How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
As 2018 drew to a close, I opened up my social media to see a post by one of my friends that began: “In 2018, I accomplished…” and was followed by a bullet list of many great things they had done during the year.
As I scrolled through my feed, I saw more and more posts like this, along with posts professing resolutions for 2019. I celebrate the successes of my friends and encourage them in their 2019 goals.
But as someone who lives with multiple chronic illnesses, it’s also made me question myself. What was it that I accomplished in 2018? What was I going to do in this upcoming year?
The weeks surrounding the new year can be an emotionally trying time for anyone, but for myself and others who are chronically ill or disabled, this time spent reflecting on the past year, or envisioning our goals for the upcoming year, can be especially difficult.
While able-bodied people may be celebrating last year’s major life accomplishments, sometimes those of us who are disabled have to celebrate things like being pain-free enough to shower or making it through another year without adding any medications to the list.
And while others may be clearing time in their schedules to go to the gym or setting aside money for a big trip, sick and disabled folks may be trying to juggle various doctors’ appointments or setting money aside to pay for assistive devices.
During resolution setting season, I remind myself that because my body has different abilities and limitations, my accomplishments are going to look different.
They may not be as tangible and measurable as those of my friends who were running marathons or writing books, but they’re just as significant.
The longer I sat with that, the more I realized that I actually had some pretty huge successes this year, and those successes informed what I hope for myself as 2019 begins.
1. This year I will… continue to listen to my body
I mean really listen to it. And then be honest with myself. I’ve spent too many years wishing my body could do certain things or convincing myself it could when it really couldn’t. This year I’ll continue to be honest with myself about my limits and what my body wants and needs.
2. This year I will… set boundaries
In 2018, I learned to turn down activities that might’ve been enjoyable, or work opportunities that could’ve brought in some extra income when I knew that my body wasn’t going to be able to handle them.
When I found myself expending energy on people or situations that weren’t emotionally healthy for me, I stepped away. I listened to what my body needed, and I gave it that.
This year I’ll prioritize the needs of my body. I can’t give to others if I haven’t cared for myself.
3. This year I will… take breaks
In 2018, I learned the importance of slowing down and taking breaks, and I want to make sure I carry that practice into the new year.
In 2019, I’ll make sure my bathroom is always stocked with plenty of Epsom salts and a few fancy bath bombs. I’ll have a book set aside just for those times I need to force myself to rest for a few minutes.
4. This year I will… make things a bit easier for myself
This means I’ll do things like make sure I always have a few ready-to-eat meals in the cabinet or freezer for those days I just can’t cook. (I don’t have to be Superwoman and neither do you!) I’ll buy the heating pad that helps with my pain. I’ll ask others for help.
5. This year I will… begin the process of letting go of shame
This body of mine is fine, just as it is. The way this body moves through the world is fine, just as it is. Even when I’m sad because of pain or frustrated by my limits, this body is still just fine, as it is.
So is yours. I hope you’ll join me on this goal.
And next year this time, I hope we both can look back on 2019 and, no matter the physical state of our bodies, realize just how much we’ve accomplished.
Angie Ebba is a queer disabled artist who teaches writing workshops and performs nationwide. Angie believes in the power of art, writing, and performance to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, build community, and make change. You can find Angie on her website, her blog, or Facebook.