As the New Year dawns, most of us make resolutions, yet I rarely do. Every year for the past four years I've set goals in areas such as self, career and relationships. I write down these intentions when I'm compelled to do so, often in the late summer going into the early fall-the start of a new school year and the time I do a cleaning out of my apartment and a clearing out in my head.
I like the idea espoused about accepting our limits instead of continually trying to reach an ideal. Why not celebrate our imperfections? I find we can't have one without the other: the good and the not-so-good, health and sickness in the days of our recovery. To have an action plan for the downturn at the same time we enjoy the blue skies is the healthiest way to deal with having SZ.
My goals for 2008 were mostly achieved, including, "Create a new daily schedule to promote healthy sleep patterns" and "Read at least 12 books a year." One thing I didn't do: "Save $2,500 for the moving van, coffee table and end tables." I saved $1,000, which is not shabby.
If you want to set a goal or make a resolution, keep it S.M.A.R.T.-specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and tangible. I have only two goals this year: for finances, reduce my spending by $50 each paycheck, leading up to $75; and for self, dress better at work instead of wearing jeans all the time. To those ends, I'll do the following: stop taking car service to the tune of $25 twice a month, and buy two pairs of pants and a par of neat, dark jeans that I can wear instead of the faded jeans.
I like to K.I.S.S.: "Keep it Simple, Sweetheart" and not overwhelm myself by taking on multiple goals projects with complicated sub-goals and drastic restrictions. Really one or two, at the most three, goals or resolutions will do in any given year for each of us. If gravitating from the bed to the couch would be a great change for you, that counts, too.
After serendipitously browsing the stacks, I checked out of the library The Joy of Success: Ten Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want. Susan Ford Collins writes in a clear and direct way about something I had long tried to express in my writing at the Connection. First of all, she tells us, "As long as the creation, management and knowledge of our success belong to others, we remain trapped." One way we break free is to understand that each of us is the expert on his or her own recovery.
I've come to believe that being resilient will enable us to succeed. Collins further elaborates: "For better or worse, we are the creators of our lives. How we react to events, not the events themselves, shapes our reality."
When we accept the diagnosis, we are free to live life in a way that honors our limitations yet allows us to embrace a hopeful outlook. We have the capacity to change-and to change our lives-up until the day we die. Just a year after I got sick, when I lived in the halfway house, I kept a seminal journal on scraps of paper, and wrote down: "The irony in my having become ill is that I've been given the ability to discover what's important to me." All those years I worked in business, I was in denial of what I needed to be happy, and when that career went up in flames, I began to do some soul-searching. Years later I realize I need certain things in my life: a job I love getting up for in the morning, the chance to do my writing, and outlets to enjoy culture: art, film, dance, music and literature. Those are some of the values I hold and will protect fiercely.
Most of all, I want you to take away from what I'm writing in this blog entry that other people have been in your shoes, and you are not alone, so take comfort in what I've said that could give you ideas about how to approach living your life after the diagnosis.
Each New Year is the opportunity to re-write the book. One of the NAMI Connection support group principles is, "We expect a better tomorrow in a realistic way." That is the great good balancing act.
I'm realistic about the "better tomorrow" I have in store for me. It may or may not include a significant life partner. The SZ stole my ability to have children and raise a family. It is not without tears that I write this. I wouldn't want to bring into the world a kid who could inherit the genetic tendency for SZ that runs in my family.
As I write this, I look at the photo of my niece that I placed below the computer monitor on my desk. She wears a yellow shirt and holds a Teddy bear, and has a wide smile that cheers me. I look at her smiling face often when I'm typing. The greatest role I could play is to be an Aunt, and anything else pales in comparison.
My motto is, "You do the best you can with what you're given."
Susan Ford Collins is right, it's not the enormity or severity of the obstacle that determines our fate, but how we respond to it. I refuse to look at the door that closed and instead I will walk through the door that life has opened for me. Thus, the bare-bones New Year's resolutions.
Your goals are going to be yours alone, and I will support you in whatever decision you make regarding your recovery and the direction you want to take it. Yet I urge you to choose recovery and to make the choices you believe will benefit you in the coming years. Delaying action will only serve to inhibit your progress. The goal is "progress, not perfection." Baby steps are often in order after we bounce back from the diagnosis of SZ and a traumatic event like a breakdown.
You absolutely have the right to settle in and adopt the status quo, if that is your choice. If the life you have now works for you and you don't want to change things, by all means, sail on. My aim here is to suggest in a gentle way that there is hope.
Rather quickly after relapsing and having to be hospitalized a second time, I understood that the schizophrenia wouldn't go away on its own, it was something I'd have to manage for the rest of my life. So the choice was mine, and it is yours, too: to take control. One way I did that was by swallowing the pills every day as prescribed. From there, I was able to envision a better future. I broke the chains of the limiting self-perceptions. I no longer viewed my success in terms of what other people had and did. I felt lucky to have survived the setback.
An Aveeno advertisement in women's magazines proclaims, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Yes, I believe this is true, and I'll leave you with this sentiment.
Have a happy New Year!
Your comments on this blog entry are welcome, as always.
Published On: December 30, 2008