Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Lack of Focus

Focus Not
(Photo credit: gullevek)
Let me be clear about one thing – having MS absolutely sucks. It has impacted my quality of life in a significantly negative manner. But it’s a fifty steps backward and one step forward situation. This post is about one of those steps forward.

Here’s the deal. It’s not that my life before MS lacked purpose. It’s more like my life before MS had too many purposes.

Back when I was a healthy person I had so many interests, so many responsibilities, so much going on in my life that I lacked focus. Family has always been my number one priority, but Kim and I were, by our very nature, laidback parents. We didn’t believe in smothering our children with constant attention. Therefore, although being a good parent was a core value of mine, it didn’t consume every waking moment of my life like it does for some people.

My career was important to me too, but I was not a workaholic. I was considered smart and productive and easy to get along with (unless I completely misread the situation for 23 years). Many people wanted me to be part of their teams, task forces, or projects. Yet, I was rarely the expert on anything technical, financial, human resources related, or otherwise. I knew something about everything, but not everything about anything. Neither did I possess the degree of tenacity necessary to become CEO, for example. My career, although moderately successful, was unfocused.

In my healthy days I took part in many recreational activities, but I wasn’t a scratch golfer, a deep powder skier, or a marathon runner. I wasn’t wholly engrossed in any particular pastime. I supported various causes, but I was never one to spend vacation time building houses in third world countries. I had some interest in local government and civic activities, but I never ran for office or was chairman of any organization. I was a political independent, not identifying strongly with either major party. I long ago stopped attending church. I wasn’t focused on anything in particular during my free time.

Before MS I had many interests, but few passions. Life was good, and I knew that life was good, but I had so many balls in the air that I never felt focused.

I do now.

I remain an open-minded and thoughtful individual, sometimes to a fault (thoughtful in the sense that my head is full of thoughts not in the sense that I always consider other people’s well-being first). But today I spend less time spreading myself thin, and I spend so much more time being Mitch, the guy with MS. Living a contented, uncomplicated life as a disabled person, one day at a time, has given me the identity and focus that I was missing. It feels nice to finally know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, other than being a good husband, father, friend, coworker, and golf partner.

Some people resist being identified by their disease, but I embrace it. Sure, I am more than my MS, but MS is such an important part of who I am. I’m going to make the most of my situation by advocating for the disabled community in general and people with MS in particular.

MS has stolen so much from me, but it did provide this new sense of focus. That doesn’t make up for all the crap I’ve been through, but, well, at least it’s something.
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  1. Really insightful post! The more life experience I get, the more I realize that your outlook basically determines your happiness. Keep up the great posts!

  2. Good one Mitch. And once again I so relate.

  3. Mitch

    Being the engineer that I am, I can totally relate.
    I now write. That is my purpose.


  4. SideStix, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are so right. Outlook is a huge part a person's happiness. I don't mean to downplay the effect of luck and other uncontrollable circumstances, but how you choose to deal these circumstances is the part you can control.

    Mary Ellen,thanks for sliding over from

    Jonathan, it seems like you can definitely relate to my situation. Life with MS sucks, but a simpler life has its advantages.