How I’ve Rethought New Year’s Resolutions

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by Claire Richmond |

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In recent years, I’ve overhauled my idea of goal setting.

A few years ago, I sat down one January to write my New Year’s resolutions in the midst of having acute porphyria attacks and filling out long-term disability applications. My pen hovered, frozen above the page.

Uncertainty is stressful. Until then, I had used the new year as an excuse to pinpoint my flaws and refine the edges of myself that I deemed unworthy. My New Year’s resolutions were admittedly performative, based on achievements primarily related to career and fitness.

I bought into society’s lies about my value being equal to my accomplishments. Internalized capitalism triggered a deep sense of shame within me, and the idea of planning for the future reminded me of how little control I had over my life.

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Attempting to control chaos

At the end of 2016, I was hired for my “dream job.” I don’t remember what my resolutions were that year, but they likely had to do with excelling at work and running absurdly long distances.

I was upfront with recruiters about my recent five-month stint of hospitalizations, but I assured them it was a fluke. After all, doctors wrote my symptoms off as nothing more than anxiety. Due to acute porphyria’s unspecific presentation and complicated diagnosis process, this is a problem for many people who are seeking a diagnosis.

I started the new job in February 2017. Less than two weeks later, torturous pain and a stalled digestive tract landed me up at the Mayo Clinic in a state of psychosis. Fortunately, I finally received an explanation for my pain. Unfortunately, at about the same time, the new job didn’t work out, leaving me doubly devastated.

Returning home from an extended hospital stay, I was faced with regaining my strength, stamina, and ability to walk, as well as completely redefining my worth. Instead of excelling at a job that year, I worked full time at managing my health and finding a porphyria expert I could afford to see, paying for it primarily out of pocket. Rather than running marathons, my shoes collected dust by the door.

Holding on to outdated goals

As attacks and chronic symptoms continued, they stood in the way of my goals and plans, but I dug in my heels. When my COBRA insurance ran out in the fall of 2017, I took a less ambitious job with great healthcare benefits. Having a job kept me in denial for a time, which was convenient for resisting the permanence of my illness.

Less than two years later, time-consuming infusions, hospitalizations, and stretches of recovery time presented a reality in which even my compromised career path was too much for my body and mind.

I got jealous. It was hard to tune out ambitious friends and graduate-program peers, whose success enraged my green-eyed monster. I also got angry, and it was easy to avoid my running friends who posed on Instagram after each race, their medals gleaming.

All around me it seemed like people were achieving their dreams, and I didn’t even know how to write a New Year’s resolution without crying. I had to mourn.

Redefining New Year’s resolutions

Nowadays, I’ve come to terms with my disease and the whole New Year’s resolutions thing. I’m an intentional person who appreciates ritual, so I continue to set them every year. They have positive potential, I just needed to take their power back.

In 2021, I chose not to write resolutions about what I wanted to do, but rather how I wanted to feel. As a result, I learned more about trusting and living in alignment with my body.

In 2022, I created a new tradition. I’m calling it my “Resiliency Ritual for the New Year.”

Resiliency Ritual for the New Year

What you need:

  • 2 pieces of paper
  • Writing utensil
  • A lit fire pit, fireplace, or burn bucket

What you do:

On the first piece of paper, write a lesson you learned from a supreme and colossal failure in your life. Keep this in your purse, wallet, car, or workspace for when you need a reminder of your resiliency.

On the second piece of paper, write an intention for the year that’s not based on achieving something. Fold it three times and burn it.

Just because we live with a rare disease doesn’t mean we can’t still be goal-oriented. How are you owning the uncertainty and modifying your expectations for the new year? Please share in the comments below.

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Note: Porphyria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Porphyria News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to porphyria.

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