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Why My New Year's Resolutions Will Look Different This Time Around

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The clean slate of a New Year deeply inspires me, and I always make resolutions with the very best of intentions. Unfortunately, I then spend the first few months of the new year in miserable, unending frustration, utterly defeated in pursuit of my ill-chosen goals. Why such spectacular failure, you ask? I could never succeed because I ignored the important realities of life with rare illness when forming my resolutions. I would set lofty, overly ambitious goals that were completely at odds with my body’s actual abilities. Disregarding the unpredictability of my daily life, I gave myself firm deadlines. Foolishly, I pursued the same popular resolutions as my friends. It became quickly (and hilariously) apparent that those ambitions were suitable for my peers, but ludicrous for me. Run a half marathon? Honestly, if I am able to endure my chronic back pain long enough to run to the store, I am thrilled. Lose weight? Actually, abdominal pain and nausea caused by my hereditary angioedema already took care of that for me. Become a morning person? Ha, don’t get me started!

Despite my terrible track record, I am ready to give resolutions another try. This was an exceptionally difficult year, and looking to the future feels positive and optimistic (feelings I hope will be more abundant in 2020). To finally achieve success, I am making simple resolutions that reflect my life as a woman with rare and chronic illness. No intense deadlines, ridiculous diets, or pricey hobbies. Instead, I want to continuously pursue reasonable goals that are meaningful to me throughout the year.

Friends, I hope you join me in getting creative — and real — with your resolutions. We cannot know what challenges await us in the new year, but we can stay courageous and keep fighting forward.

Here are my resolutions for bettering myself in 2020:

  1. Practice patience.
    I hate waiting for things, but there is nothing I hate waiting for more than healing. This year, I underwent back surgery and several other procedures. I spent months in agonizing pain, barely able to leave my bed. What’s more, I worsened the situation by pushing my body before it was ready. I wanted to walk, see friends, go to work — and I wanted to do it all that second. When my body failed to meet my impossible expectations, I felt frustrated and heartbroken. Looking back, my lack of patience hurt me both physically and emotionally. I now realize patience is a critical skill for managing rare illness. I need to be patient with my treatments, doctors, insurance, and above all, myself. I have to respect and embrace my limits. In 2020, I will let go of anger and resentment, and grant my body the kindness and patience it deserves.
  2. Be honest.
    When people ask me how I am, I typically respond “OK” or “fine,” even when I am the complete opposite. I hide or downplay my pain, trying to mask my pain with a smile or a joke. I want to be more open with friends, family, doctors and co-workers. Above all, I want to be honest with myself. I need to be candid about the state of my physical, mental and emotional health. With that, I will ask for help without shame or guilt. 2020 is the year of truthful communication.
  3. Take self-care seriously.
    I want to truly take care of myself in 2020, without any shame or guilt. I will sleep as much as my body needs me to, without worrying about other things I could be doing. I want to make time to pursue activities I love, like baking, journaling and reading. I will listen to music, spend time in nature, and drink more water. I want to minimize stress and maximize joy. Furthermore, I will focus on my mental health. My body has been in a state of crisis for months. I have been so focused on how to alleviate my physical pain, I have disregarded everything else. Together with my healthcare team, I want to return to a holistic approach to healing in 2020.
  4. Stay connected.
    Confined to healing at home, I found myself feeling trapped and isolated this year. As much as I longed for the company of friends, I did not want them to see how truly sick I was. The constant pain, stress, swelling and nausea made it nearly impossible to keep plans, and I hated canceling last minute. I also hesitated to invite friends over to the house, out of fear I may become sick in front of them. Thankfully, I have incredible friends who love me for who I am, and recognize my illness is a part of me. I need to be more open and forthcoming in my communication, and I need to stop taking an all or nothing approach. Even one or two hours with friends is enough to brighten my entire day. I may not be able to attend the party or dinner out, but I can offer a Netflix binge or couch chat. I truly hope to see much more of the people I love in 2020.
  5. Be the “me” of 2020, not 2002 or 2012. I have grieved life before my rare illness, but grief is not linear. I found myself longing for my old life and old self a lot this year. I used to be able to do so much more — work long hours, stay out late, and enjoy dates with my husband whenever I wanted. I know that pining for my old life won’t fix anything, nor will constantly battling with my body. 2020 is the year I make peace, and embrace all of who I am this very second. There will be no comparisons in the new year – not to others, or to who I was before. I am sick, but I am strong. I am full of love, humor and infinite wisdom.

I am proud of who I am and how hard I fought to get here.

That definitely deserves celebration in 2020.

What are your resolutions for the New Year? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: January 6, 2020
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