“What’s the matter Baby?” I asked this because my husband was sitting on the couch with a look on his face that I couldn’t quite read. “I’m angry. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time” he said. As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, he’s had a relapse with his pericarditis, which leaves him short of breath, exhausted, and generally unwell.
My husband absolutely loves Christmas.
He loves putting up the decorations, hosting our neighborhood Christmas party, attending Christmas programs at church, driving around looking at the lights, and family gatherings – basically, he loves everything about it.
The return of this illness means that he won’t be able to do most of those things this year, and he’s having a hard time dealing with it. His body has let him down.
Does this sound familiar? If you live with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness, I can almost guarantee you’ve been there. Maybe not in this particular scenario, but I’d venture to guess that most of us have been disappointed and angry that our bodies let us down by keeping us from doing things we wanted or needed to do.
When this happens, we have a choice: we can let these feelings of betrayal ruin things for us, or we can adjust our expectations. Making adjustments to our expectations helps us avoid those feelings of ‘missing out’ that can come along with not being able to do everything we’d like to do.
5 Tips To Adjust Expectations
- Realize that ‘different’ does not mean ‘less than’. Yes, sometimes ‘different’ may mean fewer activities, less running from place to place, etc., but that doesn’t mean things have to be less enjoyable. For example, although we won’t be able to participate in many of our normal Christmas activities, we still have plenty of avenues for enjoying the season. In fact, it may be even better because we have the opportunity to actually slow down and reflect on our reasons for celebrating.
- Reevaluate what’s really important. When our energy reserves are low or we have to make adjustments to our activity levels it’s helpful to take a look at what’s really important to us. What are our non-negotiables? What are those things that absolutely make or break it for us? Using the example of our Christmas activities again, what’s really important to us is the reason we celebrate: the birth of Christ. That means that our non-negotiables are continuing our tradition of reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve (I’ll definitely be the one reading this year), and setting up our nativity sets as a visual reminder. Another non-negotiable is setting up our Christmas trees, mainly because we’re both big kids and love looking at them all lit up and decorated.
- Get creative in finding alternatives. When there are things we can no longer do, sometimes we just have to find alternatives. It can actually be fun to get creative with figuring out what we can do as a substitute for the things we usually do. Once those creative juices start flowing, we may find new things that we enjoy even more.
- Realize that others’ expectations belong to them. In other words, we can’t allow others’ expectations of us to rule – we may have to set boundaries, even with our close family members. So often (and yes, I have to admit I’m guilty of this) we allow others to set expectations for us. When we do that, we end up frustrated and disappointed when we can’t meet them. People really don’t understand chronic illness, and honestly, we shouldn’t expect them to if they haven’t experienced it for themselves, but that means they also don’t understand what we are and are not capable of. We have to determine that for ourselves.
- Understand that it really is okay to simplify things. Whether it’s Christmas celebrations or everyday life, it really is okay to keep things simple. So many times we think that in order for something to be ‘good enough’ or ‘special’ it has to be fancy or complicated, but when we remember special times, are our memories of the elaborate decorations and fancy food, or are they of time spent with those we love and cherish?
Adjusting our expectations is not easy and it won’t happen overnight. Sometimes they’re so ingrained it’s a struggle, but if we can change our expectations of how things ‘should’ be and work within the parameters of how they really are, we usually find we’re able to have more enjoyable, fulfilling lives.
How do you deal with those times when you feel your body has let you down? How do you move forward? Please share!