Skip to main content

Letting Go Of The Life We Have Planned

One of my favorite quotes is by Joseph Campbell, an American professor, writer and lecturer.
"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us."
Sometimes that life isn't what we expect and coming to terms with the new reality of life with chronic illness is difficult and can be traumatic.  I know it took me several years after my diagnosis with chronic illness before I found an inner acceptance and could re-point my compass in a new direction. It was as much of an emotional as it was a physical healing process.  And the healing journey is never fully completed.

We must tend to our emotional and physical selves, so we can stay balanced as we strive to live happy and fulfilled lives.

Still it isn't easy.

The other day after coming home from a long day at work, my 9 year old son approached me as I walked in the door. "Dad, will you play catch with me in the back yard?". I wanted to say yes right away, I really did. But if you are like me, you are always making calculations like the following in your head:
"I can go play ball now, but if I do my Fibromyalgia will flare up and I'll pay for it with several hours or even a day of stiffness, pain, and discomfort. Is it worth the trade off?  Or I could disappoint him and say no and spare myself of any pain."
I agreed to play catch with him largely because I want my son to know I care about him and to teach him some of the finer points of baseball. He is at an age where he compares himself to his friends. I don't want him to be the only kid among his friends whose dad won't play catch with him. Plus it is an opportunity to make connections and memories with him that will last a lifetime.

Afterwards I was more stiff than usual and did not sleep well, but I was comforted that what I had done was more important than my own well being.

But not all decisions are like that.  Some are just daily tasks that must be done and have no greater meaning, but when added up can amount to significant difficulty.

For example, my yard requires mowing about every week in the summer time. I know if I spend an afternoon mowing the lawn and doing miscellaneous yard work that I will be exhausted the following day and pretty much be unable to have a productive day. It's just a fact. Sometimes I do it knowing the inevitable consequence. Other times, I make the mental calculation and decide it just isn't worth the downtime to me and I'll hire someone to do it for me. It's an adjustment I've had to make.  I take a little hit to the old male ego on this one, but the trade off is often worth it.

I don't recall making calculations like this before chronic illness. It just wasn't a factor. And sometimes those closest to us - spouses, children, parents - don't understand the trade offs we make like this all the time.  Sometimes it is easier for us to "let go of the life we have planned" and "accept the life waiting for us" with chronic illness than it is for our loved ones. That's where patience, love and understanding can help.  We must be patient, just as we ask them to be.

No one ever said it was easy, but it's worth it.


Popular posts from this blog

10 Steps For Healing Well With Chronic Illness

Living and coping with chronic illness can be difficult. It often requires stressful changes to your life and the lives of family members closest to you. Fortunately, there are a few tried and true steps for healing well with chronic illness that can make coping easier and your life more fulfilling.  I hope these admonitions for healing help you as much as they've helped me.

The Healing Power of Mindfulness

A little over a year ago I had an awakening.  I realized I had the power to calm and heal my mind, even if I couldn't control what was happening to my body.  I've talked about this before in different ways including  recognizing sources of healing around us, how mindfulness helped me heal, and mindfulness and mobile apps.  Mindfulness is a set of skills for healing, intuition, insight, calmness, focus, resilience and hope that you can develop to counter the stresses that chronic illness brings.  As Dr. Berkelhammer put it, you can literally "train your mind to promote healing".

The Face of Chronic Illness: Kelly

It's difficult for healthy people to understand the challenges chronic illness brings until it gets personal.  Chronic illness can drastically alter your daily routines and chronic pain can test the will of the strongest person.  It brings with it overwhelming emotions, self defeating thoughts, crippling pain, daily heart ache, and so much more.  But words don't translate into understanding until you put a face to it.  I'd like to introduce you to Kelly and her blog Diary of a Sick Girl.   Kelly has opened up to the world her daily life with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, IBD, and other undiagnosed illnesses.  Her blog and video diary will at times break your heart, but will also give you a rare glimpse into what having a chronic illness really means.  By sharing her story she gives others insight, hope and understanding.  I want more people to hear her story.   So I've selected a few videos that have personally touched me and I hope they will help you too.  Kelly's …