In the meantime, I have a post I originally put up in May 2010 which I think you'll enjoy. Honestly this is a message everyone could take to heart regardless of their health-state, but can be even more important for those of us with chronic illnesses. We face decisions every day about what we can accomplish within our limits, and I don't know anyone who does it without that mustard seed of doubt in the back of our minds about missed opportunities and the fear of "missing out". It's a founded concern - most of us have lost friends and even relationships when we couldn't keep up physically and have to pass on a lot of recreational fun in the hopes of being able to meet our obligations.
But I believe with the right approach, we can do make choices that make us happy while being responsible, and remind ourselves of all our validity and vitality in the process.
Image found here. This cat may be my new hero.
No Regrets, on Your Terms (Originally posted on May 27, 2010)
"Have you ever done something you regret?" I hate that question, because it's just plain stupid. Anyone who's ever blurted out something not-too-bright and had that instant grimace 'regrets' something they've done. I'm only in my 20's, but pull out a picture of me 10 years ago and I'm probably going to cringe about something I wore (and those who have pictures from the early 80's have a lot more to 'regret' than me). And we won't even get into middle school crushes, comedic trips-and-falls, or the various ways pants (or skirts) can inspire more regret than a diet-busting ChocolateFest. Yeah, I'm pretty sure we all have regrets. (However, I'm rarely willing to share them with the anonymous and indefinite public who may read my answer to this question, usually found in online surveys.)
But ask me "have you made decisions - real ones, of substance - that you regret", or if I think that when I'm someday on my death bed I'll wish I had lived my life differently. Go on, ask. I dare you!
You don't have to ask me; I'll tell you whether you want to know or not:) My answer is "no". My life and the decisions I've made so far about it are far from perfect. I've made many mistakes, and continue to do daily (I have no illusions of perfection). But by 'mistake', I simply mean what I've done was not the best or most productive option that existed, and sometimes caused a problem or inconvenience for myself or someone else. However, I don't do just about anything without a reason or purpose (some people would say I over-think everything - I say logic is our most valuable tool; tomayto - tomahto). Therefore, I feel everything I've done and all the consequences thereof have a purpose. Did you notice that - the word "purpose" describes both the motive for and effects of my actions? More than coincidence, if you ask me....
But anyway. Many choices I've made were just plain good ones - marrying Shawn, going to Villanova, all the things I do to try and control my conditions, etc. Some were fruitful, even if not ideal - taking the 5th year to finish my degree and "going public" with my medical issues come to mind.
Then there's the third category. These are decisions I've made which, if viewed from certain perspectives, look pretty bad. Examples would be things such as staying in color guard for my last 2 years of high school, or any time I push my body past a safe point to achieve some other goal. I know that each and every time I do this, I am risking more than next-day soreness. Anytime I wake up aching, stiff, and fatigued because I just HAD to go to that concert or participate in that pick-up game, the aches/stiffness/fatigue are only the most immediate results. They indicate a type of damage which has long-term implications on the speed at which my conditions may progress, as well as the severity they may reach (and no, I'm not being dramatic). But what would be the point in making my body last as long as possible, if I didn't do anything in that time? Yes, I have many things I still want to do that require physically holding up - having kids for instance - but it's a balancing act, not a one-ring show.
Many of you have probably seen the movie "Steel Magnolias" (which, incidentally, is fantastic and I encourage everyone to watch it). No spoilers here or anything, but basically it's the story of Shelby, a young woman who has grown up with Type 1 Diabetes (whadda ya know - an INVISIBLE ILLNESS). At a critical point in the movie (again, don't worry I won't spoil anything), Shelby's talking to her mom about a decision she's made in her life with which her mother disagrees, because of the potential health risks involved. As she tries to defend her decision, Shelby finally blurts out "please Momma, I need your support! I'd rather have 30 minutes of Wonderful than a lifetime of Nothing Special."
Every time I see this scene (and that's at LEAST 30 times so far), it resonates with me. Yes, I have goals and desires and even obligations to other people that mean I am responsible for making good choices regarding my health, but only to the extent that those choices ENHANCE my life (or someone else's). I want my Wonderful. And just like Shelby, I'm going to get it, even though it means making some tough choices and taking a few risks. My path is based on my own priorities and values, which are going to be different for each of us in various life stages and situations. My decisions would be very wrong for many of you, and some of your choices wouldn't ring true for me.
So no, I don't regret my decisions in life, even if they had a cost. Some of them were necessary if only for what they taught me for future decisions (I'm a big believer in the idea that everything's a learning opportunity - if you apply that knowledge later). Some of them, horrible as they seemed at the time, opened doors I couldn't possibly have imagined; that I would have missed if I'd played it a bit safer. And honestly, that in itself is what gives me hope - if I've had this many wonderful outcomes in my brief 24 years, there must be more around the corner! Why do I look for something good to come when I hear bad news? How do I keep from giving up when I get slammed (and don't be mislead, I've had very real bouts of Depression)? Because it happened before, many times. I've gotten miracle after miracle, gift after gift. I've gotten them, as far as I can tell, because I keep looking for them. God helps those who help themselves, which I believe to be absolute truth because when I've seen someone wait for their miracle they rarely got it, but every time I've worked for mine it came through. I know my light's at the end of the tunnel, so I have no problem digging the tunnel myself with every choice I make. I have no regrets - on my terms.
So I ask you, do you have any regrets? Or do you empower yourself, to know when you need to play it safe and when there's something more important to your happiness? Please, live your life so you have no regrets - on your terms.