“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.” Thomas Merton
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee
See yourself with strength: Life comes with varying conditions, such as easy/hard, simple/complicated, happy/sad, successful/unsuccessful, short/long and healthy/sick. Being prepared is always good; especially if the equation becomes troubling or difficult, because your strength will be tested. Strength is not just how physically fit you are, it also refers to how fit you are emotionally or psychologically. Being challenged to show your strength may be necessary at times during your life, and you learn and grow from these demonstrations of strength.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Arnold Schwarzenegger
See yourself with strength and Parkinson’s: Receiving life-altering news that you have Parkinson’s takes your breath away and buckles your knees. Your whole life and surroundings are changed forever; you, your loved-ones, family, friends, and colleagues all are now different. Your strength will surely be challenged. Your whole world will change little-by-little, subtly for sure, but definitely evolving in complexity. Living with Parkinson’s is like trying to see with having only one of your contact lenses in your eyes or trying to walk wearing shoes with one broken heel; both are manageable but they each present obstacles to overcome.
“One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” Albert Schweitzer
Personal strengths/traits of character: The 24 personal strengths of character, grouped in 6 categories of virtues, are given below and are described in http://www.meaningandhappiness.com/psychology-research/list-of-personal-strengths.html :
Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge are Creativity, Curiosity, Open-mindedness, Love of learning, and Perspective;
Strengths of Courage are Bravery, Persistence, Integrity, and Vitality;
Strengths of Humanity are Love, Kindness, and Social intelligence;
Strengths of Justice are Citizenship, Fairness, and Leadership;
Strengths of Temperance are Forgiveness and mercy, Humility/Modesty, Prudence, and Self-regulation;
Strengths of Transcendence are Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humor, and Spirituality.
Personal strengths of character for someone with Parkinson’s: I begin this section with two qualifying comments: choosing specific personal strengths seemed similar to the kind of insight gained from taking the Myers-Briggs Type personality inventory; and some of these strengths were self-identified after studying the list. Thus, I feel that having some of these personal strengths of character would bolster a person’s effort to manage their Parkinson’s (again using the description in http://www.meaningandhappiness.com/psychology-research/list-of-personal-strengths.html ):
Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge: Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge-
Curiosity [interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience]: Taking an interest in ongoing experience for its own sake; exploring and discovering.
Love of learning: Mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge, whether on one’s own or formally.
Strengths of Courage: Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external and internal-
Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; acting on convictions even if unpopular.
Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles.
Strengths of Humanity: interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others-
Love: Valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated.
Strengths of Temperance: strengths that protect against excess:
Self-regulation [self-control]: Regulating what one feels and does; being disciplined; controlling one’s appetites and emotions.
Strengths of Transcendence: strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning-
Gratitude: Being aware of and thankful of the good things that happen; taking time to express thanks.
Hope [optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation]: Expecting the best in the future and working to achieve it.
There is no doubt that by studying the list of 24 personal strengths of character, we will each align ourselves with several strengths, and say, “These strengths describe me.” Having some physical strength (gained/maintained by regular exercise) clearly will bolster your life. Furthermore, some combination of these personal strengths could hopefully enable you to better handle the physiological changes due to Parkinson’s as they occur.
The heart of a warrior: You may possess several of the mentioned strengths of character (especially hope, gratitude, curiosity, persistence, and bravery) and you could have the heart of a warrior. Someone with the heart of a warrior (described below) would be poised to challenge the slowly evolving neurodegenerative impact of Parkinson’s. Our lives are lived with a collection of physical and personal strengths of character. Our ‘pool’ of personal strengths will vary from person-to-person. However, I am convinced that by embracing your own personal strengths, you can successfully manage the adversity (physical and emotional consequences) of Parkinson’s for many years to come.
“The Heart of a Warrior: Persistence in the face of adversity; courage to face the unknown; purposeful intent to live wholeheartedly; courageous exploration of one’s weaknesses and strengths within the context of personal integration and consistent evolution toward personal growth.” Barbara Seelig
Where does strength live? Strength is found in each of us. For those of us with Parkinson’s, we use our personal strengths of character to bolster our hope, courage, mindfulness/contentment/gratitude, determination, and the will to survive. Stay strong. Stay hopeful. Stay educated. Stay determined. Stay persistent. Stay courageous. Stay positive. Stay wholehearted. Stay mindful. Stay happy. Stay you.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Albert Camus