How often have you wanted to accomplish something, yet pain or illness prevented you from reaching your goal? How did you feel about that? Not good? Discouraged? Frustrated? Hopeless?
Success means something different to each of us, but to many people with pain and illness that interferes with daily life, success can often be something as simple as making a healthful meal for the family, or having the energy to get up, get dressed, and get to church once a week. I understand this completely. So often, my lupus has flared at just the wrong time. Just before an outing or dinner with friends. Just before a trip. Just before the day began, and all plans had to be put on hold. Yet, for all the interruptions, the important things I’ve needed to accomplish somehow get done. Maybe not with the timing or the speed I’d expected, but God helped me find a way.
One of the things that I’ve found important in trying to achieve goals is, ironically, to take into full account how rude and unpredictable lupus can be. I cannot schedule flares, they just happen. Likewise, I cannot predict when I will not be flaring. So, I accept that, there will be times when lupus intervenes. But, above all, I know that I cannot just sit around waiting for a flare to throw me off track. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There just no sense putting off goal-setting because of what might happen.
After I’ve accepted lupus’ randomness and unpredictability, I make sure to tell others. This isn’t so that I get their sympathy. Rather, it’s so that they understand that there might be a circumstance (lupus) that prevents me from attending something with them or following through with other plans. Likewise, I make sure to let someone know if I am in a flare and cannot, for example, carry on a long telephone call because of very low energy. I’m quick, too, to assure these same friends that I will gladly talk when I do have the energy. So, the goal of talking or otherwise nurturing a friendship is not unattainable, only postponed.
Sometimes, I find goals have to be reexamined in light of an illness or other health challenge. And sometimes I have to use a bit of creativity to achieve a similar goal. For example, when I was diagnosed with lupus, I knew I couldn’t keep playing tennis in the sun. For several years, in fact, I couldn’t play tennis at all due to flaring. Eventually, I was able to play in a limited way, at night, thus minimizing wear and tear on my painful joints and keeping out of the sun’s harmful rays. The goal of playing a sport I enjoy was modified, but not set aside altogether.
Working toward goals step-by-step is another thing that I find very helpful. Housecleaning does not have to be accomplished all at once, especially if there are other things to attend to. One room a day (or a week) can add up to a whole house eventually. Planning ahead, for Christmas services or Thanksgiving’s feasts can help take the stress off of doing everything at the last minute, too.
Success can seem elusive when we live with physical challenges. And pain can get in the way, as can flares or new symptoms. But as we examine our goals, better understand our illness, and have faith that things can be achieved with a lot of patience and a little creativity, we’ll be better equiped to set ourselves up to succeed. And how marvelous that can be!
Blessings for the day,