I was loading my dishwasher this morning and fighting with a plate that refused to fit in.
It wasn’t really the plates fault. I was in severe lower back pain and trying to get the task over as quickly as possible. I was also trying to fit way too much into this particular load…..as you do!!
So as I continued to engage in one to one combat with my dishwasher, I loudly exclaimed, “Come on, where there’s a will there’s a way”.
My renewed determination actually worked and with a quick reshuffle of a few bowls, my plate finally found its resting place. Phew! Door closed, button pushed, all done.
Is It Really That Easy?
As I returned to my armchair to rest and recover from my efforts, I began thinking about the old English proverb I’d just used to spur myself on to success.
“Where There’s A Will There’s A Way”
It just rolls off the tongue so easily doesn’t it. I have always lived my life with a “mind over matter” type approach. I’ve always believed that if I was determined to achieve a particular goal, I could find a way to do it.
Generally I could. Not anymore. Not like I used to. Life isn’t as easy now.
Chronic Illness changes everything. No amount of mind over matter, or old English Proverb cheering me on to achieve absolutely anything, is going to cut it.
Does That Mean I Should Give Up Trying?
Chronic Illness does significantly impact most areas of our lives, there is no denying that.
So should we just give up trying to set goals? Should we put up an “out-of-order” sign and let life pass us by?
No, I don’t think we should. I do think we need to be realistic though about our new capabilities.
I could set a goal of running up a mountain but that would be ridiculous. I’d be setting myself up for failure. My non-union broken femur and spinal cord compression are obstacles to that goal. They won’t be removed by simply spouting, “where there’s a will there’s a way”.
Even if I searched for a way by perhaps being pushed up the hill in a wheelchair, I would still be setting myself up for failure. I can barely sit in a motorised wheelchair, due to spinal pain, for more than 10 mins on a smooth surface, let alone an uphill uneven mountain terrain.
Inflammation quickly builds around my broken bones and pain sears as bone on bone begins to rub. My feet fracture just looking at them and I’m not exaggerating.
No, that is not a goal I can achieve no matter how many times I stoically shout “where there’s a will there’s a way”!
So What Is Achievable?
Realistic goals are achievable for those of us with chronic illness. There may even be goals that require us to stretch our limits a little and that’s ok.
Let me give you an example. I had a goal today to write a blog post. I am absolutely exhausted, pain is soaring and no matter how much I try to string together some quiet days, something inevitably disturbs those “rest and recovery” plans. I’ve been diagnosed with repeat compressed spinal cord at L4/L5, despite 2 surgeries, all as a result of my rare bone disease progressing. The pain is unrelenting and for the first 3 hours of every morning I am physically unable to push through the pain which is at 10/10. My spine competely locks, until my full cocktail of pain meds reduce my pain to 7/10. This allows me to push through enough to shuffle walk.
So, you get the picture. It’s a tough day. No one is going to care if I don’t write my blog post. I could leave it until next week. It doesn’t really matter.
It does matter though. It matters to me and that’s the key.
When we set goals they need to be achievable but they also need to be something we are passionate about. Something that drives us to want to achieve them.
Those who know me well and follow my blog, know I’m passionate about writing. It’s what I do now. It’s how I connect with others. It’s one of the major activities I use, to keep the one part of me that still works active…my brain.
Finding A Way
To achieve my goal of writing this blog, I had to find a way.
Firstly, I had to mentally commit. To do that required me to push aside my first thoughts that crowded my mind. Those were the thoughts that were telling me to just leave it until next week.
I did consider that option. It was a valid option but as I thought about next week, I knew I had other goals I needed to achieve, so it soon became a non-option. This was a positive thought process as it forced me to think about strategies to achieve my goal today.
I determined I did need to find a way to achieve this goal as I knew, aside from any other reasons, it would be a great distraction from my pain.
So I made a 4 step plan:
- Take my afternoon pain meds;
- Wait for an hour so they kick in;
- Write while lying down on my bed, using my phone. (I’ve taught myself to blog on my phone rather than using my tablet or PC. It has removed so many of my writing obstacles).
- Take my time and enjoy the process.
Maybe Where There’s A Will, There Is A Way Afterall
If you’re reading this you’ll know I did it! I achieved my goal. My determination, commitment and planning, was rewarded as I persevered and was able to hit the publish button.
So maybe the old English proverb does have some truth to it.
When it comes to chronic illness we definitely need to ensure we are not setting ourselves up for disappointment. Our diseases cause us enough stress and sorrow without us deliberately adding to it by trying to achieve things which are definitely out of our reach.
Don’t let that put you off setting goals though. It’s so important that we feel that sense of achievement. We might be chronically ill but life needn’t completely pass us by.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Find something you are passionate about and set a realistic goal. Or maybe it’s something that needs doing, you have the ability to do, but you’re dreading it. The same principles apply.
Using the word “Simple”, I’ve created an easy to remember planning outline. I hope it will help you achieve goals that might seem out of reach right now.
S – Set a timeframe
I – Improvise where necessary
M- Modify your plan if you meet a roadblock
P – Picture the final outcome as you work
L – Listen to your body if you need a rest
E – Enjoy the process.
Keep your goal simple, keep it relevant to your abilities. Before long you could be discovering, despite chronic illness, where there’s a will, there might be a way.
If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding and friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum Medical Musings with Friends. It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic and complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.
I’m a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page
I also write @ Blogs by Christian Women
If you would like to read a little more about my journey, here’s the link to My Story