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.

My Parents

San Diego, California © LISA S CLARK 2022

This is one of my favorite photos of my parents. They were visiting me at my home in San Diego, California in 1998. I was working on my Ph.D. and hadn’t yet decided which state I would seek licensure as a Psychologist. 

After completing my postdoctoral internship in 2001, I decided to move back to the Midwest. I proceeded to get my Psychologist License in Wisconsin. 

My parents were still able to enjoy the San Diego house during the winter months after my dad retired full-time in 2002. They were very happy to get a break from Northern Illinois winters.

In this photo, they are sitting on my back patio, which could not look more different than my current back patio here in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Young at Heart

Green Bay, Wisconsin © LISA S CLARK 2022

This is 55. When you stay young at heart, it shows. My husband has true love, peace, and happiness in his life, and for a man, that is everything. He loves his job, and his health has never been better. Most importantly, he knows how to play and not take life too seriously. I turn 55 myself next month, and try to follow his example as much as possible.

Aging is a Blessing

Boston, Massachusetts  © LISA S CLARK 2022

This is me the Summer of ’89 at 22 years old. I was lost and confused, but kept hearing people say, “college will be the best years of your life!” As I reached my late twenties, I heard how I was going to be “old” once I turned 30 – how ridiculous is that?! 

By the time I reached 40, there was talk of being “middle aged”, and never in a flattering way. Luckily by then, I’d figured a few things out, like not caring about “they” and “them”. When I reached 50, I felt my best yet, even as people were welcoming me to the “over-the-hill” club. 

It’s all just nonsense. I wouldn’t trade who I am now at 54 for myself at 22 for a million dollars. Because aging, if you let it, brings immeasurable wisdom, peace, confidence, and focus. I truly believe – life before 50 is simply research.

Treasure

© LISA S CLARK 2022

Since March of 1990, I have moved countless times for school and work, including twice outside the US, to Sweden and Canada. I’ve lost some items along the way, but luckily several jewels, like this needlepoint, remain. My mom made this for me as a remembrance of our wonderful New Orleans trip. It’s things like this that are simply irreplaceable.

A Mother’s Love

New Orleans, Louisiana © LISA S CLARK 2022

I just enjoyed an hourlong phone call with my mom. She’s at that age when you realize that each conversation could be your last.

We’ve had a lot of adventures and fun together over the years, and I will always cherish those memories. This is a souvenir photo from a riverboat trip we took when we visited New Orleans in March 1990. We were celebrating my 23rd birthday.

During our call today, I was talking about my life with my husband, the home we’ve created, and how I am managing my MS. She suddenly became emotional and said, “I’m really proud of you, Lisa … everything you’ve done.” 

Well, that beam of sunshine just filled my whole heart and spirit. There’s just nothing like a Mother’s Love.

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.

Enjoying Social Media

© LISA S CLARK 2022

You don’t need to know someone online to be kind, generous, and responsive.

You will have more joy if you treat everyone in a positive manner.

It’s no different from life offline.

I enjoy my days much more when I interact this way with everyone I encounter – strangers, friends, and colleagues.

My favorite moments in life are when I connect positively with someone and share a genuine human exchange.

And you can decide to do that anywhere – even online.

Note: I originally wrote this pre-pandemic, but it certainly rings true now when many people are missing their family, friends, and colleagues, or just normal human exchange in their communities.

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.