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I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll Blow Your House Down!

Posted Oct 30 2012 12:46am

Photo of Chelsea apartment building collapse, courtesy of

I just saw footage of Hurricane Sandy blowing away the entire facade of an apartment building in Manhattan. As in, one minute your apartment has a wall, the next you’re living in a life-sized dollhouse with 100-mph winds blowing into your living room.

I debated whether or not I should actually write this post, because it’s almost too easy, too obvious. Could there be a more perfect metaphor for what it’s like to live with multiple sclerosis?

One day there’s a wall. The next day it’s gone. One day you’re fine. The next day you wake up and you can’t see. One day you can feel your legs, the next day they’re numb and tingling from toe to hip. One day you see one of everything. The next day? Double vision.

Living with this disease for almost sixteen years now, I am strangely comforted by  catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. Not because I wish harm to come to anyone or to my favorite city in the world, the city I called home for many years.

But rather, I feel a brief sense of relief, as in, for one day, as the Frankenstorm terrorizes the Northeast, everyone living in that region and anyone watching the news throughout the world is feeling compassion and awareness for people who are adversely affected by a vicious, unwelcome storm.

Now to be clear, I’m not a fan of the victim mentality, as you probably already know. So the comfort I take here is not in people feeling sorry for me or anyone getting their ass kicked by Sandy (or MS) right now.

But I am a fan of feeling connected and not alone in the world, and large-scale catastrophic events have a way of reminding me that I’m not the only one having an uncertain and sometimes terrifying human experience on this crazy, spinning planet.

MS, Sandy, whatever it is. The wind has just blown a wall off your apartment, the Hudson River has just flooded your car, maybe you’re one of the patients in Coney Island hospital right now, which, by the way, is currently on fire, or you’re in the midst of an MS flare-up. Whatever it is.

Being alive means suffering. Being human means unexpected and unwelcome events knocking the wind out of you (pun intended). There are people all over New York City right now who’ve had to evacuate their homes. There are people who’ve lost everything. There are people north of the city whose homes have been collapsed by falling trees. People without power for days, maybe weeks. People who have lost their lives.

There is so very little we can control. All we can do is press on. We can pick up the pieces, be thankful we are breathing, and press on. What choice do we have?

I am, more often than I’d like to admit, completely overwhelmed by my responsibilities as a single mom: my financial responsibilities, my moral responsibilities, my responsibility to be healthy enough to function normally, or the simple demand required of me by my daughter to not spend the entire day in bed hiding from it all under the covers with Netflix on my iPhone. But what can I do? What choice do I have?

The only choice I see is to wake up every morning and be thankful – thankful I’m in Austin, Texas right now and not in the middle of the hurricane. Thankful my illness is not currently threatening my life. Thankful my daughter is alive and well. Thankful for not having any bothersome MS symptoms right now.

Just…thankful for what I got. Because the other point of view is so very easy to slide into…

So the question is the same as always: Are we going to carry on with the story about how we’re victims of a terrible fate, be it MS or Hurricane Sandy or Insert Awful Thing That Happened To Me Here?

Or are we going to cut our losses and carry on with grace?

And now, in case you haven’t seen it, the footage of the wall falling off the building…

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