“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like, and celebrating it for everything that it is” – Mandy Hale
What an insightful quote! There is so much simplicity to it yet it is full of depth and wisdom.
When we live with Chronic Illness, it’s very easy to fall into a pattern of continually thinking about all the things disease has taken from us. A vicious cycle can quickly develop robbing us of any hope of happiness.
Yes, life is tough.
Yes, our diseases can be overwhelming and debilitating.
Yes, our life has to change dramatically to adapt.
Yes, our dreams and goals may need to change entirely.
Acknowledge The Loss
If we have any hope of being truly happy in our chronic illness life, we need to acknowledge all of the above, plus many more emotional and physical hurdles unique to our own situation.
Once we’ve gone through that process, it’s time to take the next step. The most important step…..don’t let our diseases rob us of happiness.
It’s really ok to feel happy, even in the midst of pain and illness.
It’s ok to feel the depths of our loss while still feeling joy.
Happiness has many layers. It can come from success, from good news, from making exciting plans.
I’m not really talking about that kind of happiness. I’m talking about happiness that comes from being content.
“Contentment is a peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires, even though every wish may not have been gratified”: dictionary.com
This view of happiness, the peaceful contented kind, is exactly the sort of happiness we can achieve when chronic disease places so many of life’s usual “pleasures” out of reach.
I’ve been really unwell with worsening disability over the past six months. I’ve been in and out of hospital and had two major spinal surgeries three months apart. My foot fractures continuously cause worsening mobility issues and my fatigue has been out of control.
Aside from medical appointments or hospital stays, I haven’t been out of the house for about three months.
I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me or to gain sympathy. Far from it.
I know it creates quite a miserable picture, especially if that’s the end of this blog post.
Peacefully Happy Despite It All
It’s not the end though. It’s the beginning of what I want to share.
Despite all the challenges and hurdles, I’m happy, I’m content. I’m at peace.
I was recently in hospital for a lengthier stay than expected post a complicated spinal surgery. While I would have loved to go home, my stay was full of happy moments. I had sad moments as my pain overwhelmed me at times, but I had moments of belly laughing with my husband and beautiful friends who came to visit. I enjoyed chatting online with family and other friends far and wide.
I enjoyed reading other bloggers stories and sharing their work.
I loved writing, even if I only managed a little re-editing.
Once home, I enjoyed watching the birds in the garden.
I managed to continue to do a few household chores and that made me feel like I’d accomplished something (while listening to music full blast of course).
Let Go Of What You Think “Should Be”
Let go of what you think your life should look like. Take time to think about what you can change in your current circumstances to create a different life. One that works with your chronic illness and allows you to feel content….strive for a contentment that brings a feeling of peaceful happiness.
Give yourself permission to do that.
It doesn’t matter how others define a happy life…..it matters how you define it.
We only have one life, one opportunity to live as well as possible. For those of us with chronic disease we can spend it bemoaning what’s been taken from us, or we can spend it finding ways to “enjoy it for everything that it is”
We have life and that’s an amazing gift. I’m very happy about that and perfectly content.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
Paul writing to the Phillipians chapter 4 v 11-13 (NIV)
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