Struggling with Parkinson’s Disease and God – by Jeff Wiles

I met Jeff through Facebook last year via Parkinson's Journey. It is my utmost privilege to publish this 'post' of bittersweet transparency in reference to his battle this past year not only with PD, but life in general. This is one man's account of letting go of the things that cause fear, anger, hurt and more, giving things up to God and trusting Him to work through them.

I hope you enjoy it. Not many people would be so open. Through his words, you will be blessed as you see anew that a much greater peace is afforded when we follow God than when we want to fight Him.

Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your heart. ~sherri

I watched my father die in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia on May 10, 2009. This man that I had known every day of my life, the man that took me and my younger brother to baseball games when we were little, the man that had watched every black and white episode of Andy Griffith at least a hundred times and still laughed at them, the man that I rebelled against when I was a teenager, the man that I had grown closer to after I married and had children of my own, the man that created beautiful pieces of furniture from wood, the man that doted on his grandchildren, the man that had spent most of his adult life preaching the Word of God.

This man, I watched take his final breaths on a warm spring morning in Atlanta, Georgia. They disconnected him from life support shortly after my wife and I arrived there, allowing me to say goodbye before pulling the plug. They said he would pass quickly, but, for nearly three hours, I listened to him gasp for breath. Those sounds that he made are sounds I will never forget. They haunt me to this day.

I knew that he had lived a good life. And we all knew that he was heaven bound. But losing your father is never easy. And watching him die was not easy either. He always said he wanted to live long enough to marry his oldest granddaughter. But he never got that chance. He never got to see my son hit his first home run. He hit it the following year when he was ten years old on a day close to the anniversary of my father’s death. I guess he saw it from heaven. I hoped he did. I cried when my son’s coach gave that ball to my son and asked him to take it to me. I cried as he handed me that ball. I cried as I stuffed it into the pocket of my jacket, partly because I was proud of my son and partly because I wished my father could have been there to enjoy that moment with me. But, by the time my son handed that ball to me, something had changed about me.

Four months after watching my father die, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. My life would change forever. I attempted to fight the disease. I really thought I could win the battle. I had overcome other obstacles in my life. But this opponent proved more formidable than I expected. Only three years after the initial diagnosis, I was out of work. Depression began to overwhelm me, as I watched my family begin to suffer financially because of my inability to work, and as physical aspects of the disease began hindering my ability to engage in certain activities I once enjoyed. I was not handling the situation well. I wanted to be the person I used to be, but the disease and the side effects of the medication I was taking to control the disease had so altered my behavior and emotions that optimism and happiness seem to be increasingly difficult to manufacture.

I was only forty-four years old, and the best days of my life seemed to be over. I wondered why God had allowed this to happen to me, and I wondered how long I would be able to withstand the emotional toll this disease was having upon me. Sometimes, I would be awake all night, tormented by my thoughts. It didn’t seem to matter how much I read my Bible or how many times I knelt and prayed. The person I was before Parkinson’s, the person I wanted to be again seemed irretrievably lost. I was not the husband I wanted to be. I was not the father I wanted to be. I was not only struggling physically and emotionally, but I was struggling spiritually.

My faith and confidence in God was beginning to wane. I was certain of my salvation, but I could not understand why God was allowing this to happen to me. First, the death of my father. Then, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Then, the loss of my job. Then, the loss of our house. Then, the loss of all of our savings. How much did God expect me to endure? What limitations would be placed upon my suffering? What else could possibly go wrong?

Well, about the time I was convinced that every bad thing that could possibly happen had already happened, I was confronted with the most painful revelation ever – my wife did not love me anymore. She wanted me to leave. So now there was not just the Parkinson’s and all of its debilitating symptoms and there was not just the depression and guilt procured by my family’s situation. Now there was loneliness – a profound and deleterious loneliness that was more noxious than any emotion I had ever experienced in my life. I had just been rejected by the woman that promised to love me for the rest of my life. I was living in a trailer absent of the voices and laughter of my children. How much more suffering did God expect me to endure? I began to wonder if He even cared.

I continued to read my Bible, and I continued to say my prayers. But that peace that passeth all understanding and that more abundant life – those promises from God seemed blatantly absent in my life. I did not have peace. And I did not feel like I was living an abundant life. Instead, I felt like I was withering away anonymously, and nobody even cared. My life had been cast into chaos, and peace and contentment seemed to be elevated on some towering plateau I had no chance of ever reaching. And then there were all those television preachers with beautiful wives and adoring children that were following them in spiritual obedience. And they were telling me how to pray and how to seek God and how if, I would just do this or just do that, my life would be saturated with blessings from above. But I had been praying and I had been seeking God, and, despite all of that, in September of 2013, I was sleeping on the floor of an empty trailer with an incurable disease, no job, no wife, and very little money. Did God not love me? Did God not care about me as much as He did the television preacher with immaculately white teeth and a beauty pageant wife? Had the sins I committed been greater than the ones they had committed? What was I supposed to think about this God that had apparently overlooked me when He was delivering His abundance of blessings?

To tell you the truth, I am not sure how God expected me to react to this seemingly inequitable amount of suffering. I am not certain there exists a universal dictate on how to deal with hardships and tribulations and sorrows, not even in the Bible. After all, we were all created uniquely, according to scripture. And, even in the company of others who share our belief in God and the saving power of the blood of His son, Jesus Christ, there still exist a variety of personalities and characteristics. Not all of us share the same opinion on every subject. Not all of us enjoy the same music. Not all of us enjoy the same modes or methods of worship. Some of us like worship services to be orderly and regimented. Others of us enjoy worship services that have no definitive schedule. So how can we all be expected to react the same to tragedy or suffering or distress? I do not believe that we can be, nor do I believe that God expects us to have similar reactions. All I can reveal is how I reacted, hoping you will understand that this is only a personal account of my behavior and actions and not a justification or condemnation of the reaction of others who have suffered similar tribulations in life.


For me, one of my first actions was to abstain from watching television evangelists or even listening to sermons on Christian radio stations. I am not implying that all television evangelists and radio ministers are fraudulent or hypocritical. In fact, for some people experiencing similar situations as mine, these media ministries may have been a blessing. But not for me. Every time I attempted to watch a minister or evangelist deliver a sermon on television, I became filled with rage and anger. Look at this guy, I would think in my mind. He isn’t living with an incurable disease, he has not been separated from his children and family. He has never heard the words “I don’t love you anymore” from his wife. In fact, she is sitting there on the front row. She looks like a model. She has a beautiful voice. She is wearing expensive clothing and flashy jewelry. And she shares her husband’s passion for ministry. They met at Bible college, where he was studying to be a pastor and she was studying to be a minister of music. They had been happily married for twenty-five years, their children went to Christian schools and went on summer mission trips, they drove nice cars, they made nice salaries and went on amazing family vacations. Of course, he can preach about the goodness of God and how to live an abundant life and how to overcome sin and temptation. His life has been a bed of roses.


Of course, my perception may have not been accurate or fair, but, encumbered by the many sorrows of my life, that is what I believed about every minister I saw on television or heard on the radio. The sad truth is that I did not want to see anyone that was living a blessed life, not on television and not even in the local church I attended. I guess, in some sordid way of thinking, I wanted every one to be suffering just because I was suffering. And seeing happy Christians just made me angry. After all, I had accepted Christ as my Savior just like they had. I had taught Sunday School, been involved in children ministries, and even been the director of Vacation Bible School at my church one summer. Why was I suffering while all these other Christians appeared so happy and content? It just didn’t seem fair.


But what I began to realize eventually was that the way I was thinking at the time was completely narcissistic. I should have been rejoicing to see God blessing the lives of other Christians, not angry at them just because I was suffering through what seemed like hopeless tribulation. Actually, the devil was attempting to deceive me and using other Christians and my perception of their lives to accomplish his objective, which was to convince me that God didn’t love me or care for me as much as He did others. If he could convince me of that, whatever ministries or purposes God had planned for my future would be annihilated. No, he would never be able to get my soul. That belonged to God and had been paid for in full by the shed blood of His son, Jesus Christ. But he could certainly attempt to mire me in a state of self-pity and misery so overwhelming that my witness and testimony for Christ would never be as effective as God intended it to be. That is his specialty, by the way. The devil is a master of deception. And he often uses others and the perceptions we have of others to deceive our minds into accepting beliefs that we know or should know are contrary to the teachings of God’s Word. Actually, I don’t think we should ever compare our lives to the lives of others, because, when we do, our tendency is to only see what they have that we do not have or what they have that we want to have. Our analysis of others’ lives deflects us from enjoying or appreciating or even recognizing the blessings that are a part of our own life. Sure, some people seem to be more blessed than others. But so what? If you are saved, we are all eventually going to the same place anyway – the preacher with the pearly white teeth and supermodel wife and the pastor of a church on the edges of the Amazon jungle who has no wife and no teeth and sleeps in a hut. If saved, both are heaven bound, and both are equally loved by God.


I realized that I could not allow my present sufferings to affect the way I felt about God or others. Romans 8:18 says that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. In the end, we are all going to a place where we will be blessed beyond measure and whatever suffering we had to endure on Earth will be forgotten. So one lesson learned during this bleak chapter in my life is that being mad at others for whatever reason has no spiritual benefit for me.


And neither does being angry at God.


I am ashamed to admit that I have attempted to act out in anger toward God during this turbulent time in my life. But I have. Sometimes, I begin thinking like this – Okay, God, you allowed me to get Parkinson’s Disease, you allowed me to lose my ability to work, you allowed my marriage to dissolve and, just to prove how angry I am at you, I am going to buy a six pack of beer and listen to drinking songs all evening. I am going to do that just to prove to you that I am mad at you. I wonder what God thinks about me when I do stupid things like that? I imagine He must be in heaven just shaking his head and wondering – when is this guy going to learn to behave like a mature Christian, because really what I am doing, in those moments when I am acting out my anger toward God, is behaving like a child throwing a tantrum because his parents did not buy him a toy he wanted in a store.


Now most of us that are parents realize that our children cannot get exactly what they want at the exact time they want it every time they make a request. And the fact that a friend has the toy doesn’t matter. And neither does the fact that a friend has the toy indicate that the parents of that friend love their child more than we love our child. The circumstances are just different. And that is the way it is with us and God. The circumstances of our lives may be different, but God loves us all just the same, whether our lives are sated with an abundance of blessings or marred by an abundance of sorrows. His Son died on the cross for all of us. But I have learned, during these difficult times, that God cannot work with me as long as I am down here on Earth throwing temper tantrums just because things are not going the way I want them to go. I have to be willing to yield my life to Him, even when I do not understand the suffering. I guess I am just like most people – I want to know where I am going. I want to know the outcome. I want to know where God is leading me. I want to know how He is going to deliver me from this mess. But knowledge of what may transpire in my future is reserved for God. It is not my duty to know. It is my duty to trust.


Sort of reminds me of morning deer hunts, entering the woods before daylight, while darkness still lingers. When I enter those dark forests, I know where I am going. I know where my stand is located. I have walked back and forth to that deer stand so often that I can find it in the darkness just as easily as I can find it in the daylight. But what about my son, what if he decides to go hunting with me one morning? He doesn’t know the way to the stand. He would have difficulty finding the stand in daylight. There is absolutely no way he could locate the stand in the darkness. So what does he do? He follows me. And he doesn’t stop me every thirty seconds and ask me if I am sure that we are going the right way. And he doesn’t even question me when I lead him through patches of bristles and thorns. His faith in my ability to get him to that stand never wavers. He trusts me completely. And I need to be that way in my relationship with God. I need to quit fighting Him and asking Him why He allowed me to have Parkinson’s Disease or why my marriage failed or why am I having to endure all this suffering. I need to learn to quit fighting Him or even trying to understand why all this is happening. I need to quit doing all of that and just trust Him. That is hard to do sometimes, especially when He may be leading me through a thicket of thistles and thorns that seems neverending. My initial instinct is to question Him, is to wonder if He really knows what He is doing. But if my son can trust me to lead him to a deer stand in the darkness, I should certainly be able to trust my Heavenly Father to lead me to the place He wants me to be.


I don’t have to understand why He has chosen a certain path for me, I don’t have to understand why the journey seems to be more challenging and forbearing than I thought my walk with Him would be. All I have to do is trust. All I have to do is follow. As long as He is in the lead, I will get to where He wants me to be, because He knows the way – not me.

 

Guest Post: Living with Parkinson’s Disease by Jeff Wiles

In the last few days I met a man names Jeff Wiles on the infamous Facebook website. Some may know him from Facebook. Some may know him as he is a man withi Parkinson’s disease and some may know him as, I discovered, he is an author of “The Godless Sky.” (see below)

 

Anyhow, if you know him or not, he posted the following in the Parkinson’s Journey group on Facebook and I was so encouraged and inspired by his story, I asked if I might repost it here for those of you who don’t do Facebook or didn’t already see it. It is one of the most transparent and honest accounts of how PD changes one’s life and the lives of those we love. I think each person will be able to relate to something. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks Jeff, for sharing.

~sherri

 

Living with Parkinson’s Disease by Jeff Wiles

 

In the beginning, there was only a slight tremor. That was all. I wasn’t even worried about it too much. I just figured I messed up a nerve or something, that the tremor would disappear in a few weeks. But the tremor continued to worsen until I finally went to the doctor. He tried a few treatments to get rid of the tremor, but the tremor never went away. So he finally recommended I go to a neurologist.

Jeff and hisi wife, Kristi

 

In the fall of 2009, I was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The vision I had for my future immediately changed. I couldn’t even believe what the doctor was telling me. Prepare to live on one income? I wanted to work until I was in my seventies, like my grandfather did. Think about adding long term disability and assisted living to your insurance policy at work? What did he mean? This could not be happening to me. I was Jeff Wiles. I worked hard, I exercised hard. I still weighed the same as I did when I was in high school. I was not the kind of man that this happened to. These diseases only happened to people that were weak or feeble, or, at least, that is what I thought. But, despite my inhibitions to accept his diagnosis, the doctor was right. I had Parkinson’s Disease. And, as much I wanted to fight the disease, I could not.

 

In four years, I was put on disability, a word I didn’t even like to mention and still don’t, to tell you the truth. The dream house my wife and I built, the house in which I expected to live forever, we had to sell it. Even with insurance, the medicines and doctor visits added a burden to our finances. And then there was the decrease in my income. In my mind, the man was supposed to be the provider for his family. But here I was, watching my family’s finances collapse, and the fault seemed to fall solely upon me. I could not understand why God had allowed this to happen to my family and me. We were a happy family. Kristi and I had a great marriage. We loved each other and had fun together, and, though we were not wealthy, we were able to go on summer vacations and take the children to the movies or the zoo once in a while. Now, we had to eliminate all those little extras from our life, and the burden took a toll on us. It still is. I cannot say that I have learned to accept the fact that my illness has caused so much pain for my family and especially my wife. But still, I believe in my God. I have no other choice but to believe in Him. And the truth is I have learned some lessons in these last few years, as I am slowly trying to adapt to the reality of my situation.

Jeff’s daughter, Emile

 

One lesson I have learned is that no matter how much we love what we have on earth, whatever is of this earth is temporary. Do you know what I fear losing the most? My muscles. Now, most of you might think that this fear of mine is sort of silly. But, then again, most of you do not understand how hard I worked to get the muscular body I have or how hard I have worked and am still working to maintain it. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t look like an Olympic athlete or a candidate for Mr. Universe, but I sure look different than the skinny kid I was in the tenth grade. I have put countless hours in at the gym. I am not the guy that works out for a few months here and there. Since the age of sixteen, the longest I have ever went without working out is six weeks, and that was because of a hernia surgery. I have been committed to staying in shape my entire life. But no matter how committed I am to maintaining my shape, these muscles are going to shrivel away. I guess I always knew they would one day, but this disease will only accelerate the deterioration. Sometimes, I feel like having a little kid tantrum, stomping my feet on the ground, and saying, “That’s not fair, God. I worked hard for these.” But God tells us that in His Word anyway, that everything in this world will pass away (Matthew 24:35). So that immaculate yard into which you have exhausted so much labor and money, it will pass away. And that wonderful house you built next to the golf course, it will pass away. Your clothes will wear out, your cars will break down, your hair will turn gray or fall out, and my muscles will disappear. Why? Because cars and houses and businesses and even our bodies were not made to be eternal. But the treasures we lay up for ourselves in heaven, they are eternal (Matthew 6:19-20), so, if we believe this truth from the Word of God, shouldn’t we be giving more attention to them than our earthly treasures? You would think, but diverting our attention from earthly treasures to heavenly treasures is difficult for us earthly-minded humans to do. After all, you can sit on your porch and look at how beautiful your yard is, you can walk around your living room and see how beautiful the hardwood floors you installed are, and I can look in the mirror and see how my pretty my chest muscles are (just kidding), but I can look in the mirror and still see a few muscles. Harder to labor for treasures we will not receive until we die, isn’t it? But those are the ones we should be seeking, those that cannot be corrupted by rust or moth, those heavenly treasures, those are the ones into which we should be investing our time and labor. That should be our retirement plan – our heavenly treasures, because, for those of us that know Christ as our Savior, that is where we will be spending our retirement, not when we retire from work but when we retire from these earthly bodies. And I hear that we will be spending many years in that retirement home.

 

Another lesson that I have learned from having this disease is humility. Now, many people that know me may believe that I am a humble person. After all, I do not like to talk about myself or rave about my accomplishments in life, because that just does not fit my character. But my outward display of modesty is just a disguise for an inner arrogance that God has revealed to me, an arrogance birthed in the many obstacles I have overcome in this life. It started with the muscles.

 

In the tenth grade, I was a weak and lanky kid lost in a big school where I knew very few people. And I got teased a lot. So I transformed myself. I gained thirty pounds in one year, and most of it was muscle. The teasing didn’t completely cease but the episodes certainly became less frequent. And, when, in the eleventh grade, I decided that I wanted to go to college, my guidance counselor said that I would need an excellent SAT score to offset my lack of college prep courses. So I began to read prolifically, looking up the definition of every word I did not know. And, since I had only had basic algebra and geometry classes, I bought advanced mathematics books from the bookstore and studied them profusely. My SAT score was one of the top fifty scores in my class of 700. I even took it twice just to prove that my score was no fluke. Both scores were almost identical. And then there was the asthma. Most people don’t even know I have asthma, because I refused to allow asthma to prevent me from being in cardiovascular shape. I would stick an inhaler in my pocket and run as far as I could before having an asthma attack. Then, I would stop, rest for a while, and return home. I did this until I could run several miles without having an attack. And, when I returned to college in my mid-thirties, even though I had two children and a job, I finished with a 3.8 GPA, second in my class. These accomplishments had given me an abundance of confidence in my abilities, perhaps too much. In fact, even while I was listening to the doctor deliver my diagnosis and explain, in detail, what was going to happen to me in the future, I did not believe him. Maybe that stuff would happen to normal people, but not me, not Jeff Wiles. Little did I know how defenseless this disease would make me feel. I thought it would just be another obstacle to overcome. But I could not fight the progression of this disease. And I realize now that I am going to have to rely on God’s courage and strength to conquer this obstacle. My strength is not enough.

Jeff’s youngest, Carson

 

Now, I do not mean to imply that having some level of confidence in your self and your abilities is wrong. But sometimes (and I think this was true in my life), we become more reliant on self and less reliant on God. But, no matter how strong you are physically or the level of your wisdom or the security of your finances, there will most likely enter into your life situations you are not prepared to handle, situations you will have to place into the hands of an Almighty God who has no limitations on earth or in heaven. God has a way of humbling us, of reminding us who we are and who He is. Sometimes we forget. I know I did.

Jeff’s wife, Kristi

And so here I am, forty-four years old, with Parkinson’s Disease, an incurable disease that will continue to progress. I would like to claim that I have adapted well to living with the disease. I would like to claim that I have followed the common adage about letting go and letting God. But that would be a dishonest assertion. Accepting that I cannot do some things that I once enjoyed doing is still difficult for me. Seeing the financial burden that my medical condition has placed upon my family is still difficult for me. Knowing that I will never be able to give my wife all I wanted to give her is still difficult for me to accept. And then there are the sixteen pills I have to take each day, and the side effects that are sometimes detrimental. So, as much as I would like to say I have peace about my condition, I cannot say that. But I can say this – I still believe in my God. And I know that He brought my wife and me together for a reason. And, even though I do not understand why this tremendous burden has been placed upon us, I have to remember the words of Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding. That is hard for me to do sometimes, but I would rather be suffering with Parkinson’s Disease knowing that Christ is my Savior than being in great health and living in sin. I can die with Parkinson’s Disease and still go to heaven. I cannot die in sin and go to heaven. So, on those days when I am sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I try to comfort myself with that thought – I am going to heaven, no matter how much suffering I endure here upon this earth. And, like Paul said in Romans 8:18 – the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us when we reach our heavenly home. And knowing that – knowing where I am going – makes it much easier to deal with where I am at.

 

If you are interested in Jeff’s book, you can order it here: The Godless Sky

Amazon review:

5.0 out of 5 stars; excellent read! June 17, 2013 by J.D.

An awesome tale of a family surviving the trials of life. It is set in the low country of South Carolina. A book you are sure to enjoy!”

 

If you’d like to contact Jeff, you can reach him at Jeff Wiles.

 

Another Angel – Guest Post by Cherie Mann

Another Angel – Guest Post by Cherie Mann

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My sister-in-law Linda, is my Angel. Linda helps me with my PD, or I should say we help each other with our problems.

She recently became legally blind and I was diagnosed with PD. We also both lost our jobs at about the same time. She has been there for me and I hope I have been there for her. And – we have bonded.

When she notices me struggling to finish our walks together, she has been my cheering section, while at the same time, I am her eyes during the walk and tell her where there is uneven ground that she might trip on. She forgives me at the end of the walk when all my concentration is on walking (‘heel/toe”) and I don’t notice the tree branch that hits her in the face.

I am her driver to the doctor, the bank, store and to church. She comes with me to my appointments to be my memory when I have brain freezes and to fill out forms for me (micrographia). I have problems multi-processing, starting jobs and following through and finishing them. She would gently remind me of a task not completed or say “Is there anything you want me to do to help you complete it?” I lose track of the time.

In order to take my meds, she bought me a three-alarm watch for my birthday. She also volunteered to be my assistant when I volunteered to help with registration at the Diabetes Walk in our area. I walked the 10k since 1995, but decided to volunteer this year instead. When I received the instructions for the event, I was concerned about the multi-tasking involved and so she came with me and helped with handing out t-shirts and putting on wrist bands and keeping me on track while I collected money and handed out maps and raffle tickets. I then drove her to her father’s house. So it has been kind of a give and take. It has been nice.

She sometimes notices my symptoms getting better or worse before I do. She’ll say “You must be having a bad day” or “Did you notice that you only used one arm to get out of the chair?” or “You are standing straighter” or “You’re walking faster”.

She has been my angel and hopefully I have been hers.

I also have alot of others – my mother, my band and people from my church, to name a few. Also, the friends I have made here online. There is always someone around to listen and understand.

Until I wrote this down I hadn’t actually realized how many ways Linda has been my angel.

Thank you, Linda.

***Note: Thank you to Cherie Mann for submitting this piece. And thank you, Linda for being there for her. You are both an inspiration. You can catch a peek into Cherie’s wit by checking out or winning funny PD story that she submitted last November on changing lightbulbs.
~ Sherri

A Gift from the Past – by Marian Bumala

Zinnias
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge, 2011

The following comes to us from Marian Bumala, a lovely woman (both in and out) who was diagnosed with YOPD.  She brought  this wonderful guest post to us a few years ago.  If you’d like to read more by Marian, you can get to know her better here.

I’m 47 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s almost a year ago. It started with tremor and stiffness in my left hand. Then, the hand and arm got very slow and uncoordinated, and my shoulder hurt all the time. I started to walk stiffly, with my left hand curled up in front of me. Still, I couldn’t believe it was Parkinson’s! I went through the initial stages of denial and anger like everyone else. I was terrified of what would happen. Then, in the middle of the night, this memory from my childhood suddenly came back to me like a gift from a higher power to remind me of who I am and what I’m capable of. I got up at 4:00 a.m. to write it down.

A Gift From the Past

When I was 12 or 13, my parents sent me to horse camp. I was ecstatic! There was nothing in this world I loved more than horses, nothing I’d rather do than ride. My mother says to this day that until the age of about 15, I actually was a horse, and she’s right! So, I was eager to go and spend a week just riding and being with horses.

I had forgotten about the social aspects of the trip, though. I was a shy and awkward girl, and decidedly not “cool”. When I got to the camp, the other girls all seemed more confident, prettier and of course cooler than I was. I was starting to get worried.

The first thing we had to do was take a riding lesson so that our skills, or lack thereof, could be evaluated. I was terrified now; I was sure I would make a fool of myself, even though I had lots of riding experience. My anxiety was immediately communicated to my horse, and he started acting up. As we walked around the ring, he started kicking the fence, bucking, rearing and throwing his head back. He caught me right between the eyes with the back of his head, and that really smarts!

The instructor was a tough woman with a very gruff manner who barked instructions and corrections at us: “Sit up straight!” “Stop jerking the reins!” “Pull your elbows in!” She was kind of scary. She had us walk, then trot, then canter the horses. My horse, of course, would not canter but just started trotting faster and faster until I could feel my teeth chatter and my bones rattle. I was terrified about what the instructor would say when we showed up on her radar.

But suddenly I remembered why I was there, and everything else became unimportant. I was riding a horse! Even if it was a rough ride, it was what I was there for, and I would still rather be there than anywhere else. I began to live in the moment and enjoy myself.

So, when the instructor caught sight of me, going at a hard trot, rear end slapping the saddle, elbows flapping, eyes and nose streaming from the blow from the horse’s head, and yet wearing a great big grin, her sun-weathered face broke into the first smile I had seen all day and she yelled “You’ve got a lot of guts, kid!” It was one of the finest compliments I have ever received, and I still treasure it.

I realize now that this is a metaphor for how I plan to deal with Parkinson’s and any other problems that come my way. Maybe not always with grace or style; but I will always hang on as hard as I can and remember to enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy it is, because that’s what I’m here for and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
submitted by Marian B.

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