Michael J. Fox: Rolling With The Punches

Life is hard. There is no person who doesn’t have to experience challenges or have to
deal with the unexpected. Sometimes we arrive at certain ‘hoped for’ positions, whether they are financially, socially, professionally, or other, but once we’ve reached these, there are still potential pitfalls. It is hard to accept sometimes, but no matter how much power or prestige we receive or can create for ourselves, we are always subject to forces outside of our control. It doesn’t mean we should prepare for them, but it’s healthy to be detached from ourselves so that we don’t take our lives and ourselves too seriously.
Though this can be discouraging, there are those who have shown us that when life hands
you lemons, put them in the freezer and wait until later to use them, when you finally
understand the changes that have happened and you know what to do with them. Michael J. Fox is a great example of this. Having started as an actor while a teenager, he made a quick move from success in Canada to living in LA. It was here that he would see his career become a major one both in television and film. Having such a consistent and relatively smooth transition throughout his movements towards wide success, it would be a huge blindside to receive the news that he had a type of disease which would end his ability to act. When Fox was told that he had Parkinson’s in 1991, it wouldn’t become public until 7 years later when he told the world he was going into semi-retirement.
Now many people would be totally thwarted by this reality, and Fox himself started to
consume much more alcohol than was normal and in some ways he didn’t want to deal with the ramifications of this disease. Of course, when the unexpected makes it so our course changes, we have to not only rediscover what that means for us, but also for how we want to live our life. Being able to accept such massive derailments is not an easy task, it means letting go of most of one's expectations for how they will be able to be seen as themselves. As our circumstances change so must our identity, and if we are not willing to adapt to these we may find ourselves desperately lost.
After his semi-retirement, Fox published three books, started a foundation for Parkinsons, and received honorary doctorates from UBC and the Karolinska Institute for his aid to research for his disease. Not only did he accomplish all this in separate fields from his original career, but he also found ways back into acting in many roles, some of which earned him several Emmy nominations. In a more personal vein, Fox has played characters where he openly uses his Parkinson’s as a specific part of the humor of the storyline. All these examples should show how accepting one’s situation, no matter how challenging, can lead to a path of grace and humility that bring with it a new kind of honor. In this way we can feel encouraged and inspired by those who do not give up and stay positive and active even when the whole context of their life has changed.

Author: Jonathan M. Bessette

Jonathan M. Bessette lives and works in Vancouver BC where he writes poetry, short fiction, novels, and screenplays. He was the founder and president of The NPODW publishing society for the 5 years it was active and helped publish its journal of the same name. He is currently working on a new sci-fi novel and hopes to finish a pilot episode for a sitcom in 2017. Check out his creative masterpieces at www.jonathanmbessette.com.