Embracing New Dreams When Chronic Illness Changes Your Plans

As I was lying on the couch yesterday, I watched the branches outside gently dancing in the wind. I thought about how nice of a day it was and how fun it would be to drive myself to a nearby lake. And then I instantly thought of how much would have to change just for me to accomplish that tiny task.

Some days the whole illness thing is quite a drag — I’m not gonna lie.

But I’m a glutton for punishment, as my husband lovingly tells me. So my daydreams didn’t stop there.

woman stands outside with her shoes off to the side I thought of how cozy it would be to visit a local coffee shop, without the fear of someone’s perfume or loud voices sending my symptoms into a tailspin. Then I thought of later sitting at the lake, without worrying how the sun’s warmth or bright rays might affect my delicate system.

I dreamed of someday exploring the long list of waterfalls here in Oregon. (Cue the music: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls…”)

I’ve thought about my dreams a lot in the last several years. Plans I had made. Goals I had set. Visions of where I’d be as I approach the big 3-0 this year.

I’m sure you aren’t surprised when I say living with Lyme disease and having a disabled parking pass weren’t exactly at the top of my bucket list — let alone on the list.

Before sickness took hold, my husband Trevin and I had envisioned that by now, we would have a budding family. We would have traveled to Spain among the other cities, states and countries on our list.

We planned to move further north than southern California — and that we actually did accomplish! (Hello, southern Oregon. Don’t tell Trev, but I have a pretty big crush on you.)

There are many aspects of our life that I’ll admit would never make my dream list. I’m sure you can think of things in your own life that you wouldn’t have chosen either.

Yet, somehow… here you are: perhaps in a job you never dreamed of having, fighting an illness that stripped you of normalcy, in a city you thought would be the last place you’d live or still single when you’ve always dreamed of marriage and a family.

It can feel depressing at times, can’t it? Sitting in this place of “What now?” or “Will this ever happen/change for me?” We wonder what dreams we dare to keep holding onto and if it’s time to just let some go.

For some of these plans, letting go can give beautiful freedom. For others, there is deep grief involved in loosening our grip. There is so much pain in accepting that some things might just never be.

And even though this place is raw and feels deserted, I believe dreams can still exist here.

They may look different, yes. They may sit in the shadows, over in the corner of “someday, I want to do this. Today I legitimately can’t, but someday I will.”

They could be the kind of dreams that feel small or maybe even make us feel like we’re settling for less, but they’re the dreams we have the strength to reach for — the dreams we have the ability to cherish in this moment.

These are the ones that give us hope wherever our hearts are sitting. They’re the dreams that don’t require us to wait for x, y or z to happen before we bask in their beauty.

They give us a sparkle now.

My simple dreams have become my fuel as of late. They may seem far too basic to some, but they’re just the right size for me.

woman's feet standing next to a pot of herbs They’re things like being able to enjoy short visits with family or going for a drive through the countryside with Trev. It’s the task of successfully nurturing the pot of herbs a friend gave me and crafting a blog post each week.

These are my little dreams, filled with hope and purpose. They are reachable and enjoyable now.

I still have the bigger dreams. The dreams of traveling, building a family, becoming a better writer, attending cooking classes and beating Lyme disease. But the reality is that sometimes those dreams feel so distant it’s painful.

So I am learning to give myself permission to set them back on their shelf when my heart is too heavy to hold them. To remind myself that I’m allowed to grieve what cannot be — what has been lost.

And I’ll keep reaching for the day they can be made possible. Hoping for someday. Asking God for the answers I’m aching for.

But for now, I’ll hold onto the pieces of the dreams within view.

I have a husband to love and support. Nieces and nephews to enjoy. A community of writers that inspire me to keep sharpening my skill. Fellow illness warriors who amaze and encourage me to keep fighting. And an incredibly wise doctor who is advocating for my health and giving me hope to dream of wellness.

These are my pebbles of hope. My current fuel for tomorrow.

My plans and circumstances may change, but I will always be a dreamer.

I hope you find ways to still be a dreamer, too.

This story first appeared on Kami’s blog, Living Grace.

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