There's Stuff - and Then There's Stuff

Sarah figured her arms had about fifteen minutes of strength left, but that was OK. She knew precisely where to look for that box of old photos: on the top shelf of the closet, behind the suitcase full of books and next to that bag of wool yarn she was saving for when her fingers were stronger.

Standing on her tiptoes, she stretched up high, grabbed both pairs of slippers from on top of a sack of gift wrap in front of the yarn, and tossed them onto the bed. Then she removed a god-awful vase she didn't dare part with because it was a gift from her sister, and added it to the stuff on the bed. The vase was heavy, but then sometimes vases are. When she tugged at the suitcase to bring it closer, though, it wouldn't budge.

"Stupid books," she muttered.

Putting up a chair, she managed to stand on it and tip the suitcase on its side, and started removing the books, taking them four or five at a time over to the bed, then returning to the chair for another load. Up and down, back and forth, up and down again.

You don't need me to tell you that by the time Sarah has dumped all the books on the bed (and picked up the dozen or so skeins of yarn that tumbled down while she was trying to get the suitcase into a better book-removing position), her arms will be pooped – and she will have yet to get at the photos. And you don't need me to tell you that now the bed is piled high with a bunch of stuff that will only have to be moved again if she's going to get a good night's sleep.


So what's the problem here? Sarah has every right to be proud of being organized. Her things are tidy, she knows where they are and what she has to do to put her hands on them, and she's resourceful about doing it. On these counts, Sarah is a successful myasthenic. But, boy, is she blowing it! Fifteen inches into the top shelf and already she's defeated.

Stuff. Why are we so fixated on it? We fantasize about stuff, we can't wait to get it, we keep our stuff around us, talk about stuff, compare our stuff to everyone else's stuff, and then can't wait to get even more.

However (and this may strike some folks as meaningless, if not downright unpatriotic), having lots of stuff may not be all that great. Indeed, for a myasthenic, having too much stuff can sometimes mean the difference between making it through the day and not.

Take a look around your home. How much stuff do you not use at least a few times a month? Does anything need fixing? Are there things you can't stand but keep around because you're afraid it might hurt someone's feelings if you didn't? Of the things you do keep out of sentimentality, which actually matter?


The brutal truth is, stuff sucks up our energy. Never mind the botheration involved in acquiring it all, the moment we get something it has to be put somewhere. Then it has to be repeatedly cleaned, washed, dusted or whatever; every now and then moved somewhere else so you can get at some other stuff, only to be put back where it was in the first place. And then what do we do? We put it someplace else to make way for more stuff.

People, this doesn't make any sense! What on earth does any myasthenic gain by having to constantly organize, reorganize, clean, re-clean and then change the position of anything? Why do we waste our precious energy and strength on stuff when we could be using it to live well? All we're going to get is tired, and we've already got plenty of that.

So, myasthenics, get rid of it! Get rid of all that unnecessary stuff – the key word here being "unnecessary." Everything you really, truly need for a smooth and meaningful life, keep. Everything else is up for grabs.

Give, donate, throw in the garbage, then donate and donate some more. But for heaven's sake, take your time. Easy does it here, because hurrying the process will only increase the risk of your tossing out something wonderful. The goal isn't to live like a monk. It's to dispose of all the stuff that makes your life harder, sadder, uglier, more confined or plain boring.

One thing I will promise you, absolutely cross my heart: the longer and more faithfully you work at getting rid of extraneous stuff, the more strength and endurance you'll have for the things in your life that do matter.    

The Successful Myasthenic

For many years, Patricia Armstrong was well known to readers of MG News for her upbeat columns pertaining to coping with the idiosyncrasies of having myasthenia gravis. During the thirty-seven years since diagnosis, Patricia has worked hard to find her balance in life despite her generalized symptoms. It wasn’t easy; a former husband would never get the Nobel Prize for compassion since he was embarrassed and irritated by her condition.

Learning to make the necessary adjustments that MG requires, changing her dreams and setting new boundaries has made Patricia, in her own words, “one strong cookie.” Patricia has parlayed her unique MG experiences and those of other myasthenics into entertaining and interesting vignettes which strive to help others deal with life after a diagnosis of MG.


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