I’m an optimistic person. That’s just always been how I roll. And when life throws you punches, I’d be the first to proclaim that you better punch back hard. So from one optimist to another, I was quick to read up Michael J. Fox’s latest memoir Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.
In reading about Michael’s life in Work, Politics, Faith, and Family, told in these four respective chapters, you are given the gift of inspiration and the strong realization that he wants no pity from his readers. Michael is a fierce fighter as he sets out with much confidence, determination, and perseverence to conquer Parkinson’s Disease, Rush Limbaugh, and all of the forces that rally against stem cell research.
With the role models and encouraging forces of Lance Armstrong, Christopher Reeve, and Muhammad Ali deep within his heart, Michael J. Fox founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which by the spring of 2009 had funded nearly two hundred million dollars in Parkinson’s research.
In reference to Reeve and Armstrong, Michael writes, “Each had taken a negative and turned it into a positive. I didn’t have to let the terms of a disease define me — I could redefine the terms. And maybe in the process get a better deal for me and everyone else in my situation.”
The following quote by Michael J. Fox in the chapter on Faith struck a chord with me: “Parkinson’s and alcohol took a sledgehammer to any illusions I may have had that I was in control. I came to accept that any disease or condition beyond my control is, in effect, a power greater than myself. To survive this destructive energy, I must look to an even higher power. For my purposes, I need neither define it nor have others define it for me, only accept its existence. It is evident in Tracy’s love and inexhaustible friendship, the toothless gap in Esme’s smile, Aquinnah’s grace, Schuyler’s grit, Sam’s intrepid curiosity. So much to savor, so much to be grateful for. And since I’m not sure of the address to which to send my gratitude, I put it out there in everything I do.”
But what I found most moving and relatable is Michael’s admittance that his diagnosis of PD is seen by him vividly as a blessing, a gift. To me, I see this gift as a door open wide. And through that door is a new life; a life, of course, different than the one we once knew. But a life given to us where we can run with it fully and completely and make a difference in the lives of our family, friends, and even strangers; a blessed gift where we may institute a change in ourselves to live life to the fullest and, yes, Michael, to dream big…very, very big.