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I’m Choosing Simple Goals for 2017 as a Person With a Chronic Illness


It’s the first day of a shiny new year. The day when all the mistakes of the previous year are behind us and anything seems possible. By now, at least a month of partying has been put to bed, and its memories have been tucked away on Instagram. My liver and credit card are holding hands and whispering, “Thank God, we’re safe now.”

It’s hard not to wonder why a new year is something to celebrate when the fête is finie. A beginning doesn’t actually require us to actually start anything new. Yes, it’s good news if you just need a mental boost or want to symbolically wipe the slate clean of all the injuries and injustices of 2016. This is your holiday. You don’t have to change. That’s the gift of New Year’s. It’s up to you. 

For others, a new year means waking up on January 1 in last night’s makeup while looking in the mirror and making resolutions. Because a new year means a new you. One where you can get fit, find love, take that improv class and stop using LOL. The point is, anything is possible.

Many start the year with big plans for major changes only to find themselves failing by February. So why bother with resolutions? Aren’t they just setting us up for failure? Maybe. But giving voice to our hopes and dreams is an important step to realizing them. A new year is a time to reflect on what’s positive in our lives and what needs improving. Even if we never keep our pledges, the act of making them means we take stock and examine what we like and don’t like. We get to know ourselves a little better and identify what’s working and what needs changing.

When you have chronic progressive illness, measuring time can be a tricky business. By definition we’re supposed to, well, progress. Each calendar year is marked by diagnoses, tests, treatments and abilities gradually lost. Time can be a scary contemplation. Resolving to regrow myelin is more futile than resolving to lose those last five pounds. There are certain things that we simply can’t control. 

So this year I’m choosing simple goals. Despite disease and my never-ending pursuit of the best possible life, I will reflect on what it is I love to do and figure out how I can do more of it.

I will think about the people who lift me up and make me laugh and then commit to spending more time with them. I will pay attention to what doesn’t make me feel good and do my best to avoid those things. With hope and confetti still in the air, I say forget fear because dwelling on the worst case scenario is a waste of my imagination. 

It’s 2017. Embrace unrelenting optimism. 

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