2017 is, many would argue is finally upon us.
It is the time for new calendars, new diaries, and for many the promise of a fresh start as if January 1st provides a clean slate, erasing all of our past mistakes and bad habits. As if the turn of a date on a calendar assures us that we will become entirely new and improved people.
It is also the year when lots of people make ambitious and unrealistic new year’s resolutions which will inevitably be broken before the beginning of February.
For those of us living with chronic illness, however, making new such resolutions can be especially difficult as, well, our lives are completely unpredictable. We wake each day not knowing how we are going to feel that day, or what we will be physically able or unable to do. One day we can be living a seemingly normal life, running around doing chores whereas we can be in the midst of a flare the next, the only thoughts being how to survive getting through the day. Some days we are able to live whereas others are about just existing.
With this mind, therefore, how can we make realistic and achievable resolutions when our lives are so uncertain, and our bodies unreliable? We may have all the intention in the world to keep such resolutions but when living with chronic illness we are often not in control of our own bodies and instead are governed by the constant symptoms we endure. Are we setting ourselves for failure by making such unrealistic expectations? Could it also affect our already fragile confidence if we do indeed fail in these unrealistic expectations for the new year?
A new recent trend advises forgetting to make New Year’s Resolutions and to instead focus on just one word that sums up who you want to be or how you wish yo live your life. The word, if given full commitment can not only shape our year, but also the person we become. The word chosen is said to be a compass which can be used to direct our decisions and guides ultimately how we live day-to-day.
My word last year was HOPE. Although many people would describe me as a positive person, I often felt that hope was out of reach because of the effects that living with a neurological condition was having on my life. I wanted my life to be about hope; focusing on the positives instead of dwelling on life with chronic illness. To be able to appreciate and embrace the small joys of life and celebrate the achievements, however small.
This year my chosen word is GRACE. Life with a neurological condition for me personally continues to be challenging and difficult. Every day, the symptoms associated with my condition affect my daily existence dictating what I am or not able to do. And that can be frustrating and burdensome.
According to its many definitions, grace is about being at ease with the world, even when life is arduous such as living with a life-altering medical condition. To live with gratitude; being thankful for what I do have in my life, and being aware of the blessings that even challenging times provide.
Grace, for me personally, is also about kindness – showing kindness not only to others but also to yourself. For those living with chronic illness, we are not always guilty of showing ourselves kindness instead harbouring feelings of regret and repentance of things we are not able to do or for cancelling plans whilst we are in the midst of a flare. Often we harbour feelings of resentment towards our conditions, wishing them away and yearning to be ‘normal.’
But what if grace was also the acceptance that life is not always about trying to be a round peg attempting to fit inside the square hole. What if grace is instead about finding our unique and individual strengths whatever our circumstances and despite the personal limitations that each of us is living with and developing those as best we can.
Grace is finding purpose in our lives; doing what we love and loving what we do.
And that is my wish for 2017.
What would be your one word?