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How to Seize the Day in Life With Chronic Illness

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I recently celebrated my 57th birthday!

I wasn’t going to reveal my age but then I thought, “Wow, I’m 57… I made it to 57.″

So with that thought, I realized I should shout it from the mountain top. My health has not been kind for the past 15 years and on a few occasions I nearly didn’t make seeing the next day, so 57 is an awesome achievement!

The weird thing is, even though my body functions more like it’s 80, I really don’t feel like I’m 57. I still feel mid-40s at worst and late 30s at best — mentally, at least.

I’m also a great-aunt now which, whenever I say that out loud, reminds me of a character from a Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte novel. My great-nephews and niece are so adorable and melt my heart, so it is a title I am thrilled to have. It just seems like yesterday when my nephews were babies and were equally as gorgeous. It’s hard to believe they have families of their own now.

As my birthday approached, my husband and I had our annual daydreaming session, thinking about what we’d like to do, what we might do, what we can’t do, and what we realistically can do to celebrate my special day.

Let’s Live a Little

I’ve been unable to leave my home for 10 months since my long hospital stay in September last year when I couldn’t get out of bed due to compressed nerves and a fractured sacrum.

My “new normal” requires me to use a customized wheelchair outside of the home and it’s currently being made. It’s not quite ready yet, but we are hoping maybe by the end of the month it will be. So I’m pretty much stuck at home at the moment and our “outing” options are extremely limited.

I can, however, sit in the car if the seat is reclined, my pain meds are working at the right time and we don’t go too far. A little drive is then possible.

So we decided for this birthday we should live a little, or at least try to.

Life with chronic illness never runs smoothly and, to live a fulfilled life despite your disease, this is a fact we need to accept.

As I’ve said many times in my blog and in my book, “My Medical Musings, A Story of Love, Laughter, Faith and Hope, Living With A Rare Disease “  making concrete plans is just not something you can do with complex chronic illness.

So how on earth could we decide to live a little as my birthday approached? We simply had to make no plans. We just had to “seize the day.”

How Do You Seize The Day?

What does seizing the day even mean?

To Seize The Day..

make the most of the present moment.

Oxford Dictionary

How perfect is this meaning. To make the most of the present moment is exactly what we need to do when living with chronic illness. We can’t necessarily expect a full day of energy or symptom relief. We can’t easily plan a holiday or have a weekend getaway, but we can forget about plans and make the most of special moments. We can soak them up and allow the joy of their memory to fill the hours and days following, especially while we recover from making those moments.

For my birthday we really wanted to go for a country drive and check out a winery about 25 minutes from home. We weren’t looking to eat there or get out of the car, just a drive to see it’s beautiful location.

The only way it was going to happen was to have no plans for the week of my birthday. We know trying to go out on my actual birthday generally results in disappointment, so we avoid the idea altogether and just quietly celebrate at home on the day.

With a clear week ahead we had given ourselves every opportunity to “seize the day.” No pressure, no expectations, just a little hope and faith a moment would arrive when we could say, “let’s go, right now.”

Today’s The Day!

My birthday fell on the Thursday. We didn’t really want to go out on Wednesday as it could cause me to be bedridden on the Thursday.

Monday arrived and it was not a good day. We shrugged and decided to see how I woke up on Tuesday.

Tuesday arrived and I felt determined. I managed to get dressed early which is a miracle in itself. The wet weather forecast was nowhere to be seen and, although the temperature was cold, the winter sun was shining brightly.

This was the day. We had a quick breakfast and we were on the road by 10:30 am. We were seizing the day, “making the most of the current moment”

I felt so blessed. We wanted to check out a specific Winery as it’s only 20mins from our home and we knew the scenery would be stunning.

We were not disappointed. I felt like I was in country heaven. The good news is, if we did want to eat at the restaurant or cellar doors one day, it’s all wheelchair-friendly!

I was doing so well and the rain was still holding off so we drove on for another 20 minutes to a pretty little village called Canungra. My husband got us a takeaway coffee and sausage roll from a little cafe and we found an off road quiet spot to sit in the car and enjoy more beautiful scenery.

Beautiful view of blue sky, clouds, trees and pasture

We just arrived home and the rain clouds began rolling in, so the whole morning was perfect timing. We had truly seized the day and a joyous moment had been created that would carry me through my entire birthday week.

My Special Day

As my birthday arrived I was still reliving the joy of my country birthday drive. I was so happy. I was tired but with no plans or great expectations, we still managed to create and enjoy a very festive day for two at home on the Thursday.

If you have a big event coming up and are feeling the pressure to make it special for everyone else, take the pressure off.

Explain to friends and family you won’t be making set plans because you need to “Seize the Day” and you have no idea which day that will be.

Don’t feel like you are being selfish. If you are like me, you are likely rarely able to do something just for you. You likely save your energy moments everyday to do things for others.

On your birthday you can absolutely set the rules in order to do something that allows you to feel a sense of normality. For me it was going on a country drive with my husband and soaking up the scenery. It’s something I can do occasionally and enjoy so much.

It might be something very different for you depending on your disability but just remember to “Seize The Day” and make the most of your chosen moment.

Most importantly, have fun in your special moment because chronic illness is a part of our life, not all of our life.

Originally published: October 27, 2022
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