The solstice marked the start of the sun’s journey to bring back the longer days of warmth and new growth. What are you going to do with the extra daylight hours? Do they inspire you to make lists and plans?
I found that the dark days leading to the wintry solstice pushed me into hibernation. I slowed down, read more, slept more, spent ages searching for something to binge watch – probably longer than I actually spent watching the programme. I still did things, but the impetus was different; I pushed myself to do things rather than actively sought to do them.
Then we had the festive period. My home sparkled with lights bouncing off decorations. Seasonal scents lingered in the air. There was music and laughter – even in this restricted Covid 19 period. My home returned to its normal status, sparkly items stored safely in the loft till next year.
On New Year’s Eve, I took down the greenery that adorned my home and gave it a fitting send off, burning brightly in a fire that sent red sparks floating into the air. We raised a toast to the turning of the wheel, thanks for the season that has brought us good cheer, and a welcome to the spring to come.
And that’s the point where I felt a change in me. Out came pens and paper, new of course. That smell of brand new untouched whiteness is one I will always revel in. I started making plans, all the things I wanted to do brought to life by the black ink on the page. Of course, I was going to lose weight and take more exercise. I was going to be fit and healthy. I would manage my money better and start saving.
Then came the more realistic thoughts. I will cook from scratch more. I will make that dress I bought the material and pattern for last year. Or was it the year before that? (Need to check that the pattern covers my new Covid size.) I will to write to my sister in Cornwall every week.
I will decorate the bathroom, restore the garden to its former glory, grow tomatoes. I will visit stately homes and take a holiday at the seaside. I will take my grandchildren to the park every week and play ball with them, take them to see the animals in the inner city farm.
And now I realise I may have got carried away. My health won’t let me do all these things. If I try, I will be exhausted and need days to recover, to let the pain seep back down to manageable levels. How do I manage my unrealistic expectations for myself?
After the first flurry of excitement, I am now adjusting my list to reflect the achievable, not the wish list. This means being honest about my disabilities, acknowledging the impact they have on my life. Many of my health problems will not go away, no matter what I do. My sight impairment is here to stay. My face blindness will not improve. I will still get lost very easily. The arthritis will not get better although I have good days and bad days.
So what can I do on my list, given the new way of thinking?
I can certainly cook from scratch more. I have a chair in the kitchen to perch on while I’m cooking. If I set the timer on my cooker, I will be less likely to burn stuff (my memory isn’t that good). I can order food online, so I won’t be worn out from walking round the supermarket. So yes, I can add this to my list.
Decorating my bathroom? I might need help with this one. I don’t balance very well on ladders.
Likewise the garden needs some planning. At one time I would spend a whole day in the garden with nothing but feeling tired at the end of the day. Nowadays I would ache for several days, so that needs to be broken down into small chunks to manage pain and energy levels. I could definitely manage a few tomato plants though.
Travel presents more of a problem. I can no longer drive, and I get lost easily. Yet I feel sure that I could persuade someone to come with me to visit those stately homes. Also someone might enjoy a holiday by the sea.
Making realistic plans is going to be much more satisfying that setting impossible goals that I can’t achieve. I want to be able to tick them off as I complete them, not feel despondent this time next year looking at all the things I couldn’t do. Part of this includes seeking support where it is needed, not because I am useless and can’t do it myself, but because team work is a good thing, and people often surprise you when you reach out to them.
Have fun with your plans, but don’t set yourself up to fail. Make sure they are challenging but achievable. So if you give up, it’s not because ‘it was too much for you’ but because you found something else in which to invest your time.
Written by Portland Jones, PF Disabilities Liaison for West Midlands