Just One of Those Questions
Last updated: June 2022
Most of us have probably been there. A random question, maybe or maybe not about Parkinson’s, that just seems from left field. Often those questions either have no answer or are not answerable with a flip remark.
I dropped into a Parkinson’s chat group recently and the first question that popped up on my screen was, for me, definitely one of those questions:
"Are you happy or content with your decision to have placed your eventual life exit to be down the physically impaired/strong mind path or down the strong body/deteriorating mind path?"
I had several instant thoughts pop up. Did I miss some decision point in my 40s? I did not realize I even had a yes or no choice as to how I got here. Is it possible to even have a yes or no answer? A rather insensitive question. Let’s chat another day.
In the intervening days since I erased that URL from my search history, I’ve been thinking about that question a lot. I realized I have been asked that question in more polite or more roundabout ways ever since I became open about my health issues.
I’ve been asked multiple times, theoretically, would I rather have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, ALS or Parkinson’s, or MS or Parkinson’s. Or, the comments like "I’m so glad your mind is still sharp" or "Wouldn’t it be a blessing to not know how bad things can get physically?"
For the vast majority of us, I don’t believe the opportunity to decide an either/or question of such magnitude is ever there in the instance. In hindsight, we may wish to revisit some of our decisions but that’s just playing woulda, coulda, shoulda.
A personal humdinger of an example ... If I hadn’t been flying down a particular valley in South Vietnam one day in the spring of '69, I wouldn’t have been sprayed with Agent Orange and would not have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s 45 years later.
The consequences of small decisions
For almost all of us, our genetics and our life circumstances (nurture and personal experience) have placed us as individuals in a sophisticated version of the strong body/weak mind or weak body/strong mind question specified in chat room .
For each individual there are millions of unique steps, decisions, and interventions that take place in determining our futures. Small decisions can have dramatic consequences, but the majority of us do not deliberately decide every one of those million choices based on how we might be physically or mentally in the future.
There are those who end life in an accident or a disease that ends both body and mind simultaneously. For the rest, our muddled pathways are so diverse one can’t pick a time when any particular path was chosen.
The journey or the destination
If I could go back in time to that chat room, I would rephrase the discussion as: "Given the destination is the same for all of us, what are you doing to live your life to the fullest?"
For me, I try to keep my brain and body as active as I can. I actively seek new hobbies and activities to replace those that I’ve lost through aging and illnesses. I try to think about the good things in my life rather than the negative. I accept there are aspects of my life I can’t control and focus on the things I can control. Am I able to always use these practices? No, but I try!
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