.

Plan for the future – I know, this seems to conflict with the previous nugget of wisdom about living in the present, but part of freeing yourself to live in the now is not being tethered to worries about how you will manage down the road. Life is rife with contradictions; this is one of them.

Lighten up – You never know what burdens others carry, don’t make their burdens heavier by piling on. And don’t be too harsh with yourself, we are all only human, including you. The fact that you are suffering from a progressive, disabling, and incurable disease should be a clue that all may not be right with the Universe, and that others may be feeling their own peculiar pain. So don’t come down too hard on your fellow travelers through this vale of tears. A little kindness goes a long way in this harsh existence where too often, it’s “Every man for himself, and God against all.” as Werner Herzog put it. Again, you object, isn’t this advice to lighten up a contradiction of the above principle that every moment matters? How am I supposed to relax while wringing every drop of meaning from every moment? Yes, it’s a contradiction. Life is rife with them. This is another.

Life isn’t fair – There is no knowable reason you got Parkinson’s Disease and the person sitting right next to you didn’t. But the sooner you accept that life isn’t fair, the sooner you will be able to enjoy it. The expectation that fairness is part of the deal will only frustrate you. Without that expectation, you can relax, acknowledge, and experience the good things life has to offer, without feeling cheated or shortchanged. This is another of life’s contradictions. I told you there were many.

Life is rife with contradictions – This is an obvious conclusion to draw after a look at the way PD manifests in our lives. So how do we proceed? Shuffle straight ahead, through the confusion, past the hurt feelings, over the frustrating realities, under the high expectations, embracing the contradictions. Because life is good, in spite of its contradictions, or perhaps, because of them.

by Peter Dunlap-Shohl
NW Parkinson’s Blogger

“It is the work of the creative to be a prosthetic imagination for the distracted and the dull”
– Maxwell Hubert Maxwell, playwright, butterfly collector, amateur surgeon and snob.