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25 Reminders for the Rough Days and Finding Joy in Life With Chronic Illness

“May I ever be in as good spirits as a willow! How tenacious of life! How withy! How soon it gets over its hurts!”
– Henry David Thoreau, Journal 2/14/56

Today I was feeling down, anxious in a way that made me retreat into old memories, to previous writings. And there, between notes about the health saga, the difficulties and low points, I found scraps of optimism and hope and encouragement. One entry had a list of instructions I had written for myself. Reminders of the lessons I learned over the last few years, and guideposts to help me live the way I want to. I added and revised a few things, and here I share them with you.

Twenty-Five Reminders for the Rough Days

1. Your body is what can limit you the most. You can limit yourself the most. If your body is working, and your mind is working with you, you are limitless.

2. Life is hard, but it is still good. Even when things do not feel easier, they can still be getting better.

3. Tired is not the same thing as being lazy, and rest is not always indulgent. Know how to distinguish one from the other. Prioritize quality sleep.

4. Managing things takes time. The emails, the phone calls, the appointments and tests and prescriptions, organizing the things that accumulate. It doesn’t matter how you do it, get it done.

5. Celebrate every victory.

6. Friends are everything. Value friendships fully, intentionally and whole-heartedly. Love in all the ways.

7. People will disappoint and situations will disappoint, and the disappointment will hurt, sting and pass. But if you are trying as hard as you can, and you are authentic, you can not disappoint yourself.

8. Be generous in actions and spirit. Be generous with spare change, with food, with time. Make eye contact and smile.

9. Interact with your environment. There is always more to see, more depth to uncover. An infinite amount of wonder and beauty. Watch the sunset as often as possible.

10. Find and create environments that will support you. Learn what support you need, and recognize it when it is there.

11. Do not wait for others to do something in order for you to do it. Swim in the ocean alone. Let yourself be shocked by cold water.

12. When you feel self-pity, look at a dog and smile.

13. When you feel self-pity, laugh at yourself.

14. When you feel self-pity, wallow. Sit in it and sink in it, deeply, but always emerge from it. You do not need to carry your sadnesses everywhere you go.

15. No one cares what you do as much as you think they care. So do whatever the hell you want.

16. If you can walk, walk. If you can run, run. If you can rest, rest. Wherever you are now is going to change. Meet yourself at this moment.

17. Learning to take care of yourself is a necessity. Learning to love yourself is essential. Be patient and compassionate with yourself and those around you.

18. It is not your fault. Also: You still have control.

19. There is not one “right” timeline. Don’t compare yourself to other people.

20. Money is a means to an end, not the end itself. Use it to make your life better. Buy the avocado.

21. When something is hard, you can get depressed by it or you can see it as a challenge. Challenge yourself.

22. Choose your challenges wisely.

23. Questions to ask yourself daily: How can I make today great? How can I be good to myself?

24. Here are things that make you feel better:

  • go outside. or sit by a window. watch the light or clouds or rain or swaying trees.
  • listen to music.
  • talk to a friend.
  • talk to yourself.
  • take a hot shower.
  • walk stretch move.
  • read. write. create.
  • get upset or sad or angry, dramatically so, until it is everything until it is released.
  • breathe deeply. smile, softly.

25. Thank you and thank you and thank you for all the Good.

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
– “You Learn,” Jorge Luis Borges

Getty image by ArtistGNDphotography

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