I have a fulfilling life even though I’m not a princess (except in my mind) or a Supreme Court judge or a millionaire living on a private beach. I’m actually pretty content and laugh a lot most days.
But I had to make a few differences in how I viewed myself and the disease. In other words, I had to change my mind.
For me, one of the worst things about COPD is the exhaustion that comes with it. And the limitations because of being exhausted. I am too tired to work. I’m too weary to do a lot of housework. Too bone tired (I wonder which bone it was?) to run endless errands. I have to be very choosy about what I spend energy on.
For example, once I baked a delicious but very complicated chocolate cake with handmade frosting. It took hours and cost me two days’ worth of rest. But it was two days my husband brought me chocolate cake in bed – so that was worth it by my standards. My standards being that chocolate cake is the one true staff of life.
Seriously, losing my stamina was rough. Leaving work was devastating, so was letting go of hobbies, sports, travel, and any number of things that gave my life meaning and filled me with purpose.
So how did I find new meaning and purpose in my new life in the slow lane? I redefined it.
It wasn’t easy but it was important. You see, if you lose your sense of purpose you lose a big part of yourself. Sometimes you even lose your will to live. You can’t stay in a terrible mindset like that.
And you don’t have to. Luckily, there are ways to have a fulfilling life anyway.
This is what I did.
I sat down and listed what I can do, rather than what I can’t.
Here’s what I have going for me: I can walk a little bit. My eyes are good. Despite some brain fog sometimes, I am still pretty sharp. My ears are fine. My sense of smell and sense of taste are top notch. My fingers can still type really well. After looking at my list, I realized I had several things to work with.
Because I can still walk and can use my eyes I took up photography again after a 20 year absence.
So I walk around the yard and take pictures. This has been the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learned a lot about the wildflowers and plants and mushrooms that grow here. I have discovered bird watching and all its infinite fun. It really is fun; birds have personality. Best of all, sometimes I create beauty and art with my photos. Sharing my view of the world with friends is the best.
Because my mind is still good I read.
I’ve always loved reading but now I can spend some real time with books and find good series and authors. Turns out, I still don’t like the Russian authors. Turns out, I do like the noir fiction of the ’30s and ’40s. I also have a fondness for most of the classics. I always thought I’d read these great tales “sometime.” Then I realized that sometime is now.
Because my ears work well, I decided to try different kinds of music.
I decided I’d learn opera – beyond Bugs Bunny, I mean. I still love the cartoons but I found out I loved the operas too. Such dramatic stories, such fun stories, such wonderful, wonderful singing. Besides the opera, I’m listening to performers I’d never listened to before. I’m listening to international stars, enjoying the cadence of the foreign words. It’s also fun to see how much Spanish, Italian, and Latin I remember from college. Turns out it’s not much…
Because my sense of smell and taste are great, I’m trying to become a great cook and baker.
I may not remake that delicious chocolate cake but there are plenty of other great recipes. My family loves homemade bread and, armed with a dough hook for my Kitchen Aid, and bread books about kneadless bread doughs, I am ready to bake. I can take a day or two and not put a lot of physical work into it. And it’s all delicious. I also like cooking from raw ingredients (being vegetarians with a husband who gardens, that’s easy). My husband does all the chopping and slicing and grating and then I make the meal. It’s like magic. The house always smells wonderful, too.
Because my fingers work and I can type really well, I write.
And here is one of my truest purposes. I write about life with my husband and son, life in the country, life being a crazy cat lady, and life with COPD. I adore being able to share that last one with you. My biggest hope is to make someone laugh, help someone cheer up, be that voice that tells you you’re not alone.
You still have purpose.