Finding Balance

Green Bay, Wisconsin © LISA S CLARK 2022

I’ve enjoyed helping my husband Terry find more balance in his life. He has always worked hard, and now he knows how to rest hard too. Most men need some encouragement to take care of themselves in healthy ways. They need genuine love, affection, and appreciation that allows them to be vulnerable and self-loving. 

People talk about abolishing “toxic masculinity”, but that won’t happen until men are allowed and encouraged to show their sadness, fear, and fragility as we women do daily. There’s a reason men don’t seek help with their mental and physical health – they are socialized from a young age to just toughen up and figure it out alone. And that is a recipe for disaster.

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.

Before MS Diagnosis

Vail, Colorado © LISA S CLARK 2022

This photo was taken in 2003 when I attended the Kercher Family Reunion in Vail, Colorado. I had recently passed my Board Exams and had become a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Wisconsin. 

When I look at myself here, I can see the absolute fatigue (mental, emotional, and physical) that I felt behind that smile. Fatigue is the most common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, and mine started in college, along with dizziness, vertigo, and depression. I didn’t know these were all warning signs of MS. I just felt that life was so damn hard all the time. 

I crashed out in 2006 after 3 years of clinical practice. That’s no surprise considering the fact that stress is one of biggest triggers for MS symptoms. For the next few years, I tried to pivot to a new specialty in Industrial Organizational Psychology, but as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t regain my strength.

As my dad said to me in 2010, “it’s strange, Lisa … it’s like you make progress, but then suddenly sink in quicksand.” My dad passed away in 2011, and I was diagnosed in 2016. He would be very sad about my MS, as my mom is, but it does finally explain why I was always struggling. 

The MS diagnosis came when I temporarily lost use of my left hand and arm in August 2016. I had multiple MRIs done that showed lesions in my brain and spine which is hallmark MS. I also had multiple blood tests done to rule out other illnesses. It is a devastating diagnosis to receive, but in some ways, it has been a relief. For the past 5+ years, I have been able to re-examine my life, and it all makes sense to me now.

Holidays are Bittersweet

Rockford, Illinois © LISA S CLARK 2021

Many of us struggle with loss during the holidays, especially now during the pandemic. This is notably true when it’s a parent that has passed on. This is my husband and his mother, Ann Clark, who died on Thanksgiving Day in 2017. My own father, Edward Kercher, died in 2011, a few days before Father’s Day. It doesn’t get any easier as the years pass, as much as you wish it did.

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.