Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with my best friend, L. L and I share many symptoms, though she has been dealing with her chronic illness much longer than I have.  She’s also been cursed with a long diagnostic process which isn’t quite ended yet, while my road has been a whole lot smoother.  Besides those differences, though, our illnesses are often pretty similar, as are our attitudes toward being sick.

Yesterday we were talking about a potential plan for me to return to work part-time soon.  I’m very happy about the idea of going back to work part time; frankly I am bored out of my mind, at home everyday.  Plus, I enjoy my work most days, and I miss my co-workers and the volunteers I interacted with on a regular basis.  So I’m looking forward to being able to work again.  That said, I am pretty worried about going back because I am not sure what I am capable of doing physically. How many days will I be able to work? How many hours per day?  Will the commute be too much?  Will the stress make me worse?  Is the walk to and from the bathroom going to be too challenging on bad days?  There are so many questions running through my mind that it makes me want to just say I can’t go back.

But L. very correctly pointed out that one of the rough things about being chronically ill is that we must set ourselves up for failure on a regular basis.  The truth of the matter is I may not be able to work as much as we are planning; I may not be able to handle the drive.  But I have to try.  And I have to realize that I may fail.

Anytime we, as the chronically ill, make a commitment, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Oh sure, we will not always fail.  But we must be prepared everytime for the “what if” to happen.  I want to take the kids to a movie this weekend, but I may not be able to do it.  I have an appointment tomorrow morning, but I may not be able to drive.  Not knowing if I can follow through on my commitments is so hard for me, but it is impossible to go through life refusing to commit to anything.

So we must accept that sometimes we will fail.  Sometimes we will disappoint our friends and family.  Sometimes we will look foolish or inconsiderate.  Sometimes we will seem selfish and rude.  But we can’t live by what others think of us, by what others expect of us.  We can’t live by the rules others set.

Instead we must be true to our bodies and to ourselves.  It is good to make plans, but it is also good to break those plans if we need to.  It is so unhealthy for us to force ourselves to fulfill obligations that we physically shouldn’t.  It is unhealthy for us to ignore the warning signals our bodies send to us.

So, we must make ourselves aware that failure is an option.  It is ok to try and fail.

To make this easier, we must communicate with our friends and family, our co-workers, that when we make plans we will try our best to keep them, but that we may have to cancel.   If we are honest with people about our abilities, and honest with them that we will do our best, then it is much easier to fail.  Oh sure, it will never be easy.  But it is easier if we don’t feel like we are constantly surprising people with disappointing news.

Of course, this is all easier said than done.  I don’t want to fail.  I want to know when I make plans that I can keep them.  I want to be dependable, reliable, as I always have been.  Now, I have to be content with trying my best.  Now, I have to put myself first, another hard thing to do.  Now I know that I have to learn to fail.  And I have to set myself up for that failure, over and over again.  To do otherwise would mean never really living, and that’s just not an option.

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