Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Resolutions" Vs. "Re-Do" Lists and Erasable Calendars

"Resolutions" Vs. "Re-Do" Lists and Erasable Calendars

By this time into the New Year we have typically had time to reflect on the previous year and may be examining a “New Resolutions” list…or maybe even a “Re-Do" list! For those of us facing the challenges of chronic illness, over time we learn that each day is an opportunity to “Re-Do” something we may have missed the day before due to a flare-up of symptoms. The calendar holds a different perspective for us. We’ve learned the benefit of having a wipe-off calendar where erasable markers set the dates and the proposed activities and appointments, with the capacity to make frequent changes as the days and weeks transpire. That erasable or “re-doable” calendar signifies how we live our lives and how we, as a couple, as a family, or even as an individual, can truly live each day in the face of life changing illness.

Around this time of year, back when William and I were still dating, we started making special plans for our Valentines’ date to go to a really unique and romantic restaurant in an eclectic part of the city. That year, Valentine’s Day fell on a week-end which meant planning even earlier than usual to get a reservation on that extra busy holiday. By Thursday night however, my daughter Laney, who was a young teen at the time, had come down with a fever and sore throat. On Friday morning her symptoms were worse and it was clear she wouldn’t be able to go to school that day.

Having lost two infant sons prior to the birth of my daughter, you could say that she was truly a “miracle baby,” and I loved her as such. I had made a commitment that I would never be away from her whenever she was sick, and told my clients and friends that plans would be re-scheduled if my daughter needed me home with her. So, on this Friday morning, I knew I would need to cancel my Valentine’s Dinner with William. It was our first Valentine’s celebration together (as we had just become a “couple” the previous summer), so I felt really bad knowing I would have to tell him I couldn’t make it.

Little did I know that for him, the day was unfolding with problems of his own. He had encountered a number of hitches in his schedule that day with work on his second book, Understanding The Tin Man; a phone meeting with his new agent had been pushed back, and editing work had hit an unexpected snag. By the time I got the nerve to call him on his cell phone early that afternoon, he was standing 20 people deep in a line at the flower shop near his house while simultaneously trying to iron out matters on the phone with his editor. When I beeped in on call-waiting, he asked if he could call me right back and sounded a little harried. I thought to myself that my news wasn’t going to make his day any better.

When William called me back he briefly told me what kind of day he was having and I told him that Laney was home sick and hesitantly said I thought I should stay home with her that night, and probably the next (which meant we would have to cancel our hard-to-get dinner reservations). I could hear William let out a deep sigh on the other end of the phone as he said, “wow, I’m really sorry Laney’s not feeling well but to be honest, I was wondering how I was going to get everything done today and make our dinner on time.” He told me he’d been standing in line to get flowers for me for over 20 minutes and there were still about a half dozen guys in front of him waiting to do the same for their girlfriends or wives. We agreed to make “our own date” for Valentine’s and by Saturday night Laney’s fever was gone and she was feeling much better so we rescheduled our dinner for Sunday night.

William brought flowers for me and Laney on Sunday evening, and he was relieved that it only took fifteen minutes to get them since the furor over Valentine’s Day was over. We left Laney with a family friend and a new movie while we went to our Valentine’s dinner. When we arrived at the lovely restaurant that had been converted from an old church with a beautiful frescoed ceiling, we were surprised to find that except for one other couple who were dining outside on the patio, we were the only couple there. It was as if we had the entire restaurant just to ourselves!

That evening over a lovely candlelight dinner, we made a vow that from then on, we would never let a calendar dictate our plans or cause unnecessary stress. Little did we know that years later, as illness greatly altered my health and our lives, this would be one of our best survival tools! We learned to plan birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays on the best date for us and our situation - with an alternate or “back-up date” in place. Friends, family and associates who know (and understand) the challenges we face living with chronic illness, also know that we do our best to honor plans or appointments but there will be times when we need to re-schedule, or, may even miss an event according to how my health is.

We've learned to accept that on occasion we will have to pay a cancellation fee if last minute health problems arise and I have to miss a professional appointment. We only make "flexible plans" to go to dinner, an outdoor concert, or a museum exhibit with friends and family members who are "on board" with our situation. This has removed unnecessary stress from our lives and helps us feel less anxious about making plans. Today, our erasable calendar encompasses four months and hangs on one wall of our office. It reminds us that life can and often does, change unexpectedly from day to day, and that IS a reality when dealing with the unpredictability of long term illness. And every day can be a "re-do day" if necessary -- no matter what time of the year, and erasable calendars can make life less stressful -- no matter what state your health is in!

Do you have a story about how you have learned to manage your time differently since you or a loved one became ill? If so, we'd love to hear from you!
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