I No Longer Feel Guilty for Sharing Good News
I’m heading to the beach with my family soon. Not a resort, or any sort of popular, touristy destination. Far from it, in fact. We like to go to the old family beach house on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, where I went as a child and now want my own children to experience.
Forgotten Coast is an apt description. There are no lights, directions to the old cottage include “turn off the paved road,” the water is not crystal clear, the sand is not pristine or manicured, you have to take extra precautions with the trash because of the bears, and you are taught from an early age to shuffle your feet on the flats to scare the stingrays.
In other words, it’s absolutely perfect.
What it isn’t is accessible. I can’t walk at all due to multiple sclerosis, and without the help of my family, I wouldn’t be able to get my wheelchair into the house, much less upstairs. Without the all-terrain wheelchair that was provided to me by a veterans charity group, I wouldn’t be able to go down to the water or out on the pier, or drive between sandbars at low tide, hunting for shells with the kids. I’m very fortunate, and I know it. I’m grateful for and proud of both the assistance and the assistive devices that make this possible.
So why do I feel like keeping it all to myself, instead of sharing with my host of friends who have MS or other disabilities? Even when describing it above, I subconsciously felt the need to write about the not-so-great parts first so that I wouldn’t feel like I was boasting about my own good fortune.
“Hey, everybody, I got to go to the beach! It was great — well, not too great. You probably wouldn’t like it.”
In the same way, I don’t talk much about the care I receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Sure, the department has its problems, but for the most part, I get a lot of perks that others don’t, and it feels wrong somehow to talk about them. Why do I feel guilty for sharing good news?
Obviously, I’m getting better about sharing, since I’m writing this column now. The main reason I’ve hesitated is out of consideration for how other people with disabilities might feel about my experiences. I don’t mean that I’m projecting my feelings onto others, but if I can tell the difference between bragging and proudly sharing an accomplishment or victory, then others likely can, too. If I can take joy in or be inspired by someone else’s story, then I shouldn’t expect any less from my friends.
Last September, Matt Lafleur, a columnist for Friedreich’s Ataxia News, wrote a great piece about hiking down the Grand Canyon in a wheelchair. Am I jealous? Well, yeah. Who wouldn’t be? Am I sharing in the adventure and the joy vicariously? Yes, I am. Again, who wouldn’t be? I may never see the Grand Canyon, but I saw it through his eyes, and his story made me feel like anything is possible.
I’m learning that we don’t have to avoid feeling good or fortunate because someone else may be less fortunate. That really is projecting. Of course, it’s important to know our audience, but we should still share — both the good and the bad. Sometimes we think that we aren’t allowed to feel good because someone somewhere feels bad. I know I’ve felt this way, but I’m beginning to see that having good news shared with me doesn’t make me feel bad, just as letting some light in doesn’t make it darker.
I look forward to sharing more through this column as I’m borne along in my journey. Because it’s a journey with MS, the news won’t always be happy, but I’ll do my best to find the good in it regardless. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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