A Life in Letters – a Column by Jamie Hughes

looking ahead, wonder

Jamie A. Hughes is a writer-editor living in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, two sons, and a pair of very needy cats. She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2004 when she was just 25 years old. A lover of words since birth, she wasn’t about to let two little letters get her down. They don’t get the last word. And that’s why she writes her column — to help those dealing with MS to live more thoughtful, hopeful, and inspired lives.

You Don’t Always Need to Fix It

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most people don’t like a problem without a solution. If something isn’t working correctly, they’d rather fix, alter, or throw it out and start all over than live with “wrongness.” Now, that’s great when it involves garage door openers, burnt-out lightbulbs, or shoddy…

Making the Most of Both Good Days and Bad

If you have multiple sclerosis, no matter how long you’ve lived with it, you likely know it can be unpredictable. It can hit in weird ways you’re not expecting, even after years of learning how to deal with it. For instance, last Saturday, my family of four and some friends…

A Time for Decision-making

One of my favorite moments in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” involves a stolen fountain pen. If you’ve not read — or better yet, seen — the play, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a story about making it big in business and losing yourself in the process.

When in Doubt, Make a Mixtape

Spring is here, a time we’d normally be out and about getting some sun and recharging our souls after a long winter. I certainly look forward to working in the yard, hiking, having outdoor picnics, and taking the occasional road trip. But this isn’t a typical year, is…

To Love Living Things, and to Let Them Go

In her poem “In Blackwater Woods,” Mary Oliver concludes with 10 breathtaking lines: “To live in this world/ you must be able/ to do three things:/ to love what is mortal;/ to hold it/ against your bones knowing/ your own life depends on it;/ and, when the time comes…

The Value of Looking Ahead

Next week, I will be celebrating my second “quarantine birthday,” which is both amazing and sad. I honestly had no idea we’d still be dealing with COVID-19 for more than a year, and what a strange and perplexing time it has been. I think the thing that has hit me…

This Is What Love Looks Like

Last night, as I was grumpily prowling through a pile of overpriced red and white striped hats looking for one that would fit my fifth grader, I asked myself, Why exactly am I doing this again? I already knew the answer. The next day was Read Across America Day,…

Miracles From a Pile of Broken Glass

I’ve recently been sucked into watching “Blown Away” on Netflix. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a reality TV show in which 10 master glass artists compete in 10 challenges to win a $60,000 prize and an artist’s residency at the Corning Museum of Glass…

A Catalogue of Tiny Gratitudes

I know quite a few of you are dealing with copious amounts of snow right now, but there is not a speck of white stuff on the ground where I live in Atlanta. And for that, I am grateful. Why? Because I do not like snow. I do not like…

Reclaiming Our Power When We Feel Powerless

I don’t know about you all, but when I first learned I had multiple sclerosis, I felt utterly powerless. Weak. Beaten down. Cornered. Cowed. Yes, I experienced all of these negative feelings (and a hundred more besides) in the first year or two after my diagnosis. But after time, I…

Both Now and Someday

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be…

On Being Truly Thankful

Well, friends, we are coming to the end of 2020. Thanksgiving is next week, and believe it or not, Christmas is just around the corner. And while I can’t say I’m grateful for all the challenges this very weird and wacky year has presented me with, I remain so for…

5 Ways to Let Go of the Stress

Well, folks, we made it to the end of a very long political season and an even longer week. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel a bit relieved. In fact, I have tension and stress trapped in every muscle and joint of my body. And that’s not…

On Theme and Variations

A few weeks back, I listened to a segment on NPR’s “Here & Now” featuring superstar pianist Lang Lang and his latest recording project. I’m still thinking about it. He decided to tackle Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterwork, “Goldberg Variations.” No mean feat, seeing as how there are 30 variations…

Peace, My Heart, Peace

Despite the melatonin and Kava tea, the hot baths and weighted blanket, I’m not sleeping very well these days. I haven’t been for months actually. In addition to the “low-burn” stresses that come with adulthood and the utterly average cares of the workaday world, I have felt a…

Balance Is Relative

Multiple sclerosis has taught me many lessons over the last 16 years, and one of the most lasting ones has been about finding balance. I can’t run like a madwoman from one task to the next and not expect consequences. There has to be a balance between work and rest.

Who We Are and What We Do

We’re now moving into the sixth month of quarantine, and it’s looking more and more like the world isn’t going to snap back to the way it was before all of this craziness started. I’m starting to think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because some of the stuff going…

Finding Soul Food in a Butterfly’s Visit

I don’t know about you, but these last few months have been rough. Like, I-want-to-crawl-under-my-weighted-blanket-with-a-hot-water-bottle-clutched-to-my-midsection-and-listen-to-Chopin’s-“Nocturnes”-on-an-endless-loop rough. Life’s just like that sometimes, especially when you have multiple sclerosis. Ever since the pandemic started, things have only gotten more challenging. Now, we have the added stress of illness, working from home (if…

What’s Haiku With You?

I don’t know about you, but most mornings my brain feels like it’s full of hyperactive gerbils. This could be my multiple sclerosis, or it could be pandemic brain fog. Either way, I understand that song by The Police in a brand new (and very real) way these…

Being Freed by Who I Am

Every few days, I go out to our Little Free Library and change the messages on the two side walls, which are covered in chalkboard paint. One of my missives reads: “My ‘summer body’ plans didn’t work out, but I’m killing my reading list. Take that, 2020!” And it’s…

What Will We Do?

I recently started writer David Sedaris’ MasterClass, and one piece of advice he keeps reiterating is the importance of keeping a diary, a daily record of your doings and dealings in this world. It’s a habit I’ve fallen out of, so I bought a stack of Moleskine cahier journals…

Beach, Please!

My family just returned from a lovely week-long vacation on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s always a wonderful time (and one perfectly suited to socially isolating) because we literally do nothing. We make no plans. We buy no tickets to any event or theme park. We sleep, read, and watch…

When Roses Change, Color Me Surprised

Right now, it’s tempting to feel hopeless. COVID-19 is still out there with no vaccine in sight. Millions of people are out of work. And regardless of how you feel about the protests taking place in all 50 U.S. states (and around the world), all of us can admit…

Eugene Peterson and Lessons About Intentional Living

The last few months have been interesting for obvious reasons. All of our routines have been toppled over like a stack of blocks, things that were once mundane now feel alien, and getting back to “normal” (whatever that looks like) still feels as far away as the horizon. But I…

How to Release Fear

I just turned 42, and though I am wiser and stronger and more independent than I was a few decades ago, not everything is coming up roses. Some days, I feel weak and helpless. Other days, I’m overwhelmed. And that’s just part and parcel of life for every human being…

Ralph and the Cherry on Top of Life

I have a new personal hero. His name is Ralph Wendorf. We probably don’t have much in common. He’s not even an MS patient! I’ve never met him, and I likely never will. He lives across the country from me, in New Mexico, but thanks to a local broadcast that…

How to Make Working from Home Work for You

I just finished my third week of working from home due to the coronavirus, and I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to be successful outside of the office. Here are a few helpful tips for MS patients who currently spend more than a few hours behind a…

Divide and Conquer: Bravery in the Face of the Coronavirus

I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but there’s this coronavirus thing going around. And it is disrupting everything from concerts and conferences to schools and my kids’ recreation sports leagues. Don’t get me wrong, as a person who lives with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is therefore immunocompromised,…

I Must Confess that I Love Needles

As someone with 16 years of MS experience, I’ve grown to hate needles. I only have to give myself three shots a week now instead of seven, but I dread shot days as if they were the proverbial plague. Needles are awkward and uncomfortable. They make travel more difficult. Sometimes…

Thinking Outside the Box

There’s a story I love to tell about my dad, a retail warrior with more than 30 years of experience under his belt. And it’s one that I think is apropos for those of us dealing with multiple sclerosis. Back in the 1980s when he was a department manager…

Give It a Rest, Will Ya?

Jan. 1, 2020 was a special day in our house, and not just because a new decade came into being. (Or did it?) It marked our 20th wedding anniversary, and my husband and I chose to celebrate in style this year by taking a cruise together. (Yes, if you’re…

Keep It Real: What’s in Your Window Display?

I read a sad tweet last night (though, in a way, aren’t all of them somewhat sad?) in which a woman told a story about her friend who had just broken up with her boyfriend of one year. She asked her friend how she was holding up. The reply was…

Cold? What Cold?!

As an MS patient, I’m always on the lookout for something that will help me stay healthy. Though doctors say flu shots are OK for us, they’re not for me. I’ve had better luck with essential oils. Though they can’t replace all medicines, adding them to my…

Making (and Appreciating) Space

As an MS patient (and an insatiable polymath), I’m always on the lookout for new information. Recently, I learned about an interesting concept in Japanese culture called “Ma,” and ever since, I’ve been trying to work out how I can incorporate more of it into…

Simple Signs with Messages of Hope Resonate with Me

I’m not a superstitious person always on the lookout for signs and omens. I don’t read the wrappers on Dove chocolates or seek life advice from the paper slips inside fortune cookies. I consult my horoscope but merely for the entertainment value. However, the last few months have been rough,…