Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Two Important Lessons from My Mother

To say that my mom passed down many lessons to me that carried on throughout my life could be the understatement of the year. I could probably fill an entire book with all of the wisdom that she passed down to me over the years. Little anecdotes and advice that I've drawn from constantly to either get through a certain situation or just draw strength to continue motoring throughout the day. But as I've talked more more about my life with cystic fibrosis, I began to realize two very important lessons that shaped much of my life up until this point.

These two lessons play off each other in perfect harmony. They are:

1.  Not everything bad that happens in my life is a result of having cystic fibrosis.

2.  There are many good things in my life that I may have never experienced if I weren't diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Let's look at the first lesson. I don't think it's an overstretch to say we live in a “blame society”. We are always looking for someone else or something else to blame for our set of problems. Whether it's blaming the dog for eating our homework (even though we left it within his reach), blaming our boss for our cruddy job (even though we enter work each day with a chip on our shoulder) or blaming lack of time for not exercising (even though we still get in our 1 to 2 hours of TV a day). It's just so much easier to blame others or some external force for the bad things or bad situations that happen in our lives. It's much tougher to look within, or look into a mirror, and at least partially blame ourselves.

Cystic fibrosis can be the perfect scapegoat. I used to think that there was no way I could ever run any sort of distance because I had cystic fibrosis (even though I had never attempted to train). There are days that I thought I must feel sick because my CF was getting the best of me (even though there was a virus going around at school). I'm sure there were days that I used cystic fibrosis for being the reason that I acted out and didn't have respect for authority (getting to the root of that issue would take years). I'm not so sure I ever verbalized these, or even consciously thought of them, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were at least subconsciously there.

Maybe my mom recognized that. Maybe that's why I vividly remember my mom saying many times, “Cystic fibrosis won't always be the reason that bad things happen. Cystic fibrosis won't always be the reason that you don't get your way. In fact, rarely will cystic fibrosis be the reason. The reason? It's called life and we all are living in the same one."

I'm so thankful that I was able to carry that on to adulthood. There's no doubt that it played an active role in me pursuing to make a positive impact on this world. If I couldn't blame CF, then I was going to use it to motivate me to do good things.

The second lesson plays off this first one perfectly. When I look back I can identify so many things that have happened in my life that would not have happened if I'd never was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. More importantly, there are tons of people who play a present and active role in my life who I may have not met if it weren't for CF.

My mom would always be quick to remind me when I was a child of this and now as an adult, I can see it clearly. This continues to play out today. I can't count the number of contacts, acquaintances, and friends I have as a result of being a part of the CF community. Diving in and serving the CF community is what I strive to do every single day. I can't imagine myself doing anything else. Would I be doing this without the diagnosis? No way.

The biggest role CF is played in my life is that of a sculptor. I'm convinced now more than ever that cystic fibrosis molded me into the man that I am today. The man that my wife fell in love with. The man that Mckenna calls "daddy". Many out there believe they'd be a different person if they weren't battling CF. I agree, I would be different, and I don't think I would like that different version of me as much. I know that others wouldn't.

And again, to quote my mom, “You can either use CF to hold you back, or to propel you forward.”

I choose the latter. What about you?