The Joy of Being Alive

Retha De Wet avatar

by Retha De Wet |

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I was never gifted with numbers, but I always felt confident when it came to languages. When my emotions are too overwhelming to comprehend, I look for answers in written work, or I simply start writing down how I feel. It helps me deal with big emotions and determine why I am feeling so overwhelmed. One hobby this has led to is language learning.

I am busy learning isiXhosa, a language spoken in Southern Africa. isiXhosa is famous for having a lot of clicking sounds. The late Miriam Makeba sang a beautiful version of an isiXhosa song named “The Click Song,” which demonstrates the different clicks perfectly. It is a descriptive language by nature. For example, the song mentioned above is named so because English-speaking people can’t pronounce all the isiXhosa clicks. I am fond of analyzing the meaning of common phrases, so much so that I have a favorite phrase in isiXhosa: sikhona nathi.

In response to, “How are you?”, one can answer with, “Sikhona nathi.” That translates to “we are alive.” I find it incredibly poetic to so bluntly acknowledge the gift of being alive; both you and I are alive. I’ve incorporated this phrase into my daily life. Every time someone asks me how I am, “sikhona nathi” pops up in my thoughts. This means that I attempt to associate the question of “How are you?” with gratitude to be alive on a daily basis. It is remarkable how many times a day we automatically answer that question without any thought.

With myasthenia gravis, we can get so caught up in fighting death or our symptoms that we forget to live life, too. We tend to neglect that we deserve to live a life outside of myasthenia or that we are more than our disease. MG has a horrible way of finding its way into every aspect of every day, be it walking, talking, seeing, or breathing — all quite important functions necessary to fully participate in activities of daily living.

I believe in the power of positive thinking. By that, I by no means imply that positive thinking alone will cure all diseases, or any diseases for that matter. I simply mean that positive thinking leads to a positive outlook. Life is more approachable with a positive outlook, wouldn’t you say? Especially when you are constantly looking at the world around you with double vision.

The world would be better off if we all shared the perception that we should celebrate life. This week, I envy the isiXhosa-speaking people for their wisdom, and I am grateful for the way learning this language has changed my perception for the better. Sometimes the only thing needed to go forward is to acknowledge the privilege of being alive. Life is beautiful, never stop fighting.


Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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