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Note from Elaine: Today’s guest blogger, Peggy van Hulsteyn is one of my most successful writer friends.  For the last 15 years, she has been battling  Parkinson’s Disease, and yet
she continues to write charming books and contribute inspiring pieces to the Michael J. Fox Foundation website. I hope you, Dear Reader, will find her essay as uplifting as I do.


-Peggy van Hulsteyn

The first time my Mortality called, I refused to answer. When the old Crone rang me up again, I told her to buzz off; she had the wrong number.

The third time she called she did away with the niceties.  Her message was brutally clear: “You have Parkinson’s disease.”

Who was this obnoxious Nosey Parker? Had she just escaped from the home for the bewildered? Could it be Yvonne, my former agent, taunting me while she imbibed the tawny Port wine favored by the Royal Braganza family of Portugal?

When I thought about it in retrospect, the mix-up was obvious. When you have a name like Peggy van Hulsteyn, people are always confusing you with the multitude of other females of the same name.

I responded: “There’s been a mistake. I know nothing about a disease called Parkinson’s. Leave me alone or I’ll report you to the local authorities!” (I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded menacing.)

So, did she politely beg off? Are you kidding? Instead, she put me on speed dial.
But I couldn’t ignore the scary seeds she had planted in my mind. Surreptitiously,  I visited three neurologists, assuming that they would tell me to ignore this hoax.

The most disconcerting thing is that the old biddy turned out to be right. I did indeed have PD! Was she one of Santa Fe’s many clairvoyants? Is it possible I had misjudged this situation?

After months of her nagging, I had an epiphany.  Ms Mortality was not the enemy, but actually a friend! Her diagnosis of Parkinson’s was a wake-up call telling me it was later than I thought. She spoke the Truth and was an unexpected cheer leader, not a naysayer. Her mantra of  “Don’t postpone joy” resonated down to my core.

I was the worst type of convert once I joined  her “Time is Short” band wagon. I am continually challenging my fellow baby boomers to plunge head first into the carpe diem pool.

I am happy to report that I am taking my own advice. I had always wanted to
have a Nancy Drew party, but felt I was too old. When I got PD, I thought “Who cares?”  So last week my favorite chums donned their best frocks and we all played girl detective while enjoying a delicious ‘50s style dinner from The Nancy Drew Cookbook. It was my best party ever.
More from the “Time is Short” list:

Don't leap into the future; treat the present as a present.

Don’t leap into the future; treat the present as a present.

Don’t wait for Christmas to give presents.
I bestow gifts all year round, but during the holidays I am pro-active and
work for the cure. There are many excellent PD research groups.  I have an affinity for the Michael J Fox Foundation, as Michael is short and funny, and so am I.
Be discreet about accepting invitations.  Use the word NO frequently.  Spend your time doing what you love.
I savor writing, quality time with my witty husband, having quiet lunches with dear friends. Easy traveling. Books.
Remember that little things mean a lot.
A couple of decades ago, my husband and I rescued two tiny kittens who had been dumped by the side of the road the day after Xmas.  I hadn’t planned to keep them.  But I did, and wrote three of my favorite books about them! Never has there been so much love and devotion in such small packages; for 18 years they were devoted friends who purred us through the ups and downs.
Maintain  your creativity.
On those days when it is hard to get out of bed, DON’T!!  Instead, picture  yourself as Colette who did most of her writing in bed. Whether you’re penning Gigi or writing Xmas cards, turn the experience on its head. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself,  think of your day in bed as a step toward more originality.
Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!
Don’t dwell on the past and how wonderful you were – you are still spectacular!  Don’t leap into the future; treat the present as a present. It’s a call to cultivate your garden, gather your roses and your friends, hug your cat, turn off the TV and turn on Vivaldi, write a poem, learn French, read Auntie Mame, and embrace its message to “live, live, live.”


Peggy van Hulsteyn, the author of ten books,  has written for  Yoga Journal (American and Chinese version), The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and six international editions of Cosmopolitan. Her most recent book, THE KITTEN INVASION, is a romp that reviewers call “wonderfully witty  and original.”
.  For more information,www. pdhatlady.com