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Sarah Lysne: The joy of being brave

In my last column I talked about the difficulty I have with asking for help.  Soon after I wrote that column, I was introduced to the book, entitled: “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse.” The book, by author and illustrator, Charlie Mackesy, has been sold out twice at Sweat Reads in Austin. The book deals with the important things in life, including;  friendship, love, forgiveness, and being brave.  The horse tells his friends that the bravest thing he has ever done is ask for help.

Looking back 30 years ago, I now realize that I would not have graduated from college if I would not have been brave enough to ask for help.

When I was in high school, I took a test to see if I was a good enough student to succeed in college.  When I got the results back I was disappointed.  I had never been a good test taker, and my score indicated that I was not college material.  With that in mind, I entered a vocational training program in marketing after I graduated from high school.

I loved my marketing classes. I loved them so much that I decided to pursue a four year degree in marketing. When I met with the academic counselor, I wish they would have asked me one question. Do you enjoy working with numbers?  Maybe they did ask me that and I just decided I would learn to enjoy working with numbers, but I didn’t enjoy that at all.  Unfortunately, three fourths of my marketing classes had something to do with numbers. I struggled in statistics, finance, accounting, and other marketing related classes that had to do with analyzing data. I love the creative part of marketing, but it seemed that the courses  involved in the four year degree had so much to do with the analytical part.

But I’m a stubborn Irish girl, and I would not give up.  My statistics teacher suggested that I switch majors.  I was a junior at the time, and there was no way I was going to switch majors at this point in my battle to earn this degree.

My mom and dad encouraged me to continue, and I did.  My cousin Cindy helped me with my statistics class.   I kept working hard.  I finished my degree. I did not have the grade point average I would have liked, but I finished, and that’s all that mattered to me.

There were other times in my life when I’ve had to be brave and ask for help. In the middle years of raising my children, I started to take on too many volunteer activities.  I also wanted to be perfect in everything I did as a homemaker, a mom and a community member.  I couldn’t say no to anyone who asked me to volunteer. This soon led me to be anxious.  I sought help from a therapist. She basically told me that I needed to start to take care of myself, and I did.  It helped a lot.  I had to give up some of my volunteer activities and just focus on taking care of me and my  family.

I recently fell again. This time I didn’t get hurt, but I am learning that  I need to spend a lot more time doing the exercises that help maintain the strength I still have.  On the days I don’t want to do them, I think about these other difficult times in my life, and I find the inner strength to be brave and carry on.  Sometimes the hardest part to accept is that I am responsible for how well I can manage this disease.  My doctors and my family can help, but the hard work is up to me.  I know I will be brave and do all I can to live a long and happy life despite my ALS diagnosis.

It takes courage, and you have to be brave, but it’s okay to ask for help.  I’m learning that one of the greatest joys in life is to be there for each other when we need each other the most.