I have a suitcase filled with toys and activities to do with my nephews and niece, but I don’t have my license. Yeah, that’s how I roll. I discovered this while trying to get a beer at a Red Sox game I was invited to the night before I left. One look at me made getting my beer not a problem. Getting though the TSA to board a plane might not be as easy. Seeing that my flight was leaving at 9:25 the next morning, making the over three hour trip back to NH to retrieve it and getting back in time was not going to be an option.
I had been using it to fill out some paperwork before I left. I specifically told myself, Make sure you do not forget this; you will need it for the flight. I thought I remembered doing so. Such are the joys of my new brain. I sent a message to a friend back home that was willing to check the house in the morning. There was nothing else I could do at that moment. After a few fretful minutes of checking my wallet, and checking again, I had to accept this fact. Old me would have obsessed and stressed considerably. New me has learned to pick my battles and identify which ones can and should be fought. It was actually a really cool moment. My friend looked at me and asked if I was OK. I replied Yup, there is nothing else I can do about it right now. I might as well sit back and enjoy the game. And I did. As if to reward me, the Sox went on to have hit after hit racking up a 8-1 victory over Baltimore that night. It was AWESOME!
The next morning I received a picture of my AWOL license. It was on the floor beneath my desk. I HADN’T forgotten it! It had just fallen out of my checkbook when returning to my purse! It wasn’t an MS moment, it was just dumb luck. I was thrilled! But I still needed to get through security. I had decided ahead of time to not request wheelchair assistance like the last time I flew. I have been walking over a mile most days pushing the stroller and walking the dogs, so pushing the walker with the suitcases on it, couldn’t be that much different. Though I hated to succumb to using it again, it was actually amazing easy. I had planned it out well. That, I am learning, is a huge part of the journey; planning ahead for as many circumstances as I can anticipate. When I arrived at the bus for the long term parking, I was greeted with help from both the driver and a passenger. That is another thing I have learned. Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. It doesn’t make you a lesser person; it makes you a smarter and stronger one.
When I got to the TSA I explained my plight. I was a humble bumble (Rudolph movie quote) and smiled my nicest smile. Though not pleased with me, they were actually very gracious. I had my Sam’s club card with a picture as well as insurance cards, various credit and debit cards and a bill from my dr appointment the previous day. I showed them the picture she had sent me of the rogue license. They said they couldn’t use it, but I noticed they took a good look at it none the less. I passed. I was directed to an extra security line, which I gladly went to.
I hobbled through the scanner. All the walking from the day before was catching up to me and they scanned my cane separately. Still, I passed. Next stop the extra screening. I got to have every bag opened and searched. All the games, toys and projects were removed one by one. There was a time in my life when that alone would have put me on edge. I did try to make a mental note of how it all fit back in (It was carefully arranged like a Tetris game). I just smiled; happy I had the seat of my walker to now chill on.
Then I got to have the extra pat down. They had warned me about it ahead of time, so I knew it was coming. I actually was prepared to joke with whoever got the honor and say, go for it! This is the most action I’ve had in a while. But it was a very nice young woman who had the privilege. She was very polite and helpful. I decided to let my joke pass.
And then I was off to the gate. I pushed my carry-on bags easily and enjoyed having the freedom to peruse the various shops. (I love airport stores, even if only to look!) I checked in at the gate and even got an upgraded seat. Then I was whisked away to my waiting niece and nephews for an amazing week of unconditional love and activity that pushed me to my limits but filled my heart with a joy that pulled me through.
During the next week, the magic suitcase of activities brought forth something new each day, and there were favorite stories with animated voices each night. Some they read, and some that I did. I went to soccer practice and saw their martial arts class and even learned a few things myself. I slept when my niece slept (and sometimes when she didn’t) and when my son arrived, his youthful energy filled in where I lacked. I went to the gym with my sister in law and had amazing equipment and facilities at my fingertips. I couldn’t help but feel like if I had these at my fingertips on a regular basis, I couldn’t help but get stronger.
I also learned to play soccer using my two arm cuff canes. It was another acceptance moment. Instead of hurting my arm and back by putting too much pressure on a single cane, I accepted the fact that with the two canes I could do so much more. I might look more disabled, but the reality was that it gave me so more freedom. I could actually hop about and kick a soccer ball. Alright, I admit it. I actually delighted in the fact I was able take the ball away and score, until I realized it was against a 5 year old. I decided it was probably better for both of us if I dialed it back a bit, haha! Still, it was good to feel active and alive, inside and out.
My trip to Virginia was a success on so many levels. I really do enjoy traveling. I’ve travelled alone with my kids since they were little and I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ve recently discovered that travelling by myself with physical limitations isn’t that different than travelling with kids. I have to try to anticipate any unforeseen events that might arise. Try out key strategies in advance to make sure they work. Try to get enough sleep before hand so they, um, I am not overtired and cranky while traveling. I need to bring enough distractions to stay entertained, but not so many that I can’t manage carrying them. Most importantly, I have to make the travel part of the journey. You have to anticipate something will go wrong and know in advance that you will just make it part of the adventure.
Such was my return trip to NH. My license was mailed to me for the return trip (Thank you Christine!!!) so I imagined it would make for a much easier trip. Armed with my license, I was ready for smooth sailing. Turns out, that was not to be the case. Instead, a delayed start and a bit of traffic was just enough to cause me to miss my flight. There was no point in complaining about it. It wasn’t going to change a thing. I might as well roll with it, and sit back and enjoy the ride. I can’t say enough good things about the guy at Jet Blue who rerouted me to another flight with no hassle, expense, or fuss. I got to spend an extra couple of hours with my sweet niece, and returned to the terminal with ample time to spare. Things were looking up.
Until the guy driving the economy parking bus in Boston started to leave without me because I was too slow getting there since
there was a curb I couldn’t push the walker and luggage over. I might have said a few choice words under my breath. But the men that came flying off the bus to help when they realized what was happening was a great counter balance to it. Then my “check engine” light came on during the drive home (likely due to the time spent sitting in Boston traffic). I countered it with hoping for the best, knowing again that there was nothing I could do about it at that point and instead focused on listening to the audio book I had downloaded after seeing a hard copy of it in the airport store and being intrigued. It was actually pretty awesome, and I made it home without further incident.
There will always be moments that get the better of us. Life can be frustrating and it is only natural that it gets to us sometimes. But on that trip I was reminded again of another perk of my new life. Acceptance. There are times when not accepting is very important. Not accepting the status quo and refusing to give up when things get tough. Fighting for things that matter. That comes much easier to me, lol. But learning to see the times when acceptance is your friend makes for a much calmer travel experience. The whole process of chronic illness, disease and heck, much of any life, is a delicate dance between knowing when to hold on tight and when to let go gently. Old me tended to be a bit heavy handed with the tenacity. New me has learned there is peace to be found when you stop railing against life in its entirety. I have become my own child. I have to know what battles to pick with myself, as well.
As a side note, I highly recommend the book I downloaded, (and since purchased as well). It is called Originals by Adam Grant. It is a fascinating look into the lives of original thinkers past and present. I felt like it not only helped explain a great deal of me, but it also encouraged me. This kind of book on audio is especially good because it feels like you have your own personal cheerleader. We can all use a little of that. So give yourself a break and go along for the ride when there is nothing else you can do. You might find it brings you joys you didn’t see coming. And while you are at it, download an inspirational audio book. Trust me. You will be glad you did. Here’s to unexpected joy. J
Kristen is a former kindergarten and special education teacher with two wonderful grown children, two precious fur-baby dogs and a mischievous cat. Diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in September of 2016 and Multiple Sclerosis in December of 2016, and Optic Neuritis in January 2017, life has changed in a big way in a short amount of time. But HOPE springs eternal as she rediscovers and reinvents life along the way.