‘Into the Unknown’: Embracing the unexpected in life with SMA

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by Brianna Albers |

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When I chose my theme for 2024, I didn’t expect to take it for a spin before the year even started.

Every December, I start thinking about a word or phrase that will guide me through the next 12 months. I usually pick a theme and stick with it, but I broke with tradition this past year when I switched from “resurrection” to “trust” halfway through 2023. So to shake things up, I decided to approach my 2024 theme with a bit of a lighter hand.

2023 was an unprecedented year. My mom retired in May, which had a gargantuan effect on everything from my caregiving to our family’s meal plans. Our lives were transformed in an instant. While many of those changes were for the better, some were not, leaving us with a whole lot of questions and not a lot of answers. Then there was the creative crisis that took me by surprise. It took me months to recover, and if I’m honest, I’m still not back to “normal.”

All this to say that my usual approach to New Year’s planning has felt inappropriate. I have hopes for 2024, just like I have goals and milestones. But if 2023 taught me anything, it’s that I need to get better at going with the flow.

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Not just a Disney song

As musicals go, I’m more of a “Tangled” girl. But as 2023 wound down, I found myself humming “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2.” Like, a lot. It was always in my head, which felt more important than I was willing to admit.

The lyrics were also a little bit too on the nose, given the unexpected events of 2023. I don’t like the unknown. It’s scary and unfamiliar, neither of which vibe with my deep-seated, generalized anxiety. But as I learned in 2023, sometimes the unknown is exactly what you need. It might be scary and unfamiliar, but it also forces you to come face to face with yourself. As Idina Menzel sings so beautifully in the pre-chorus, “Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go/ Into the unknown?”

I wanted to believe that 2024 would be the opposite of 2023. There would be structure! There would be discipline! There would be accomplishments galore, mostly to make up for all the things I did not do the year before! But I knew better. 2024 was shaping up to be just as amorphous as its predecessor. And more importantly, I was tired.

Tired of beating myself up for not sticking to the schedule I’d set for myself at the beginning of the year.

Tired of pretending to be at full capacity when, in reality, I’d been running on fumes for months.

Tired of trying and failing to do everything I could to feel enough.

Tired, tired, tired.

So I gave up. I didn’t know what 2024 would bring, so I decided to embrace the unpredictability of the past 12 months. I was plunging headfirst into the unknown, and my theme for the coming year would reflect that.

Taking things a bit too literally

Days after I chose my theme for 2024, I woke up to a curveball.

My parents spent much of 2023 looking into RVs, specifically wheelchair-accessible ones. After tons — and I mean tons— of research, they more or less decided on one model in particular. They even went so far as to buy the pickup that would tow our toy hauler slash mobile home slash all-around joyride.

Then my mom changed her mind. She broached the subject on a Friday and by the following Tuesday we were en route to Des Moines, Iowa, to look at a completely different model. While we didn’t end up buying that one, it didn’t take Mom long to find the perfect RV for our family of three (six if you count the two cats and the dog that will be traveling with us). Of course, it just so happened to be on the other side of the country.

Pensacola, Florida, to be exact.

Less than two weeks after the initial curveball, we were packing up the van for a 10-day trip to the sunny state. I’ve always wanted to stay in Florida during the holidays. I didn’t think it would actually happen. But it looks like my theme for the next 12 months is spot on.

Who really knows what the unknown holds?

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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