Chronic Means Forever

I have multiple chronic illnesses. Somehow I keep thinking I’ll escape the idea that chronic means forever. I guess I have this vision that I’ll regain energy and abilities that are gone.

I have been slowing down a lot. I’m making space for people in my world that gets more and more limited as I realize the limits on my energy. It’s not as much a sadness as an acceptance.

I was tired today after an impromptu out of town guest spent the night as we talked late into the night and woke early craving more conversation. This past week has been a lot of planning and doing as I prepare for what looks like entering the world of employment again within a few weeks. It’s an incredible opportunity. It’s honestly a gift.

After my guest left late this morning, my instinct was to go outside even though my body was begging me to go back to bed. My head was pounding.

I decided today hiking wasn’t going to be about distance, calories, miles gone, or a destination. Today was about finding a quiet spot to sit and enjoy that my life can still be as joyfully spontaneous as my symptoms are that make me feel sick and destroyed without much warning.

I didn’t track how far I went. I didn’t notice the time. I did find a shady perch on a huge, granite monolith characteristic of the eastern Sierras.

I took off my shoes and sat. I felt grounded being there. I also felt very tired and even though I wished I could sit on my perch all afternoon, I noticed how much I could enjoy the time I was there to just be.

The hike back was gratefully shorter than I thought I had gone. I ate my snacks quickly and drove 45 minutes back home.

My body hurt. My arthritic neck was asking me “why?”, the headache that was already there before I departed was stronger. I got a very quick shower in and fed my dogs. I think I was in bed by 4:45 pm and asleep within seconds. I was kind of mad at myself for doing it. I was angry that something quicker than my normal had depleted me so much.

As I wake up 2 1/2 hours later where the sun is still up, but I’m not personally getting up, I know why I did it. With the pain and fatigue my little outing brought me, it also gave me a few moments of respite from my chronic illnesses. Sitting on that huge slab of stone with my shoes off made me forget the complexities of my world that contains hardship as well as lots of hope. I sat on that powerful surface not even thinking about much except being fully present in that moment. I wasn’t looking back. I wasn’t looking forward.

And I’m not mad about my body being so tired from a little adventure into the calm of the mind. The calming and grounding of nature is an escape to peace.

I had a goal in spring to keep increasing my mileage in hiking so that maybe I could keep up someday with my hiking friends. I realized there’s a good possibility I won’t ever get there. As I slow down and allow my body to do what is naturally within its capabilities versus what my mind wants to do, I get something greater than an increase in distance, stamina, the ability to keep up with healthy people, instead I gain an appreciation for myself and no matter how many miles I put in today physically, I went an infinite number of miles in my mind and my soul.

All I wanted to do was be barefoot in nature. I got it. And if there’s another day I long to ground my bare feet into the earth with a day I’m not able to get up, I can stick my toes in my houseplants at the end of my bed remembering the day I sat on a granite monolith completely at peace knowing that chronic is forever. The day I gained so much more acceptance that I probably won’t keep up, but who am I racing? If it’s just me, I already won.



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