Genuine and Intentional: A way to live

One challenge of life with Multiple Sclerosis is the unpredictability. Will tomorrow bring a new symptom or clear up an old one? Will MS fatigue come out of nowhere to spoil your plans? I try very hard to plan for and accommodate for all the ways that I know MS might affect me, but there are still the surprises. Not the “Yay, it’s free latte day at Starbucks” sort of surprise, but more of a “Why was I walking a minute ago and I’m laying on the carpet now?” sort of surprise.

As a way to try to gain some hand and pencil writing out what looks like a bucket listcontrol over my life and live with more intention I created a “50 by 50 list”.  Fifty things to do before I turn fifty. Different than a bucket list in that it both gives me a promise that I will reach the age of 50 (I know there’s no guarantee…I’m just trying to be optimistic) and gives me a deadline so that my procrastination doesn’t get the better of me.  I’ve been working through my list for three years now and have checked off 17 items.

I recently stumbled upon a great TEdx talk on KarmaTube, “Rethinking the Bucket List”.  Kathleen Taylor has worked for over 20 years as a hospice and end-of-life counselor. She talks about a commonality among people facing the end of their lives. They no longer have the capacity for “bulls*!#”. She encourages listeners to find their ‘true, authentic self’ now. Do not wait until the end of your days to stop the bull, to stop faking life. She says it much more eloquently than that, please do check out the link above.

A diagnosis of a serious illness, such as MS, can help to eliminate the bull from our lives as well. We don’t have as much energy or time for it. If you are like me, you want to take advantage of the strengths and abilities that you do have now, being painfully aware that the next exacerbation may take a few away.

Taylor does not frown on ‘bucket lists’, but rather encourages us to re-think the notion. You can read more about my 50 by 50 list here. I encourage you to make a “Bucket List” or a “50 by 50”, “Ten things for 2014”, “Weekly Wellness”, “Daily Do’s”…the name matters less than the intention behind it. The intention should be that it serve as a way to help you be you! Does your list reflect your genuine self? If you truly want to climb Mt. Everest, then by all means put it on the list. But if what feeds your soul and heart is time spent with grandchildren, puttering in the garden, short walks on the beach, then put those things on the list and leave Mt. Everest to others.

I once read an article by Martha Beck-Oprah magazine, which posed the question, “How to find your authentic self?” One trick shared was that if you feel unfilled in your daily work and life, if you have lost touch with your true and genuine self, think back on what you enjoyed as a child.  In other words, how did you spend your days before you had the capacity for bulls$!#? How can you put more of that in your life now?

Potted herbsWhat if you do want to do something that may as well be Mt. Everest as far as your MS is concerned? Modify. Adapt.  Be flexible with your list. Some examples from  mine include #3 “Grow my own vegetable garden”. Ambitious, considering I can’t  even prune the rhododendrons without suffering arm spasms for two days. But when  my sons bought me some potted herbs I knew I had the answer- an herb garden! To  which I have added Swiss chard. All easily contained in planters on my front porch,    so that I see them every day and don’t forget to care for them.

Consider items that are not ‘one and done’ but cause you to continue doing what you  really want. For instance, # 36 “Be a proper Auntie” will never be done! My #46,  “Host brunch as often as possible” is an ongoing attempt to create a sense of love and  family for whoever joins us. Previous brunches, before working full time, were pretty impressive. I am trying to get to be okay if my house is dirty and we only have waffles and bacon! It is the ‘togetherness’ that I want. I mention special trips and hikes with my sons in my previous post, and ways I have learned to accommodate for those. Family, food and wilderness may not be your cup of tea. I simply offer it as an example.Four young children sitting on a dock with tall grasses around them

Whatever sort of list you choose, the important thing is to take time to think about what you really want out of this life. What do you want to receive and what do you want to give? What makes you happy and brings you joy? If you aren’t sure, ask your inner child. What would you have answered when you were six years old? And if MS throws some barriers in your path, ask your inner child to get around it. Children are resilient, creative and have a hard time believing things are impossible. I can’t think of a better person to take advice from! Judy Olsen Signature



  1. Judy,
    I’m so glad you wrote this post. I feel that everybody, no matter their physical condition needs to do just as you have described here, create a 50 by 50 list. I’ve said “to be prepared to meet your maker”, and “live like you’re dying”; just another way to say create a 50 by 50 list, unless you’ll be 50 in two months, like me. 🙂

  2. Thanks Linda- agreed! I try to check in on my list frequently. Helps to keep me living intentionally. It is easy to just go through the motions for days…or weeks…and forget that we really don’t know how much time we have to give and receive on this earth.

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