Last week, it was Michael J. Fox popping up in two places - first on a recorded episode of the Daily Show, and then in an interview in TIME. When I was a kid, I watched just a bit of Back to the Future on VHS tapes. When I went to college, he let the world know that he had Parkinson's disease. Even though I wasn't a big MJF follower, it made enough splash in the news that I did a term paper on the disease at some point during college, learning enough to know that it has something to do with trembling and dopamine.
It's been more than 10 years since that now. I don't remember ever seeing him speak in person, so I was intrigued to catch his interview with Jon Stewart. To see someone who has been masterfully eloquent sit with slightly awkward movements and a quivering voice - in spite of that to see him be confident, optimistic, acting not the least bit embarrassed - it was really captivating.
In the TIME interview, a reader asked - "How do you keep your optimism in the face of difficult circumstances?"
Fox's answer was - "I think mostly it's about acceptance. I have no choice about whether or not I have Parkinson's. I have nothing but choices about how I react to it [my added bold]. In those choices, there's freedom to do a lot of things in areas that I wouldn't have otherwise found myself in."
I thought that insight was profound. Maybe it's not Parkinson's for me or you, but we don't have to look far to find moments or years of loss, frustration, or dissappointment that we wish were different, whether in the big picture or life or the little picture of today. That those difficult moments happen is beyond my control. My reaction is within my control. Bitter or forgiving, angry or patient, apathetic or caring. Making the positive choice opens opportunities instead of closing them.
Funny, it's the unexpected reactions of others that catch our attention and lift us up - like Fox's unexpected optimism (Jesus forgiving his murderers in his last moments comes to mind just now too). Something I'll be thinking about...