Public Domain
Woman in a Red Blouse by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Source: Public Domain

In my last piece, I wrote about what I wouldn’t change if I regained my health. Here’s what I would change:

1. I’d become active outside the house.

Before I became chronically ill (chronic illness includes chronic pain), I planned to volunteer at our university’s arboretum—a beautiful area with a creek running through it. I knew the campus arboretum well because it’s adjacent to the building I worked in on campus. I walked its paths almost every day. My plan was to help with weeding and planting, and to train to be a docent who takes visitors on walking tours. One section of the arboretum has a rare collection of oak trees from all over the world. Another area features a beautiful grove of tall redwood trees.

In addition, were I to regain my health, I’d love to join some groups. My friend Dawn is in two (or is it three?) book groups, and she’s on a team that plays Trivia once a week at a local restaurant. I’d love to participate but, even on a good day, I turn into a pumpkin at about 7 p.m. and groups like this always meet in the evenings. At her book groups, everyone eats dinner together and then discuss the book they’d chosen to read that month. It’s a rich experience for her.

2. I’d visit my children and grandchildren (whenever they’d have me!).

I’ve never seen the house where my daughter and her family live. It’s in Los Angeles, which is about six hours from me by car, and that’s too long a trip for me to handle, even with my husband driving. At least I’ve been to my son’s house a few times. I managed that because it’s only a little over an hour away from where I live. Even so, it’s been years since I’ve been functional enough even to make that trip. It would be wonderful to spend time on my children’s home turfs—going to their favorite haunts, taking my granddaughters places. In addition, I’d like to be able to help out in any way they needed, whether it be with mundane stuff or in a true crisis.

This change I’d make in my life should I recover my health would be more than just pleasant: it would be a dream come true.

3. I’d move my body more.

Call it exercise if you like. I didn’t because I can’t say I’d join a gym or become an aerobics fanatic. But I’d go for walks, and I might start doing Tai Chi again—something I did for many years. I never appreciated the joy of moving my body until I became so restricted in my ability to do so. Come to think of it, I’d like to take up bike riding.

4. I’d go on silent retreats again.

Before I became chronically ill, I attended ten-day Buddhist retreats at least twice a year. Contrary to what people think, retreats are not always peaceful. That’s because you may be taking yourself to a quiet setting, but that chattering, unruly mind of yours comes along with you!

That said, in the silent environment around you, you learn a lot about what triggers stressful thinking patterns (my specialty is worry) and that can help you learn to handle them skillfully. And just being with like-minded people and inspiring teachers is a soothing balm in itself.

5. I’d become a fixer-upper.

I used to love painting rooms and moving furniture around to make different room configurations. And just before I got sick, I'd discovered the joy of gardening. After so many years of illness, there’s a lot—both in- and outside of my house—that needs work. If I regained my health, I’d become a super fixer-upper.

6. I’d spend more time in nature.

I live less than two hours from the snow in the Sierras to the east and from the beaches of the Pacific Ocean to the west. For the most part, I no longer desire to travel to exotic, far-away places. The nearby mountains and ocean would be enough for me. I might even rent a wet suit and try my hand at surfing again.

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What would you change about your life if suddenly you didn’t suffer from chronic pain or illness? I hope you’ll share it with all of us in the comments below.

Here’s the link to the first piece: “What I Wouldn’t Change If My Health Were Restored Tomorrow.”

© 2016 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I’m the author of three books:

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers (2010) 

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon, audible.com, and iTunes.

Visit www.tonibernhard.com for more information.

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You might also like “5 Tough Choices You Face When Chronically Ill or in Pain.”

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