No More Playing Dumb

I have a vivid recollection of not studying for AP Chemistry exams my Senior Year in high school (1984-1985). Why?! Because when I got A’s, I was teased by the popular boys in my class. I realize now that this was based on their own insecurities, but it speaks to the times – girls were supposed to be sweet, attractive, and not overly ambitious or smart. If you went to college, your main goal was to get a MRS degree.

I really didn’t embrace my intelligence until I went to graduate school in 1992. It took moving to California for me to forge a new path and identity for myself. Everyone but my mom Ulla tried to talk me out of it. Thank you, Mom – I couldn’t have done it without your support.

A Prayer on My Birthday

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2022

Dear God, Thank You so much for guiding, supporting, protecting, and loving me for another year. I couldn’t do Life without You. 

Thank You so much for my wonderful husband Terry, who sang to me moments after waking, and my dear 88 year old mother Ulla, who called and sang me a Swedish birthday song. My heart is so full.

In the midst of my blessings, God, I think about all those suffering in the world right now. I pray that You give strength, support, and healing to all those in need. AMEN.

💜 My Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 23:1-6 💜

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”

“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.”

“He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” 

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” 

“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” AMEN.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Green Bay, Wisconsin © LISA S CLARK 2022

This Guy.

Whenever I’m having a difficult day, he goes out of his way to be silly and make me feel better.

I captured one of these moments last fall. On this particular day, I was feeling very scared about an upcoming doctor’s appointment. He threw on his silly hat, dropped to the ground to play with my feet, and started singing the Rocky Theme Song.

And it worked. I felt instantly better.

Humor is so important in a marriage. You never know what life is going to throw at you, and being able to laugh together, even during the serious moments, is a beautiful thing.

Truth

As difficult as it was being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2016, it also Woke Me Up. It pushed me to take full ownership of my life, and to set long overdue limits and boundaries with everyone in my life. I now only allow genuine, supportive, and kind people in my inner circle. And the freedom I feel is tremendous.

Incredibly Accurate

Highlights for me, the Thinker…

Deep thoughts, big questions ✅
Intellectual curiosity ✅
Ability to find & create meaning ✅
Ideal collaborator, the Adventurer ✅
Perpetual student✅
Inquisitive mind ✅
Sense of wonder ✅ 
Depth of perception ✅

“Seek out the company of the Adventurer types, who provide the perfect counterbalance to your introspective and analytical nature. The infectious energy and playful spirit of the Adventurer remind you to embrace the joys of creation, and to not be afraid to get your hands a little dirty in the process.” ✅

Strength

Pompano Beach, Florida © LISA S CLARK 2021

You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.

It was 5 years ago that I started having a strange numbness in my left arm and hand. I had just started swimming laps at my gym, and I knew something was really wrong. By the first week of August, I couldn’t do anything with that arm and hand. After multiple doctor visits, blood tests, X-rays, and MRIs, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on August 26th. It was the biggest shock of my life. 

Looking back now, I realize that I started having MS symptoms in college, such as vertigo, fatigue, and depression. But I didn’t know it was MS at the time. It took paralysis of my arm and hand in 2016 to get my attention and into an MRI machine that showed lesions in my brain and spine. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, function has returned to my arm and hand, and I have been stable on medication since that time.  

But I never know what tomorrow brings. And that is where the strength comes in. It is terrifying having Multiple Sclerosis. So I lean on God for all my strength, joy, hope, and peace. And because of that, I THRIVE. This photo is me at 17 years old when I was vacationing in Pompano Beach, Florida in 1984. For me it captures the determination I feel to face all the challenges in my life going forward.

Be Yourself

Lund, Sweden © LISA S CLARK 2019

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

This is one of my favorite quotes because it delivers a very important truth. If you want to live a peaceful, joyful, and powerful life, you must embrace your authentic self.

What is your authentic self, you ask? It is simply who you were created to be in this world.

The process of discovering your authentic self is not so simple. This is because most of us have been influenced by our families, schools, and communities since a very early age. As we grow up, there are pressures to fit in. We receive strong signals that it’s not okay to be ourselves.

So over the years, we become someone that makes others happy, while we ourselves feel empty and lost. We feel like we’re faking it all.

If you do decide to embark on a journey of self-discovery, know that it will take work. But as the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easy.

Once you discover your authentic self, you begin to see that what makes you unique in this world is where your value lies. 

The Gift of Crisis

My crisis started the first week of August in 2016. Within a few days’ time, I lost function in my left hand and forearm. Just like that. No warning. Boom. All the things I took for granted and did on a daily basis, I could no longer do. I couldn’t type, hold a plate, wash my hair, tie my shoes, open a jar, hold the steering wheel. It was terrifying. The medical appointments and MRIs that followed were equally terrifying. By the end of the month, I had a diagnosis. Multiple Sclerosis.

I spent the month of August in constant prayer, seeking God for strength and courage. I can honestly tell you that by the time I received the diagnosis, I accepted it gracefully. Was I extremely sad and scared? Absolutely. But I accepted the results because I knew by Faith that nothing just happens. That this was God’s will for my life.

Since that time, I have regained 100% function in my left hand and forearm. I still have the tingling sensation, but that is a minor inconvenience. The first gift I received from this crisis is that I no longer take my body for granted. Typing this post right now with both hands is such a blessing to me. Given there is no cure for MS and that it is a progressive disease, there is no telling what parts of my body will be affected and when.

Which brings me to the second gift of this crisis. If you do research on MS you quickly find out that it’s all a big mystery. They don’t know what causes it, they don’t know exactly why the medications help, and everyone experiences the disease differently. So basically, you are forced to accept the fact (that we humans try so hard to ignore) that life is unpredictable. You are forced to take life one day at a time, to pace yourself, to set priorities, and be adaptive. And this has brought great clarity and focus to my life.

The third gift of this crisis is that it strengthened my relationships with my husband, family, and friends. I found out on a much deeper level how much people loved me, valued me, and cared about me. I tend to be the strong one in a group, always taking care of others. It was very healing for me to be vulnerable and allow others to take care of me. I was surprised by people’s compassion and experienced incredibly sweet moments with my loved ones.

The last and most important gift of this crisis is that it has brought me closer to God. I know with 100% certainty that I could not live with Multiple Sclerosis without Him in my life. He gives me the strength, peace, joy, and courage I need to move forward in my life. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I leave you with a Bible verse that has been on my desk since the day of my diagnosis. “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear. I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13