Let me say first that I sometimes throw myself the most magnificent pity parties – usually with fine snacks and often gifts as well – so I’m not looking for sympathy here.
That said, and just by way of offering a bit of background for this article: I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for many years now. A little over two years ago I fell – hard enough to be hospitalized for a week and then put in a physical rehabilitation facility for another three weeks – and after that, up until about a month ago I’d been unable to walk anywhere other than around the house… Then I bought a treadmill.
It took about three weeks for me to figure out the minimum number of minutes that I could reasonably say I’m able to do in any one session, as well as the minimum number of sessions I could do in any given week. I should note here that this ‘figuring out’ stuff wasn’t planned; it’s just how things went. I’m not that damn smart.
Anyway, what it’s come down to is this: If I’m able to use the treadmill at all, I can do five minutes, and even if I have a few bad days when I can’t do it at all, I can still swing three days a week. So this is my current goal: Five minutes, three times a week. If I can do more I will (and so far I have).
For me at this point, this is a fairly easy goal so it’s unlikely I’ll fail at it unless I dive into a really big flare (‘flare’ = more inflammation and pain than will allow me to function). If/when that happens I’ll just suspend the goal until I’m back on my feet, and if I’ve been down a long time I’ll probably have to whittle down the goal so that it’s still doable, and I’m okay with that.
It’d be more difficult to dial back my goals if I wasn’t prepared for the possibility. I guess you could call that an advantage to chronic illness for those of us who deal with that — we learn our limitations and how to work with them. Good grief I wish it was an easier lesson to learn.
The reason I’m setting goals is 1) because I can (as in, I am able to), and more importantly 2) because I get an ENORMOUS emotional payoff for small successes. I am all about comfort, and the payoff is hugely tied in to my comfort level in terms of how I feel about myself in general. Even better than my magnificent pity parties: Fabulous pats on my own back and melodious toots of my own horn. Yay me.
This is my point: Whether or not one is able to set goals, I think it’s really important to acknowledge and wholeheartedly accept the good feelings that arise from any successes, no matter how small.
Any new thing you do, no matter how little it can be done, it’s more than what was being done, yes? I’ve found that when I can manage not to make comparisons like ‘yay this is what I did but boo I should be doing more’ or ‘boo I have so far to go’ and just stick with ‘yay I did that’, oh boy I can squeeze a whole lot of comfort and enjoyment, pats on the back and toots of my horn out of getting even the smallest of things done.
Back to meditation next article. Probably.