You may recall that last year at this time, the therapist I was seeing encouraged me to use the occasion of a New Year to reflect on what I had accomplished in the outgoing year. She also recommended developing a list of goals that I wanted to work on for 2019.
At first, I was a little wary of this suggestion. I was never one to make a list of New Year's resolutions. It seemed to me that New Year’s resolutions were made by amateurs, those who meant well but simply did not have the discipline to follow through to keep the promise made. Why would I think this? Well the History.com website says that starting with the ancient Babylonians, people have been making new year’s resolutions for 4,000 years. While some cultures resolutions had religious roots, History .com says:
So why would anyone want to be associated with a practice that has such poor success rates?
But then I thought about it. Regardless of the bad taste in my mouth, what thing had I excelled at for so many years? I was a pro when it came to making a plan and sticking to it. And wasn’t creating a list of intentional goals just making a plan and sticking to it? But I also wondered if my talent for professional goal making and keeping them always a good thing?
Like every trait in the world, being orderly and a planner can have both positive and negative aspects. The negative aspects are that you are often accused of lacking spontaneity and the freedom to just live your life as events happen rather than anticipating what might happen. In my case, it leads to the accusation of having an obsessive compulsive nature (guilty as charged!). So one of my intentional goals could be to keep that trait in check. In other words, instead of obsessing on goals that may be a bit ambitious, maybe I just need to tweak goals that aren’t working according to plan.
Let’s not forget the positive side of being a planner: when you have something like heart failure, being orderly and disciplined makes it much easier to stay within the rigid guidelines the doctor sets for you in areas like diet, exercise, taking medications, etc. It also enhances your ability to find new goals that will help you forget that you are facing a life threatening condition that will never go away. But it might be more manageable, more livable, and even more fun if you find a goal that you can invest with all of your positive energy and the maybe even the negative energy that has invaded your body and soul.
What do I mean by negative energy? When you first learn that your heart has failed, and that at some point, the doctors may need to implement extraordinary measures (like heart transplants), well it is kind of hard to see the heart as being half full. Your heart feels more than half empty, broken, scared and just defeated. As much as I hate the term heart failure, well when I first received the diagnosis I certainly did not feel like my heart had achieved a victory. It was a hopeless failure!
But as you have probably figured out, I get a really persistent, determined gene from my Mom. So after some initial grieving and gnashing of teeth, I just decided it was time to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The first order of business was to just use my discipline to make sure that every action I took protected my heart, and did not weaken it further.
That strategy worked for a while. But then I started to experience a feeling that I had in my career for so many years. Once I had mastered a job, and had made it my own, well I kind of got bored. And the same thing could be said for managing heart failure. Sure, as my symptoms change, I may have to add new discipline strategies to my life. But it isn’t really a new problem that I’m challenged by. It’s just a symptom that to have to use my special brand of discipline to address.
I needed to find a challenge that I could sink my teeth into despite my newfound heart failure fatigue. So my therapist knew that I loved to write. She suggested that I might want to consider writing a blog about my experience with heart failure. It made sense to me because I had not found enough projects that would hone my writing skills in retirement, plus this project could be one that could help me and perhaps even help others. It was a new challenge and I was hooked.
I started the blog in July 2016 and it lives on. So in a long and roundabout way, what I am trying to say is that since the therapist struck gold with the blog suggestion, I decided last year to give the idea of setting intentional goals a try. I set some goals. But was I successful, and if so, am I going to set or expand goals this year?
Last year in my blog on goals for the new year, I said that I would continue to write the blog. I have lived up to that goal. But I also said that I would resume some work on a novel that I have started. I have to admit that I have not done as much work on that project as I would have liked. But that is because I find working on the blog just as rewarding and I seem to keep coming up with new topics to write about. So I do not consider that I have failed in the novel goal. I have focused the writing efforts on continuing to keep up the blog, but I haven’t given up on writing something that might turn into a book. I mean, the blog posts offer plenty of ideas that have book potential –regardless of the type of book I decide to write!
I also continued to use my writing talents for church endeavors. For example, I submitted a few advent devotionals this year that were circulated church-wide. But I also was chosen to be one of the writers of a story to tell what our congregation would be like eight years from now. It was more like writing a script that would be acted out during a church service. It was a lot of fun and a challenge, which I appreciated. Unfortunately, it came during a time that my Mom was in the hospital, and so I did not spend as much time on this project as I would have liked. But I was still able to come up with something that the others writers could work with, and so I met my goal to continue to use my writing skill on other endeavors.
So what about some of the other goals I set for last year? Well what I found is that sometimes setting a goal inspires you to take it to the next level. For example, I said that I would get rid of some belongings in order to make my condo more attractive. Well, I did that and more. I ordered a new piece of furniture, and I got rid of a piece of old furniture that had outlived its usefulness. I put up a lot of pictures and placed other mementos around my place. It is beginning to take on my personality and looks much warmer. This year, I need to pick up a few more pieces of furniture and make the home environment even warmer and cozier. I already have some ideas in mind.
I’m also going to make my social life comfier as well. I plan to continue my involvement in my church community, and expand my involvement in my condo community. I already attend the condo board meetings, but there are other committee meetings that I can sit in on. After all, it is a good thing to know what is going on in your immediate community and to have a say in the decisions that are made, and just to meet your neighbors!
Another thing that would benefit my social life is to step up is staying in touch with my friends from my work life. I do exchange e-mails, but I do not get out as often as I should to have lunch or dinner or coffee with old friends. My heart needs the social interaction of people I trusted and loved to be with for so many years. Plus, having lost my mother this year, I realized that the loss was much easier to bear because we had good times and let each other know how much we cared for each other. The same thing goes for friends. You want them to know how valuable they are to your life before a misfortune happens.
Referring back to the story that I helped write for our church, I am serious about making it my ministry to help those with chronic conditions. It doesn’t matter if I am the only one in the congregation involved – I think it is still a worthy ministry that I can implement with just the encouragement and “Atta girls” of those in the congregation who know my story. In fact, someone has already picked up on the theme and offered to help me in whatever way possible.
And finally, and probably the most important, I need to make it an intentional goal to just have more fun! As I have found out the hard way, your body can begin to fail on your earlier and more seriously than one ever expects. The one thing that can help you through the hard times that will come is to have fond and funny memories to keep you going.
Have a happy, healthy and intentionally fulfilling New Year!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.