You don’t have to dance in the rain

I’m going to confess something here. Sometimes when I’m really bored I go on pinterest. And after a few minutes of scrolling through crockpot recipes, if I’m really bored, sometimes I search for “inspirational quotes.” And I watch the swirly thing swirl and wait for the sunsets and calligraphy to pop up on my screen.

But that’s not my confession. My confession is that I hate myself for doing this. And I hate “inspirational quotes.” Why? Because a lot of them are wrong.

For example,

“Make your own happiness.” Um… okay is there a recipe for that? Like do I have to smile all the time because my face gets tired easily.

“Just go with the flow.” Okay sounds great thanks. But what exactly is the flow? Is my flow going the right way? Probably not…

“When nothing goes right, go left.” Awesome! Cool! That seems easy. Wait… which way is left again? Can I go straight? What about east? Oh that’s the same as right? Wait shouldn’t I be going with the flow? Am I creating happiness right now? Ahhh!

Who comes up with these things? Do they really think that making sunshine is the key to life?

I used to love quotes like these. I would by lying if I said I didn’t have them hanging in my room. In fact, this used to be one of my favorites: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

It seems like a good perspective to have. When there’s a storm cloud above you, don’t hide in your basement and pout. Go outside and dance! Be happy!

But there’s a problem with this perspective, and there’s a problem with the message this quote sends.

Yeah, it’s fun to dance in the rain. Until you get wet and cold and tired. So sure, if the storm is short or if it’s not raining that hard, dancing in the rain might work out. If you’re nervous for a test, you can learn how to motivate yourself with your nerves instead of waiting for them to go away.

But what do you when the storm isn’t stopping, and it is raining hard, and there’s thunder and lightening? Should you still dance in the rain?

According to the quote, you should. But that’s where it’s wrong. Because this quote suggests the false idea that we always have to be happy. That if we aren’t happy, we’re letting the storm win and we’re failing as individuals.

However, happiness is not a state of being, or an end goal, or anything besides what it actually is: an emotion. And having one emotion all the time is basically the same as having none.

It’s true that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s not good to hide and let your problems, your pain, your sadness, and your fear keep you from going places and doing things. But life is also not just about dancing in the rain. Forcing yourself to be happy without taking time to feel your honest feelings, accept your challenges, and cope with your struggles is the same thing as hiding from them.

As a society we’ve created the dangerous idea that if we aren’t happy, something is wrong with us. That If we can’t figure out how to dance in the rain, something is wrong with us.

But it’s okay to sense the storm surrounding  you and be upset. It’s okay to hear the thunder and be scared. Because sometimes it’s not possible to dance in the rain, and that is okay.

I dislike inspirational quotes because while they can help us seek out the positives, they fail to tell us that it’s also okay to recognize the negatives. They send the message that happiness is the best way to handle pain, but that isn’t a realistic approach.

No, life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about recognizing the storm and accepting it for what it is. It’s about pulling on rain boots and a rain jacket and borrowing your friend’s umbrella. It’s about going outside and feeling the wind blow through your hair but not letting it knock you over. And if you want to dance in the rain, go ahead. And if you don’t that’s okay too.

You don’t need to be happy all the time. Of course it feels good to be happy, but once in a while it’s okay to let yourself feel frustrated and sad and scared because those are feelings too. And even though you might always have to brave some kind of storm, if you’re not in a dancing mood, it’s okay. Because you don’t have to dance in the rain.

setting goals while in control

It’s January 1st. Today, people are working out, eating salads, and meditating. But in three months, a good chunk of them probably won’t be. That’s the tough thing about new years resolutions; they’re hard to keep.

Imagine that your goal for the new year is to exercise every day. On January 1st, you go to the gym. On the second, you go. On the third, you go. On the fourth, you go. But on the fifth, you have a cold. You tell yourself, “whatever, it’s just a cold, other people workout when they have a cold,” and so you go. On the sixth, your cold is pretty bad, but you go anyways. But on the seventh, you’re really really sick. So you stay home and don’t exercise that day. Does this mean you failed? Has your success been ruined after only 6 days by something out of your control? I guess it depends who you ask. If you ask me, I would say your goal was pretty bad in the first place, because your ability to achieve it is out of your control. All it takes is one day without exercising and BAM! You failed!

It’s hard to set good new year’s resolutions because there are so many factors in our lives that we can’t control. And when you’re chronically ill, your body is likely one of those things that feel out of control. So how do you set long-term goals when it’s almost impossible to know how you’ll feel the next day? Here’s what I recommend:

Focus on routines, not on results. Don’t set a goal to lift “x” amount of weight within 2 weeks. Because if you’re struggling for part of those 2 weeks and you don’t reach your goal, you’ll feel disappointed even though you couldn’t control the situation. Instead, create a goal that is focused on a routine. Something open-ended like “exercise 3 days a week.” When you set a goal focused on a routine, you can achieve it even when you hit a bump in the road, and you can change your approach based on how you feel. If you aren’t feeling well, maybe you only exercise for 10 minutes that day. Or maybe you take a walk instead of going to a class at the gym. While your fitness level might not improve as quickly as it would have had you been focused on a specific result, you save yourself from “failing” due to your illness. And in the end, the routine you form is more important than one result.

There’s no doubt that chronic illness can make you feel like you’ve lost control of your body. It can make you think that you are a failure when you can’t do something because of how you feel. This year, the challenges you face due to chronic illness might stay the same. And they will probably still be out of your control. But setting routine-focused goals gives you back some of that control and works with your condition instead of against it so that you can succeed.

Awareness Months: A love-hate relationship

Screenshot 2018-11-11 at 5.00.11 PMWhat do you think of when you hear the term “awareness month?”

Colorful ribbons? Charity walks? Fundraisers? Pink football jerseys?

In some ways, I think awareness months are great. They recognize conditions that are rarely cared about by those who don’t have them. They are times when people come together and show support for others who are sometimes like them, and often times not. They inspire people to donate to important causes. And they help people realize that they aren’t alone.

But when October ends and November begins, we shed our pink shirts and pull out the purple. We throw out the pamphlets from last week’s charity event and start planning our outfit for the one next Saturday. We move on from October’s cause(s) and onto November’s.

And I get it. I get that we can’t possibly support every cause, attend every event, donate to every foundation, and spread awareness about everything all the time. I get that when October ends, we do have to shed the pink and move on with our lives. And I get that one month of advocacy is better than nothing.

But what I don’t get is why we send the message that recognizing a cause for one month each year is enough.

It’s not.

May is IBD awareness month. But my condition is chronic. And yes, one month of support is great because there are many conditions that receive hardly any attention. But when that month ends, I’m still the same person. I still have the same disease. And I still want people to care as much as they do in May.

Awareness months are great because they bring people together. But more often then not, they don’t keep those people together. They are a glimpse into a life where people truly support and advocate for others that they might not even know. But then that glimpse is over and it feels like it will be forever before people will care again.

The causes we support during awareness months are causes that affect people every single day. And those people deserve more than just one month of support. 

So here’s my idea: we keep awareness months the same as they’ve always been. But during the other 11 months, we don’t turn a blind eye to the struggles of other people. So when May ends and June begins, we can still put away our purple. But we can’t stop caring. We can’t stop supporting. We can’t stop advocating. Because on June 1st people are still fighting IBD. Every day of every year people are dealing with something, and every day of every year those people deserve support. So we can move on from one charity event to another. But we can’t forget about the people who we raise awareness for. They don’t get to pack up their disease and wait for next year’s fundraiser; they need our support and our understanding all the time. 

We are all dealing with something. And even though we don’t all have an awareness month, or week, or day that recognizes our struggles, it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter. So the point I’m trying to make is that although awareness months do raise awareness, we don’t need matching shirts, fundraisers, and charity walks to show people that we care. We don’t need to wait around for a specific month or week to show support. All we need is to be mindful of what other’s might be going through and be there for the people around us as much as we can, whether it’s awareness month or not. 

If I could teach the world…

maxresdefaultIf you had to teach people one thing that was important to you, what would your lesson be? How to cook? How to draw? How to remember where you parked at the mall? Sign me up for that class, please. 

7 years ago when I was in third grade, the kids in my class had the chance to get up in front of everyone and teach something to each other. And I remember this day very clearly because I took it upon myself to teach the class how to draw. Now, even though I don’t remember if I taught my friends how to draw a dog, or a dolphin, or a duck, I knew that it was going to be the best day ever because my classmates would finally stop drawing ugly stick animals. So I proudly stood in front of the whiteboard and carefully drew the best animals I could, step by step. When my turn was over, I sat down and listened to the next person to teach the class how to put on a swim cap, and I guess the story ends there. 

As you can imagine, I’ve come a long way since third grade. I’m sure you have too. But I can’t think of a time since that day that I’ve taught a group of people something that I truly care about. And that’s sad because there is so much that I want people to know. About me, about each other, and about life in general. But in the real world, we aren’t just handed opportunities to sit everyone down and teach them something. We have to make those opportunities for ourselves. So, 7 years later, here I am, writing to you. I may not have a whiteboard, or a worksheet, or a presentation, but that’s okay; there won’t be a test on what I say. All I ask is that you read my thoughts and try to learn. 

Below is something that I wrote a little while ago. I’m calling it “If I could teach the world,” because it’s about what I would do if I could teach the world. Original, right? Continue reading

5 apps to get your life together(ish)

Image result for appsDisclaimer: I am not being sponsored by any of the apps below to promote their product. These are just some apps I find helpful and I hope you do too! I also realize that there are probably thousands of apps out there that do the same thing as the ones I mention but these are just my top 5 and they may not be everyone’s top 5. 

I know you are probably thinking, “5 apps? How much storage does she think I have?” But the thing is, you probably don’t need all 5. If you don’t take medicine, you don’t need the medication tracker. And, these apps aren’t going to transform you into some super organized, perfect person who never forgets about anything. But hopefully, they will make it easier for you to be a little more on top of your game.  Continue reading

IBD A-wear-ness Campaign

                      

Did you know that May is IBD awareness month? IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) is a group of two incurable illnesses (Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis)  that affect millions of people every year. While research has come so far in treating and managing these conditions, there is still so much progress to be made.

And that is why I need your help! You have the power to spread IBD awareness by purchasing one of these shirts (CLICK HERE!). All proceeds collected will be sent to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation to fund much-needed research to find a cure for IBD. 

Show support for IBD not just in May, but every day of the year by wearing one of these shirts. I designed them myself, so let me know what you think! 

If you are unable to purchase a shirt, don’t worry about it! There are so many ways to show support for IBD through volunteering or simply educating those around you about these conditions. 

The campaign will last until June 4, so pass it along before time runs out! I would love to reach my goal of selling at least 50 shirts. 

If you have any questions, leave a comment below or contact me at livinthecrohnslife.blog@gmail.com

Thank you for your support! 

Plans are just plans

Yesterday was May 19th. It was also World IBD Day- a day when people try to show a little extra support for Crohn’s and Colitis. A day to reflect on how far research has come since last year, and how much farther we still have to go. But if World IBD Day was yesterday, why didn’t I write anything about the most important day for IBD awareness?!? Continue reading

Everybody has something

When we are struggling, it’s easy to be jealous of other people. We think of all the things we have to deal with that they don’t, and we want to be them. But what we don’t realize is that there is no perfect person. No one is living a life without some sort of suffering. Everyone has something going on that they wish would disappear.  Continue reading

Digesting The Spoon Theory

Image result for spoons

The Spoon Theory. Maybe you’ve heard of it before. Maybe you’re wondering what crazy person would form a theory about spoons. Seriously, spoons? Salad tongs are so much more interesting. 

So what is the Spoon Theory, anyway? And why am I telling you about it? 

Sorry to disappoint you, but the Spoon Theory is not some secret silverware code. It really doesn’t have to do with spoons at all. 

It is simply a way for people with chronic illnesses to describe their complicated energy levels to “normal” people who are curious. It’s a metaphor that makes a lot more sense than anything I could think of. And if you ask me, it’s accurate. Well, kind of.  Continue reading