Struggles Are Relative

Struggles Are Relative

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Struggles Are Relative

And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.
~Victoria Secunda

It seems strange to think of Mom right now as I struggle up this hill near the end of a race. I mentally relive being six years old and sobbing in my big sister’s arms, as Mom was loaded into an ambulance. The doctors had thought she had grown progressively weak due to the flu. But tests revealed an exacerbation of multiple sclerosis. Mom’s vision, hearing and ambulation were gone that day and would be gone for months. That night changed my life forever.

My legs grow weary at this point in the race. But the thought of my mother’s delight at every opportunity to walk supports me. My arms pump hard in efforts to propel my fatigued body forward. Mentally, I see her struggle just making it from one room to another. There is a curve in the next pass so I inhale deeply, ready to face the next obstacle that lies ahead. She faces obstacles with every breath she takes.

My breath becomes shallow, my calves tighten. She talks about “charley horses” and leg spasms from disuse. I gasp with air hunger. Mom often takes a startled breath when her blood oxygen level is low. I close my eyes, frantically trying to search the depths of my body for that last ounce of energy. She would find the energy. Somehow, somewhere, she would find the energy.

A quick glance at the top of the hill revives my hope. The finish line is so close. Another shallow breath comes. She would do this if she could. Then I hear her, somewhere in the distance. She’s always there for me, no matter how she feels. Knowing that the next relay runner needs to run her portion of the 5K, I charge past the finish line. Mom is calling my name. Race completed, I turn about to cheer on the rest of the first heat as they conquer that same hill. Then I look about. At first she can only be heard, but suddenly I see her. There she is, as always, in her chair, cheering me on.

I am struck by the parallels between this race and the obstacles of life. Some obstacles are more difficult than others, but courage helps you face problems head on. Perseverance gets you through to the finish line. Mom taught me that, just by living. For a dozen years she has been living with multiple sclerosis. Our home is a gathering place of wheelchairs, electric scooters, Lofstrand crutches and colorful canes. For years, she lived exclusively from the wheelchair, being carted around by her three children and loving husband. As a registered nurse, she made good judgment calls on medications, physical therapy and procuring a meticulous medical staff. There is no cure for MS but many treatments. Through research, experience and faith, she does whatever she is capable of to keep her body healthy. Whereas twelve years ago she had periods of blindness, paralysis and hearing loss, today my mother can walk unaided for up to a half hour at a time.

Through MRIs she has discovered that although MS lesions are still present on her brain and spinal cord, their “signal” is less intense. A balance of mind, body and spirit seems to have “turned off” the erratic firings in her brain. She is enjoying her life and reminding me to enjoy mine, too. During middle and high school’s typical teenage angst, I used my mother’s example to approach life one day at a time and to maintain focus on what was important.

My mother taught me the joy of completing a task, no matter how trivial it may seem. She showed me that large goals are often achieved by many small tasks and a mighty grateful heart. Mom showed me individual success is great and the thrill of accomplishment in working for others is terrific. Teamwork means so much more when there is the pride of helping one another. My mom has shown me that so much more is learned by trial and error, little failures and mundane tasks than immediate, easy successes.

As a cross-country runner, I imagine my mother beside me at every race, struggling with every step, fatigued and weakened but never giving up. Together, we recognize the best way to conquer the challenge; we run it at full force and give it everything we have. The task may be difficult, but the success at the end makes the whole journey worthwhile. Together we are victors, not victims.

~Desiree Diana Amadeo

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