The sheer enormity of SMA can easily become overwhelming. All the physical limitations can cause me to overlook the gifts and abilities I do have. I’ve found that it is imperative for me to identify my strengths, and run with them (OK, drive with them) to the absolute maximum.
In a recent column, I talked about how writing has become instrumental in maintaining my mental sanity. Before I started writing, I felt useless, hopeless, and trapped. But writing has served as a desperately needed outlet. Devoting time and energy to the craft has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
While writing has only recently emerged as a strength of mine, there is another talent that has been present much longer — chess. I learned how to play when I was about 5 or 6. I learned and became a skilled player quite quickly.
Now, I realize that perhaps this sounds insignificant. You may be thinking, “You’re good at a board game. So what?” Well, think about it from my perspective. I can’t beat anyone at anything that is even remotely physical. No sports, and heck, I’m even at an ever-growing disadvantage in video games. But with chess, it’s my brain versus your brain. No physical ability is involved — not even chance or luck. The game requires 100 percent skill.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but chess was huge for my confidence as a kid, and that confidence carried over into adulthood. I see this in hindsight because, regrettably, I got away from chess for about four years and only picked it up again about six months ago. That hiatus was largely due to my main chess friend moving away. Those years just so happened to be the most difficult of my life by far, but things have taken a turn for the better since I started playing again. I do not recommend abandoning a primary hobby, especially when you are physically challenged to find a replacement.
Fortunately, I can play online now anytime I want. I am driven to become the best writer and chess player I can be. Focusing on the abilities I do have is so helpful in dealing with all my limitations. It allows me to channel my energy into something tangible. When you have SMA, an outlet can be incredibly difficult to find, but it is so important. Have you found yours?
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