The Daily Grind: Resilience, With a Smile

She hasn’t walked in eight years. Her morning routine that would take most of us 20 minutes—brew coffee, feed the dog, shower, dress, apply a bit of make-up—is most often a two hour ordeal for Michelle Brown, associate publisher of a men’s fashion magazine, who was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) in September ‘98 and is confined to a wheelchair.

Her day starts at her home in Greenwich Ct. where she lives with her lab (and soul mate) Lucy. (Her daughters are in college and post-college; she and her husband separated two years ago.) “You have no idea how long it takes to pull on these scrunch-y boots,” she starts to explain, admitting that with a job in the fashion industry, she likes to look fashionable. “I try not to complain,” she apologizes. “Since I love to be with people (that’s why I’m in sales), I know I can’t be miserable because who wants to be around a depressed person? So I choose to be happy.”

Despite her infectious enthusiasm and ever-positive attitude, happy is not always easy. She depends on hired help to get to and from the train station, endures the crowded rush hour on MetroNorth, suffers stares and glares from commuters in Grand Central Station and boldly navigates the uneven sidewalks of Manhattan, hoping to avoid the curbs without ramps.

Her work day is often filled with indignities, large and small: colleagues complaining about petty problems, restaurants with only high tables (she obviously can’t get herself up on the bar stools), endless waits for very few wheelchair-accessible taxis, buildings with stairways and no elevators, handicap restrooms many floors down from her office.

How does she endure it without occasionally bursting into tears? “I’ve always been the responsible one; I got that from my dad. I have to pay the bills so I have to keep my job. But most of all, I’m a doer, not a thinker. I believe that, more than anything, is what saves me.”

Text by: Karen Alberg

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