My 5 favorite things in life with ALS

When I'm feeling down due to ALS, I 'simply remember my favorite things'

James Clingman avatar

by James Clingman |

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I am certain that many in my generation are familiar with the following words: “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens/ Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.” For the youngsters, those are lyrics from “My Favorite Things,” from the Broadway musical “The Sound of Music.”

The song mentions several other favorites, and I have many of my own as well. But for the purpose of this column, I will share just five from my life with ALS.


The first time I had a professional massage was in June 2000 during a 2,000-mile bicycle ride. I was 54 years old then and had never before considered getting a massage. But 10 years later, during the onset of my ALS, massages became a part of my physical therapy. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate them even more, whether they’re done by a professional, which my daughter orders for me every so often, or my barber or attendant.

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Sunshine on my face

Comedian Richard Pryor used to tell a story about an old man named Mudbone who’d say, “Get some sunshine on your face.” Well, I am now that old man, and I highly recommend it, too. When I can go outside on a warm day and recline in the sunlight, I feel tremendous contentment.


I love all kinds of music. I have a plaque in my room with a quote from Hans Christian Andersen that says: “Where words fail, music speaks.” I cannot add anything to that.

Sleeping through the night

I usually wake up at least twice each night, and it takes me at least an hour to get back to sleep. Every now and then, I sleep for six or seven hours uninterrupted. Now that’s a real pleasure. Sleep is genuine rest for me. It releases me from my nightmare of reality and propels me into a world of uninhibited possibilities. Sleeping provides a respite for me.

Having my hair washed and scalp scratched

As Chuck Mangione titled one of his albums, “Feels So Good.” Not much compares with that simple pleasure. It’s so relaxing and fulfilling, something I thoroughly enjoy.

As we move through life, our favorite things change depending on our emotional and physical conditions. There were other things I used to call my favorite, but I’m no longer able to do them. There were some things that once made my psychological state better, but cannot fill the void now.

For instance, bicycling did so much for my mental state, specifically, the reality of being 50 miles from home and having to depend on my legs alone to get me back. I know that seems counterintuitive, but riding was my captivation and my release. I depended on my ability to ride, which in turn strengthened my psychological and physical independence.

In contrast to my pre-ALS confidence and strength, after I was diagnosed, I felt weak because I could not ride, drive, do yardwork, take the trash out, and do all the other things I once did. After 10 years, I still get sad when I see others engaged in those activities.

That’s why I’m so grateful to be able to experience my current list of favorite things, especially the last few lines of the original song: “When the dog bites/ When the bee stings/ When I’m feeling sad/ I simply remember my favorite things/ And then I don’t feel so bad.”

I will leave my fellow seniors with what may be a more relatable rendition. Check out this parody and have a good laugh with me.

Note: ALS News Today 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. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Gordon James avatar

Gordon James

I too used to cycle a lot - Canada, the US, Mexico, Spain.

Can't now but many fond memories that still bring a smile to my face. Even those rides far from home and cold rain coming down. Don't seem quite as bad now!

Debra Kaufman avatar

Debra Kaufman

Thanks, James - you gave me a laugh with your senior rendition - and something to think about, how our favorite things chanhe with age and circumstance. Wishing you the best.


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