Begin, Again

Happy New Year! What is it about the turning of the year that has us reviewing everything? Planning, making arbitrary promises, our social channels flooded with infinite numbers of articles about changing habits or ‘living your best life’ (??).  

Aside from the magical thinking (with the added dose of schmaltzy trite quotes) what I like about the ‘new year’ is that the days are getting brighter and I get to begin, again. 

I adore poetry. It infuses my life. I use it daily for my mental, as well as spiritual, good health. As I searched for direction on this piece, I was reminded of an episode from the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne from 1997. One of the nights Gay called the competition winner to say they had “WON THE CAR!!” Full of joie de vivre, he noticed then the sad tone in their voice. As he was speaking, they were dealing with the tragic loss of a beloved adult child and that very night they were holding the ‘wake’ in their home. Her child had posted the entry to the Late Late Show competition.  

Realising the awfulness of the situation, with thousands of people bearing witness to the tragedy playing out in the life of another, he turned to his guest, the poet Brendan Kennelly for support. Brendan Kennelly recited his poem, ‘Begin,’ a poem that transports us through a series of everyday occurrences so profoundly beautiful in their banality. And so apt for that very moment.  

The final line of the poem:  

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending 
that always seems about to give in 
something that will not acknowledge conclusion 
insists that we forever begin 

Take a few minutes to read the poem here

It is almost 10 years since we started writing to you dear reader through the MS and Me blog. During that decade of experiences are banal days wrapped up in the ever changing, ever challenging life with MS. We have daily reminders of the formidable ways people respond to devastating symptoms of the condition, reminders of their strength, of their insistence to keep going, their resilience. I also know that words are never enough to capture the enormity of the what some of us have to deal with every day. 

There are people reading who, like me, are dealing with changes in their mobility, MS symptoms impacting their cognition or speech and their whole sense of identity. People who have lost their jobs, are trying to get through the next minute/hour/day with depression, mental ill health, or cope with personal tragedy. And as I have found with my own illness, resilience is never enough to keep me going.  

Resilience is dull stoicism when all I want to do is celebrate. Resilience is the boring broccoli without the toasted almonds on top or the apple tart without the spice and cream. Yes, it is resilience - with a huge dollop of luck- that got me through to this day in 2023 but life is not enough without the embellishments. It is certainly not enough to live well with MS and the vagaries of the condition. Cherishing beloved friends, sharing time with my children, personal achievement, doing things I enjoy, being curious… these are what keep me going. Wonderful things that make life a delightful exaltation, things to keep my reserves of joy topped-up so that I can keep going through my own personal winters.  

I am writing this in the middle of a raucous party of under 8-year-olds. Their high-octane energy buzzes around them as they jump, leap, crawl, run, fall, get up again and exude life out of every pore. They are profoundly present as they wrench every drop of joy from every minute of their day. And they never stop.  

As I look back on the year passed and turn to what’s ahead, my wish for this community is the same that I wish for myself and my loved one; that we can enjoy the moments and people that enrich our lives so we can use what we’ve learned from the year gone to energise the days ahead. Happy New Year, one and all.