07/29/2013 06:48 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2013

Wheelchair Wisdom: You Open the Door Through Gratitude

The smile on my face doesn't mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with. -- Rumi

I have some difficulty with my hands in the summertime. My right hand is much less mobile than it used to be. I am forced to type with one finger on my left hand. I have to eat exclusively with my left hand. My thumbs (which act as my legs when I accelerate my electric scooter) are stiffer and less predictable when I ask them to operate the scooter. My neurologist thinks that multiple sclerosis (MS) might be progressing. As I wrote this paragraph, I experienced a small amount of writer's block here. I said to my assistant, "So what do I do now?" At that second, my phone rang. So she said, "You're going to answer the phone... with your hand." Of course! I personally am grateful for the simple action of using my thumbs, which I have always taken for granted, and which, in my present reality, I need to operate my electric wheelchair. I use my right thumb to accelerate my scooter (walk forward), and I use my left thumb to back up my scooter (walk backward). I am grateful for how my fingers grasp things and extend so I can type or scratch my nose or even put on my lipstick and mascara. I am grateful for my body. It never ceases to amaze me that my body produces and destroys blood cells every second, and that my heart needs only one minute to pump my blood through my network of cells and tissue and back again. It's been doing this minute by minute, day by day, for close to 64 years. Obviously, this is a matter of life and death for me, but I have no idea how it works, and it seems to work remarkably well in spite of my ignorance. I believe that when people view the end of their life as a short time left to live and no time to waste, they open up their hearts more profoundly, knowing they have less, not more, time to live. When I review my life so far and pay attention to the experiences I might have had --studied and mastered a second language, had children and grandchildren, officiated more wedding ceremonies, bought the water property with Michael in Sarasota, Florida, traveled to Africa and Japan -- I stop, pause, remember who I am, forgive myself, and awaken to the depth of my humanity. Forgiveness takes on a life of its own. I now have a "bucket list" of what I want to accomplish before I pass on. Completing my second book (Wheelchair Wisdom: Awaken Your Spirit Through Adversity) is at #3 on that list. I am so grateful to my spiritual teachers and to my husband, Michael, who have supported and encouraged me to look inwardly and extend my love and peace to all I meet. Michael supported me in all ways, after 34 years of marriage, during most of which I have had multiple sclerosis. You are the heart of my work. I know that when I take the time to be grateful, I become more loving, forgiving and respectful. When I am most grateful, I feel connected to the world. I can more easily look for only the good in all people and all events and leave the rest -- and the responsibility of fixing the broken pieces -- to a higher power. It is only then that I can relax and truly cease to judge my own life. When our hearts are open -- forgiveness, joy and gratitude evolve simultaneously, each supporting and feeding the others. Rather than focusing on what might have been more, better or different, why not start being grateful for what you've chosen? Not necessarily what you like, or prefer, but what is in front of you in this moment. In that moment, we find our blessings. And when we find our blessings, we can be grateful for our lives. EXERCISE: Take a few moments, pause and ask yourself these questions:
  • How are you holding yourself back?
  • How else does that show up in your life?
  • What are you going to do about it?
  • And will you look back at your life and say, "I wish I had," or "I'm glad I did?"
Blessings, Linda

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If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life around illness or any adversity and apply a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please find Linda's book, You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge.

For more by Linda Noble Topf, click here.

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