I am not generally someone who ascribes special significance to the start of a new calendar year. I tend to be someone who thinks that change and fresh starts can happen at any time if we are willing to take that first step. That said, I am at a crossroads in my life and the transition from 2017 to 2018 feels very symbolic to me. It has been a year of transition for me, my extended family and my country and some of us have had to say goodbye to life as we knew it, or at least how we expected it to be.
Some of us lost parts of our identity in 2017 and others of my loved ones have had to accept new identities, some unwelcome, such as advocate, protestor, patient, parentless child. One new identity that challenged me tremendously in 2017 has been individual with a chronic illness. As a lifelong control freak and someone who is terrible at asking for help, this is a role that I have to admit I have not taken on as bravely, gracefully or as graciously as I would have hoped. It is frustrating, socially isolating, and fills me with anger and challenges my self-image to have to learn to pace myself and acknowledge that I simply can’t do as much as I could a year ago. It has made me keenly aware of all those moments that I thought I understood what life was like for my sixteen year with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and other family and friends living with chronic pain and chronic illness. I was wrong. I really didn’t “get it” until I experienced it myself. It is so much harder than I ever realized. I missed so many opportunities be a better and more empathetic mother, friend and support to my loved ones and acquaintances with chronic illness and pain. 2017 has made me painfully aware that I am not always as patient, kind and loving as I want to be, to others or to myself.
When I start to slip into moments of self-flagellation and self-pity, I try very hard to call up the voice of my Aunt Chookie, who we lost four years ago, in my head. My aunt was one of the smartest people I knew and she would not have hesitated to kick me in the ass and tell me to get over myself when she thought I needed to hear it. She taught me some important life lessons that I am thinking a great deal about as I look toward 2018:
- There is nothing more important than family
- Friends who still love at your worst and can always make you laugh, no matter how hard life is, are worth their weight in gold
- It is what is it—self-pity or despair does not make reality easier to deal with
- Life is to be lived—dream big, take risks, laugh deeply and often, and embrace it as an adventure
- Don’t waste time on things or people that drag you down or bore you
- Love deeply and fiercely
- Strive to be a person who makes others feel welcome and well-cared for in your home and presence
- Life is short—eat dessert first. Preferably on china with the good silver and a snazzy placement because you are worth it!
Wishing you a 2018 full of peace, creativity and those perfect moments of joy that fill our hearts with light and sustain us. May we show kindness and understanding to ourselves and others in the New Year.
© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved