Coping | Daily Life | IBD
I scrolled through my Facebook feed, reading all the accomplishments my friends made the previous year. Some earned degrees or promotions. Others put down-payments on houses or got engaged. My shoulders dropped as I reflected on my own year. I spent a good portion of it lying on an itchy, hard hospital bed, with Ulcerative Colitis treatment after treatment failing. I delayed my master’s degree and turned down a dream job offer. I was unable to work, unable to earn money, and unable to provide for myself. It was as though I was paused on the road of life, watching the rest of the world zoom past. There was nothing for me to celebrate as I said goodbye to 2018, nor did I have much to look forward to after the ball dropped.
I was scheduled to start the new year with a new biologic and could not get past the seemingly endless list of side-effects or the mere 40% rate of success. Why celebrate a New Year that would likely be spent broken down on the side of the road while everyone else whizzed past? Why celebrate another year of sleep and pain? Why have hope when you are headed into the unknown? I went to bed early with a lump in my stomach.
I have grown a lot in the two years since this dismal night. Seven hospitalizations, a slew of unsuccessful medicines, three surgeries, a global pandemic, and a national lockdown finally forced me to realize what little control we have over our lives (whether or not we have a chronic illness). No one knows what the next sunrise will bring or how it will impact their plans. While there is nothing wrong with having fixed, measurable goals, we need to remain flexible, especially amid a global pandemic. My resolutions for this year are focused on internal growth. Here are a few of my loose goals for 2021. I hope you will join me in changing how we view New Year’s resolutions during these unprecedented times.
As social beings, humans often compare themselves with those around them. Sometimes, this tendency can be helpful. We are inspired by successful people whom we want to emulate. However, if you are anything like me, these comparisons often lead you to pick yourself apart and sulk in what you are not. I am always comparing myself to my healthy peers and sprinting to make up for lost time. Yet, I can never run quite fast enough without paying the price in pain and fatigue. I am tired of pushing myself beyond the limit.
This year, I am going to work on my goals at my own pace. I will continue putting sweat into everything I do, but I will listen to my body before adding the blood and tears. Some people may move faster than me; some of my classmates may get a better grade; some of my co-workers may stand out more. I accept this. The achievements of others do not equate to shortcomings for me. I will congratulate them on their achievement and keep moving forward at my own pace. If my body beckons me to stop to catch my breath or take a nap, I will obey.
Along similar lines, I will accept my shortcomings and limitations. One common New Year’s resolution I used to make was running two miles a day. While this may be realistic for many people, it is not the best goal for someone who gets winded trying to jog around her rather small block. So, instead of forcing myself to run for a specific distance or amount of time each day, I will commit myself to go on walks and practice yoga. Such activities will help me become more fit while simultaneously allowing for enjoyment and flexibility.
New Year’s resolutions do not have to be revolutionary or measurable, nor do they need to be based on external judgments like grades and promotions. The best New Year’s resolutions are the ones over which we have control regardless of what life throws at us. So, instead of making a resolution to be valedictorian or to run a marathon, set goals to be more active and learn as much as you can. Do not merely set out to get a promotion; strive to do your personal best at work every day. Such goals will keep you moving forward during times of uncertainty. You will be amazed at what you achieve when you are kind to yourself.