It’s not often that you experience something life-changing. Ten years ago, I participated in an online class taught by Jan Lundy called “for Buddha Chickies with Health Challenges.” We learned some meditation techniques and basic Buddhist principles that are useful when dealing with chronic illness. At the end of the class, Jan asked “what kind promises will you make to yourself?”

I took the idea and ran with it. I’m still running (metaphorically) a decade later.

Living with an incurable, progressive illness (multiple sclerosis in my case), it’s hard to set goals or even think about the future without getting scared and angry. If, on the other, I think of this moment and how I can spend it with compassion toward myself and others, I soften. I relax into the moment and move forward with an open heart.

I began with a basic list of kind promises and cycled through them, one a month. For the most part, that’s been a good way to live my life, swinging from one kind promise to another like a monkey swinging through the jungle.

Sometimes, though, and old promise no longer fits. That’s the case with the promise that’s up next on my list: “I will ask for (and accept) help gracefully.” Ten years ago, I was paraplegic. I used a wheelchair, but I could still move my left arm. I could still do some things for myself. Trying to accomplish a task, I would get frustrated and ask for help only as a last resort and often in a frustrated growl. My anger was at the situation, not the helper, but that wasn’t clear. Practicing the kind promise helped me ask for help earlier and with more politeness.

Nowadays, I am quadriplegic. I do nothing without help (though sometimes the help comes from assistive devices, rather than people.) Asking for that help with grace includes being as clear and polite as I can be, being patient with caregivers, and remembering to say thank you.

The promises is still a good reminder, but I doubt it can sustain me through a month of blog entries. Broadening my thinking, I see that the promise is about dealing with change gracefully, especially loss. I will tweak the promise to be “I will surf through change gracefully.”

I look forward to exploring this promise.

In your journal:

  • What kind promises will you make?
  • Does the idea of “kind promises” fit for you? Explain why or why not.
  • How do you feel about asking for help?
  • Write about a time you asked for help.
  • Why don’t men want to ask for directions? (Is that a fair question or am I biased?)