If you’ve read this blog long enough, you may have noticed that gardening has become increasingly difficult for me to pull off in the last few years. I wasn’t sure why things were so hard until this summer, when I experienced enough vision problems, paraparesis, tremors, numbness, pain and overall weakness to land me a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Yes, the weeds have gotten out of control, but these can be pulled as soon as I’m better.

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These weeds will also be easy to remove another day.

What’s that, you might ask? Well, imagine that I’m a filled with a complicated network of electrical wires that sends signals throughout my body so that I can walk through the garden, use a shovel, experience it with each of my senses - and even think, write and talk about it coherently. Those are pretty important skills to have, so luckily I have a rubber coating to protect those cords from shorting out so that everything runs smoothly. We all have these wires (neurons) to thank for functioning normally, but for someone with multiple sclerosis, the rubber coating (myelin sheath) surrounding those wires has begun eroding away. During a relapse, my body short-circuits and doesn’t work as it should.

The rain garden only has a few weeds since it’s densely planted.

Meanwhile, this unmulched path sprouted lots more weeds when I wasn’t looking.

This is why I haven’t been able to garden lately: Even when I’m in a remission, just being in the heat for a few minutes is enough to make my legs buckle, my vision go blurry and my whole body go into tremors. It seemed that whenever I finally got around to taking on a garden project, I’d pay for it later with extreme fatigue and tremors. Since my life and career have been defined by gardening for over a decade, you can probably imagine the frustration I felt each time I literally fell flat on my rear, or upon returning from the hospital and finding that, for the moment, I lacked the balance and strength to walk through my own garden. To the contrary, I’ve never been happier. I didn’t do a whole lot in the garden this month - but at least I got to sit back and enjoy the view for once. It’s not like my uncooperative legs gave me any choice in the matter, but I suppose that if it wasn’t for them I’d still be busy wasting time stressing out about silly things like weeds and my personal to-do list.

My paved path is still unfinished, but it gets the job done.

With a view like this, who can complain?

In a sense, being sick has made me a happier person. I might feel physically and even mentally useless most of the time, but never before have I been so emotionally available for my family. Sure, I’ve had to cut back on gardening, writing and getting things done in general, but illness has given me permission to slow down so enough to see life as not as an unending chore, but a pleasurable pursuit in which weeds are to be expected. It’s all about adapting. I’ve hired someone to mow the lawn during the summer months, and will take advantage of winter to renovate my lawn and weed-proof my garden. From now on I’ll take advantage of a cane, walker and even a wheelchair to assist me during flares, and since getting back up is harder than it looks, I’ll find weeding tools with long handles to pull weeds without stooping over. I’ve found ways to make gardening work out for me, but since my relapses keep me out of the garden for weeks at a time, I’ll be focusing less on growing and writing about vegetable/flower gardening from now on. Instead, I’ll finally enjoy my garden for once.