What does it mean to live your best life -even with a chronic illness?
Is it something only the rich or beautiful or smart get to experience? Or is it something all together different? I woke up last night about 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I’ve been dealing with a bit of respiratory mess again thanks to my good ol’ RA med. Having a chronic illness is a blast. I wandered in to the bathroom and this random thought hit me. Like a ton of bricks.
“Is this my best life??”
At first my brain started on, is this all there is? Am I always going to be looking for the good stuff just over the horizon? Once RA hit, I definitely went through a “my life is over” phase, and it certainly felt like it. And yes, I did work through that and find purpose and hope and a better measure of health again. But your BEST LIFE. Isn’t that full of big things? Travel to exciting places, accomplishing significant things, making a mark on the world? What if that’s not in the cards for me? Is my life somehow less if I don’t check all things off of my bucket list?
At 50, I may never get to restore an old home, or live on a farm. Not ruling it out yet of course, but do I define my entire value based on the THINGS I do or don’t do, or is it much more than that?
What if your life is worth more than the miles you’ve covered or the number of states you’ve visited? I had a revelation in those wee hours of the night….. the best things are in the small things. The cool morning air with the lingering smell of the gardenia’s blooming. A good book. Laughter. The small hand of a child’s in yours. Hugs. Time with friends. Faith in Jesus. Serving others.
We can easily have all those things right in front of us and miss our best life because we’re waiting for the other stuff. I’ve been working a lot of hours lately (and don’t get me wrong, I do love most of what I do), and I think I’ve stated to let my best life slip past so I can accomplish something BIGGER (which we can mistakenly think is always BETTER).
Why is it so many famous people spend half their life seeking fame and the other half trying to put the pieces of a broken life back together? I think they lost focus of what it means to live YOUR best life. Globe-trotting and hob-knobbing doesn’t mean anything if everything else is empty.
Having a chronic illness definitely slows me down, and yes, it’s frustrating at times. Getting stuck in a flare is painful, it’s frustrating, and makes it next to impossible to function normally. Sometimes I’m jealous of those who don’t have to be ever-vigilant about crossing that overdoing it line. Sometimes I’m angry at God for the whole mess. Yet, in the midst of all that, my best life is there just waiting for me to notice it.
So how do we find it?
Slow Down – notice the little things that are happening. Savor the small moments of your day. I love this time f year because I can leave the back door open in the early hours of the day and listen to the birds and squirrels (even the stupid woodpecker who keeps thinking it’s a good idea to attack the metal gutters…..) It’s the perfect moment to savor that cup of coffee, to have prayer time, and to get centered on what really matters. With RA, energy is an issue, so slowing down has many levels of importance.
Listen – I’ve been blessed with an incredible family. Our daughters have grown into amazing people (and quirky of course). Hana, the last one, is already 15. Enjoying these last few years with a kiddo in the house is something I don’t want to miss. I want to hear about her day, share the ups and downs, know who she is and what matters to her. And that all involves taking the time to listen and be present for her. It’s true of other things too – we should listen to that small voice in us and do the things we feel God is leading us to do. But if we fill our lives with buzz and useless noise, we just might miss it.
Stop Comparing – THIS ONE. This is my life, and I don’t need to compare it to anyone else’s life. We all fall into that trap of keeping up with the Joneses at times. I think the key is immediately recognizing it, letting it go and going back to the Slow Down and Listen phases.
My best life is right in this moment. Sitting here tapping out this post, I’m letting myself appreciate the magic of expression, of sharing my thoughts and feelings, and of being blessed to have this day to do it in.