I met two men recently who had been living with the same disease for over twenty years.

One was radiant. He was happy. He was fully present and full of gratitude. I said wished I could be as healthy as he was, and he told me, “My doctor tells me the same thing. It’s all about attitude.”

The other was resigned. He spoke of realities and likelihoods. When he said “we,” he didn’t mean human beings, as I first assumed. His “we” was people with his condition. He never spoke aloud the name of his disease. He didn’t need to. It had become his identity.

We don’t get to choose our bodies, but we do get to choose who we are.

Am I a person with bad knees, whose life is dictated by my inability to run up stairs?

Am I a college dropout, unable to earn more than $11 an hour due to my lack of education?

Am I an introvert who can’t help feeling awkward among large groups of people who always seem unbearably cooler than me?

Or do I choose something else?

Am I a poet?

A community builder?

An adventurer?

It’s not a multiple choice test. I can choose as many as I like. I can change my mind whenever I like. And although anyone can decide whether they think my choices are the “right” ones, I get to choose whether my identity is that of someone who cares.

It’s a silly kind of realization, but sometimes it takes a painfully obvious example to show me the most obvious things.

Am I my weaknesses? Am I my strengths?

Or am I my possibilities?

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