Last week, I explained why I’m ditching the “new year, new you” mantra. Today, I’m keeping the conversation going by discussing my alternative to New Year’s resolutions.
I’ve never been the type of person to set resolutions, and that’s for one simple reason: Life with SMA can be unpredictable. After understanding my life’s unpredictability when it comes to my everyday health, I’ve realized goal-setting isn’t effective for me.
This doesn’t mean I’m not a goal-oriented person, it just means I have to give myself more grace for the amount of time it takes to accomplish them. So, instead of establishing time-restrictive resolutions I will most likely fail at, I’ve decided to simply eliminate some bad habits throughout this new year, habits that have only been detrimental to my health.
Here’s what I’m sticking to in 2019:
I have to stop being so hard on myself.
For as far back as I can remember, I have always struggled with this statement. So often I recognize that I am my own worst enemy, yet I am unable to work past this label I put on myself. The fact of the matter is this: I throw a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself that stems from my disease’s life restrictions. This isn’t an excuse; it’s cold, hard facts. SMA holds me back from doing so many goals and boxes me into this limited space of what I can’t do versus what I want to do.
I want to wake up in the morning feeling energized. I want to write all day, drink lots of coffee, then cap off the day by hanging out with friends, as many 20-somethings do. I don’t want to wake up every morning feeling perpetually exhausted. I don’t want to worry about how much work I can cram in before my muscles grow too tired. I don’t want to have to back out on friends because my body just can’t keep up.
But that is the reality of SMA. As easy as it is for me to admit it, my work ethic and go-get-it attitude struggle to find common ground with my body and cause me to react poorly. I hone in on my shortcomings, tell myself I’m not good enough, and get warped into this vicious cycle. This needs to stop. I realized the other day that I would never treat others the way I treat myself sometimes. So, why do I keep doing it?
I have to stop ignoring what my body tells me.
This declaration pairs well with the aforementioned statements above. I also have briefly discussed this in a recent column, as it was one of my biggest “aha!” moments last summer. Most of my life, I’ve measured success by the amount of energy my weakened muscles expended each day. Working hard meant my body was working hard. It meant I was fighting against my debilitating disease and not giving it the upper hand. This skewed perception caused me to believe rest was a sign of weakness, and that was not going to be a part of my story.
A hospitalization, a long road to recovery, and the everyday battle between what my body was trying to tell me and what I wanted to hear eventually opened my eyes to an important truth. I should measure my success not in crossed-off items on my to-do list, but by how I make the time and effort to nourish my body and feed my soul.
After living under false pretenses for so long, I’ve recognized it’s going to take a lot of discipline to adopt this new mindset. But with all the tumultuous battles my body has been through, I owe it to myself to be more gentle with my health. This leads me to my third statement.
I have to stop forgetting just how far I’ve actually come.
Let’s take this all the way back to the very beginning, on the day of my SMA diagnosis. On April 22, 1991, my doctor gave me an expiration date of no more than two years. His limited knowledge (and lack of access to it) listed all the things I would never be able to do. However, while some of it was true, there was a long list of accomplishments hidden in between all the “can’t do’s.”
When living with a disease that is trying to destroy my muscles, I think it’s important to take inventory of just how far I’ve actually come. The problem is I forget to do it and instead get caught up in how far I feel I need to go. This way of thinking isn’t going to bode well for me in 2019. In fact, it’s going to stop today.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.