I am a planner. I always have been, and it seems that I always will be. But over the course of my 36 years - two things have altered my ability to plan the way I want to, and in fact, taught me the joy and beauty of spontaneity. The first was getting lupus. The second was having children.
Working backwards, there's no way around the fact that little lady #1 and little lady #2 have changed the way I do things. My house isn't quite as neat and tidy, my files aren't as organized, and my mind isn't quite as clear as it used to be. But for every area of my life that's a little less "planned", there are multiple reasons why I'm better off for it. For with the blessing of children comes the beauty of spontaneity - whether it's a last-minute trip to the park, stopping for a surprise ice cream cone, or coming up with an instant game of make-believe. The benefits of letting your hair down and having a little fun with your kids are immeasurable- the big belly-laughs and the grins from ear to ear are evidence enough. I can tell that I'm a better mother because of my ability to go with the flow (and not clean up afterward!)
When it comes to lupus - the benefits of being spontaneous might not be quite as obvious, but allowing yourself to be a little less scheduled is essential to coping with the limitations of your disease. Of course, for most of us type-A personalities, that spontaneity doesn't come naturally. So it takes a little practice. But I've found that when lupus is limiting my ability to "do", I have to remember that not everything in life needs a time slot. And, in fact, it can be a lot more fun (and enjoyable) when they don't. Pushing through the pain, just to keep an agenda has to become a behavior of the past. Doing what you can when you feel up to it has to become the new you. Your health and wellness depend on it!
Here are just a few simple examples of how you might start infusing your life with a little spontaneity:
Pick a movie, not a night - We subscribe to Netflix. We get one movie at a time, and we hold onto that movie for as long as we need to. If we're pooped at the end of the week, or don't have time to fit it in before hitting the hay at a decent hour, we put it off. We don't pick a "movie night" per se...we pick the movie, and then fit it in when we can. And just like most parents of young kids, we've mastered the art of watching a movie in two parts.
The same goes for lupites who are short on time, and long on fatigue. Don't feel up to a "movie night" once a week? Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself to force a game face. Just fit in a few scenes here and there. Or pick another time that works better. When I was really suffering from end-of-day fatigue, we tried watching bits and pieces of a movie on Saturday mornings. Nothing too early - but it was kind of fun to wake up, be fully rested, and then settle back in to catch a few scenes. It reminded me that even though I was feeling pretty down and out, I could still be entertained (and stay awake long enough to do so!)
Take short, non-committal trips, rather than long vacations that you're locked into - When I was really sick, one of the first things to go was our travel schedule. Before lupus, we overbooked ourselves with vacations - every waking moment we weren't working, we were traveling somewhere new. And it took its toll. Very quickly, I realized that the packing, traveling, shuttling, etc. was too much for my body to handle, so we cut back a lot. What we tried NOT to cut out, however, were the day trips where Johnny would drive, I would bring my pillow, and we'd set out for somewhere close, but not too close, familiar, but not too familiar. It took the pressure off me to gear up for a big, eggs-in-one basket, blow-out vacation, and it alleviated any guilt or frustration either of us had if I wasn't feeling up to snuff.
Fit in the fun stuff - Feeling good? Make yourself feel even better. Take an impromptu walk on a gorgeous day, or treat yourself to a hot soaking bath on a cold, rainy one. Duck into Starbucks for a special treat - and have them make it just the way you like it, or skip the grocery store and do your nails instead. I never enjoyed being pampered as much as after a big flare. I'd go for weeks without wanting anyone to even brush up against a joint - but once I was feeling good again, indulging my joints in a paraffin wax treatment and hand massage never felt so good.
Pick a stress-free, pain-free activity that will remind you that you can still indulge yourself, you can still get around, you can still enjoy life - and you won't believe the mental boost you get!
On Monday - I'll talk about contingency plans - another important part of living emotionally well, despite lupus!