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Why I'm Giving Up New Year's Resolutions This Year for My Health

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‘Tis the season for an abundance of holiday traditions. Whether it is your grandmother’s famous latke recipe, your family tradition of making hundreds tamales or placing the antique angel that has been handed down by generations on top of the tree.

When it comes to holiday traditions, I am usually very inclined to adhere to the norm. Raised with dual religious beliefs, my house had both a tree and a menorah. Last year I happily dressed in red, and adorned with a light-up ornament necklace, I listened to traditional Victorian Christmas carolers. And, I enjoyed every minute of it. This year has been much more low key due to a bunch of different trips to urgent care, and sick family members. But still, I delight in the light up snowman we’ve owned since childhood and the sounds of the carolers outside that congregate in our cul-de-sac to raise money for the homeless in our area.

Once the tinsel has been packed up and the ornaments put away, there are different observances to uphold. As the days of December wind down, we tend to look at what the year has amassed, the lists of favorite books and movies, the loss of public personalities that have passed, and then we turn inward.

The New Year’s resolution is a time-tested tradition, as old as the ball drop and the muddled words we smush into the melody of “Auld Lange Syne.”

I’ve made resolutions annually for many years. Many are common — eat well and exercise more. Others more individualized – make sure to write more often. But I have been pretty consistent in following the custom.

This year though, I am giving up New Year’s resolutions.

Why? Because as a person dealing with the often trying results of living with multiple chronic illnesses, I’ve determined that I need to give myself a break and bend to the circumstances that the moment calls for. Instead of making annual declarations of how I will change, I need to constantly re-evaluate and show myself the kindness that I normally reserve for others.

When you live with chronic illness there are days when you want to scream into the abyss, “I am more than just the sick friend who cancels plans. I’m sorry I cannot be counted on with the the same consistency I once had.” I often smile and laugh things off but it still stings when I remember that I am no longer blazing a trail down my favored career path. But I can’t convince everyone to give me a break, and often the most stubborn person who pushes against this is the one that looks back at me in the mirror.

My empathy seems reserved for everyone but me. And that has to change. But not just in a way that is limited to once a year. I need to allow myself to adjust. To not get thrown completely off by a flare or a new symptom. To realize that this life is always changing and there is a fragility that comes with chronic illness. Not a physical weakness but an underlying layer of grieving that may never go away, but changes shape depending on the matter at hand. It is OK to grieve your old life, and to give yourself the kindness and leeway to do so. They say “it’s all about moderation,” and I think that fits here too.

Recently, after a bad day, I glimpsed at my Facebook (never a good idea when I’m in a negative frame of mind) and saw my friends and acquaintances posting from their busy lives. Holiday photos interspersed with shots from the halls of Congress, a major network’s morning show, and the live, early morning nomination announcements for an entertainment award show that I used to work before my life devolved into an endless array of doctors appointments, treatments, medications and the everyday minutiae of the life of the chronically ill.

But those stories and battle wounds are a topic for another time, another place, another forum where we can celebrate our achievements and soothe our bruised spirits after losing some battle, sharing the bond of advocacy across a spectrum of issues. Today I choose kindness toward you and for myself.

My social media bios often include the the following, “I love policy, theater and puppies. I live chronic illness.” This differentiation is an important one. One is my personality; my loves, my likes, my hobbies. The other is my reality; the way I go through life and navigate my days.

And that’s OK, resolution or not.

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Gettyimage by: bernardbodo

Originally published: December 24, 2017
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