New Year’s Unresolutions

I really tried not to. I held off for almost an entire day. I didn’t turn on a tablet or a computer or reach for pen and paper.

I almost managed not to make New Year’s resolutions.

You see, New Year’s resolutions aren’t really a thang in my family. We keep our hopes and dreams private, and really prefer not to harbor them at all. Because if… if you do, that means that something isn’t acceptable the way it is, and that you hold some hope of changing it, and you will probably (read: almost definitely indubitably most likely positively) fail horribly at changing it anyway. Then you’ll feel doubly awful, because not only is something wrong, you didn’t manage to fix it, either. My family is probably one of the few to keep records not only for achieving New Year’s resolutions, but for breaking them.

*****

We learned a lot from wildlife growing up. For instance, my mom’s advice about things you couldn’t fix was to just be like a duck and let the water go over your back. Still, if you couldn’t manage to be like a duck, then you could be a wildcat instead, spit and growl, and use your claws. What can I say. It worked oddly well. We all learned how to growl like wildcats and, as a TA, I’ve found it’s remarkably effective at getting a class to suddenly mind. Some bit of the hindbrain is activated and overrides the rest of the system, telling it inexorably “FREEZE OR YOU ARE DEAD” and ….

The point is, hope is a dangerous thing. My family recognized that. How dangerous, painful, and crushing just a little ragged scrap of hope can be, though, doesn’t seem to be common knowledge. Hope is usually seen as a good thing in the present day.

That wasn’t always the case. The Greeks seem to have had a more ambivalent view. Hope could lead you to take foolish risks in battle, and it’s noteworthy that Hope was among the items in Pandora’s box – the very last thing, which she prevented from escaping by slamming the lid closed. Was that because hope was on the same level as disease and other evils? Was it left in the box to save mankind from hope – or from the negative aspects of it, at least? Or was it left in the box to keep it safe for mankind, a comfort always left in reserve?

*****

A few days before the New Year, I was lying there muzzily thinking of the next 365 days and what I needed to do. It was a daunting list. Like the year before, number 1 probably should be

SURVIVE

But after that, I found myself wanting to do things like become a better photographer, use my hiking boots for really real hiking, and not let my illnesses dominate my life. Along with finding jobs and steady healthcare and a place to live past May, which is what every graduate student faces every 9 months. But aside from that, of course…

Most people in the chronic illness world know the pain and the joy of hope. Of every community outside my family, they might recognize those dark muzzy thoughts as not resolutions, exactly, but tizanidine dreams (like pipe dreams, except by prescription only and with a side of excruciating muscle spasms).

I was hoping that my illnesses wouldn’t factor in quite so much in the New Year. Some things are getting easier to control. Over Christmas, for instance, I learned that eating pears with the skin on might result in extremely unpleasant allergic reactions. See? Now I don’t need to do that one again (unless under controlled circumstances to test it, of course). Dandy, all fine and lovely. And besides, my illnesses didn’t exactly dominate last year. I mean … these conditions are just part of me, and even if I hate them I don’t hate my life. So the collections of acronymed illnesses must not really dominate my life. But I really did want to have them not be so much of a factor in what I ate or drank, or where I went and how I got there, and how much time of the day was spent doing things to alleviate the illnesses I have or how much money I spend and …

*****

Fast forward to New Year’s Day. I wake up with a cold. I go back to sleep. I wake up much much later. I play around with cleaning my apartment and finally unpack from Christmas vacation. I take pictures of a bunch of medical stuff to do reviews on later, and I stagger around like a drunk for a bit, because having a cold and having POTS is not a combination from heaven but rather from somewhere a lot warmer and further south. I sort through medications, refill containers, and reorder a bunch of supplements and prescriptions. I decide that now is a good time to test the grocery delivery service. I try to figure out how I’m going to manage the next round of medical tests. I scrunch my face at a screen for a bit, trying to interpret the last round of test results.

It didn’t take long for that resolution to go “tonk” into the trashcan.

On the plus side, I probably topped the family record chart in the “unresolution” category. It’s like having a marriage annulled. You realized your mistake and you ditched that sucker as fast as you could. As a matter of fact, I made and destroyed this resolution so quickly, they wouldn’t have even had time to make up the betting pool. 🙂

My illnesses are going to take the time that they take. The only way I can let them not dominate is to be like Jane Eyre and declare myself to be free person and to have an independent will, not controlled by man or MCAS.

Despite the resolution going “tonk” into the nearest trash can, I let hope out of its box. That hope for a freer, less illness-driven future is still there, because there is always tomorrow. And although the rain it raineth everyday, and with it comes floods of folly and failures I can’t fix, I can still be like a duck and let it run off my back.

And if that doesn’t work, well, I can always growl like a wildcat and try again, too.

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