I didn’t mean to do it, honestly, but an early morning brush across my phone’s screen led to an article that has continually rolled through my mind every day for a week. The title, “Michael J Fox: ‘Every step now is a frigging math problem, so I take it slow’” had my attention, since I’m driven to learn the stories of those who choose to win over life’s challenges.
Michael was only 29 years old when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and when the news finally went public in 1998, I remember feeling quite sorry for this life-of-the-party actor who had led the cast on seven seasons of Family Ties and totally owned his roles on Teen Wolf and Back to the Future. Surely, his acting career would be cut short.
BUT a review of all that Michael has done on-screen on the IMDb totally obliterates my initial judgement! Additionally, Hadley Freeman, who wrote the article for The Guardian, notes, “I think he’s done some of his best acting since his diagnosis.” Just about every American alive today has seen something that has Michael J. Fox’s fingerprint on it.
For three decades, now, Michael has chosen to embrace the challenges associated with Parkinson’s disease. Rather than withdrawing to seclusion, he has spearheaded public efforts to find a cure. In fact, through his own personal contribution and fundraising via the Michael J. Fox Foundation, over a billion dollars have been raised for funded research.
Beyond this, Michael’s perspective on success has changed. He has chosen to enjoy the things that really matter—the joys found in his lasting relationship with his wife, Tracy Pollan, and their “happy home,” even now while they are hunkered down with their four kids, now progressing through early adulthood, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you’d told me when I was diagnosed that I’d have this life now and do the things I do, I’d have said, ‘I’ll take it’
—Michael J. Fox, quoted in “Every Step Is A Friggin Math Problem, So I Take It Slow” by Hadley Freeman
What is the internal formula used for reaching this level of optimism? Hadley records Michael’s words, ““I came to a place of gratitude. Finding something to be grateful for is what it’s about,” he says. Optimism is about the promises of the future, gratitude looks at the present. Fox has retrained his focus from running towards what will be, to seeing what is.”
Fox’s words quickly cast off the weights that can be found in endless personal pursuits, climbing the proverbial ladder, and thrill-seeking. By recognizing what good he has in the present, joy is found. So many are hell-bent on building bigger and better, and when they turn around in the end, they realize all the good things that they missed and the lasting relationships they could have built along the journey.
If you are reading this, you have been provided the gift of at least one more breath, a measure of health, and some ticks on the clock. As you write the story of your life, consider—right now—all of the blessings you’ve been provided and what a difference can be made by choosing to embrace gratitude.
- Inspiration for this article: Michael J Fox: ‘Every step now is a frigging math problem, so I take it slow,’ by Hadley Freeman for The Guardian
- The Michael James Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research