10 Things I’d Do If I Woke Up With My Health Restored

Life would be different without the limitations imposed by chronic illness.

Posted Mar 20, 2018

Ellin Beltz/Wikimedia Commons
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA
Source: Ellin Beltz/Wikimedia Commons

I’m not deluding myself. It’s been almost 17 years since I became chronically ill, so it’s unlikely that the limitations imposed by my health challenges will change dramatically.

But a girl can dream!

I expect that everyone’s list would be different, but there'd also be some similarities. Here’s my list of ten things I’d do if I awoke with my health restored.

Number 10. Get in the car, point it in the direction of the ocean, rent a wetsuit on the way (the Pacific Ocean is cold in Northern California) and ride the surf!

I’ve always loved the ocean. I used to be a surfer—having even surfed in a wetsuit in Nova Scotia. Upon waking up not sick, my first choice would be to go to my favorite beach—Maké Horse on the island of Molokai (where I wouldn’t need a wetsuit to keep me warm). But the quickest way to the ocean is the route I’d take…so wetsuit it is.

Number 9. Go to San Francisco

San Francisco is only about an hour and a half away from where I live, depending on traffic. I miss hanging out there. My husband and I used to go all the time because it’s where he grew up and where his parents lived. Here are a few things I’d do (all of which I’ve done before): ride a cable car, eat seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, go to North Beach and find a small family-run Italian restaurant, like the ones my husband I went to when we were in our early 20s and spent our summers in San Francisco.

Number 8. Visit friends I’ve only met online

I’d have to be realistic here because I’ve met people from all over the world as a result of my writing, I doubt I’d go to Iraq (yes, people have written to me from Iraq, asking how to get my books). But Australia and New Zealand? Maybe!

Number 7. Go to a music concert

I miss “live” concerts. I wouldn’t even be picky about the type of music. Mozart would do. So would the Foo Fighters. So would a good Country Western singer. It’s hard to believe that my nervous system could ever handle loud music but remember, in this fantasy, I’m not sick!

Number 6. Go to a movie about which everyone keeps saying, “You simply must see it on the big screen”

Big screens have been out of the question for me for almost 17 years. If there’s a movie I want to see, I have to wait until it’s available on Netflix or shows up on TV. As a child, I loved going to the movies. They were my refuge—my safe place away from the stresses of being a kid. The last movie I saw in the theater was in 2001: Legally Blonde.

Number 5. Volunteer to teach a music class I put together from my bed some years ago

About 12 years ago, from my bed, I took a Great Courses class on DVD that was all about classical music. I learned to recognize the four types of movements in a classical piece—sonata allegro, minuet (or scherzo) and trio, theme and variations, rondo. I was so jazzed to learn this for the first time in my life that, teacher that I am, I prepared a short presentation in which I explained each type of movement and then picked excerpts from pieces to demonstrate. (I made a DVD of the excerpts.)

My plan was to offer it to the public schools. I’d arrive with display boards on which I’d already have mapped out each movement’s structure. I’d also bring a little boom box so I could play the DVD. As I played each movement, I’d help everyone follow along by pointing a baton to my illustrations on the display boards. You can see that I worked it out in great detail.

All of this (including the DVD) sit in a folder. I no longer have many regrets about having become chronically ill because I’ve made a decent life for myself, but I do regret never having been able to share this class that I created from the bed.

Number 4. If we could afford it, go back to the “scene of the crime”—Paris—and do all the things on my to-do list that we couldn’t do because I came down with the illness from which I’ve never recovered

Before we left California, I spent weeks studying guidebooks and making a list of all the places I wanted to go with my husband. Readers of my first book, How to Be Sick, will know that I did go to the Musée D’Orsey to see the impressionist paintings but, although I’m glad I did, it was terribly hard because I was so sick. That list of things to do is somewhere in the house. If my health were restored, I’d find it and hope to be able to complete what’s on it.

Number 3. Dance

If I were no longer sick, I’d feel I should start an exercise program, and I know just what I’d do—dance! And there’d be an advantage to being 17 years older than the last time I was able to really dance: I wouldn’t care how I looked. I’ve become much less self-conscious (which means less self-critical) in the years since becoming chronically ill.

I’ve said this before: the one thing we do control in this life is how we treat ourselves and there’s never a good reason not to be kind to ourselves. So there I’d be, dancing away to rock ‘n roll classics, being kind to myself however awkward and out of sync my body looked!

Number 2. Visit my grown children’s houses (I’ve never seen my daughter’s) and take them out to brunch...a slow, leisurely brunch

I'm guessing there'd be some Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers involved.

And the Number 1 thing I’d do if I awoke with my health restored:

Something that’s eluded me for almost 17 years: Get a good night’s sleep!


So, that’s my list. I’m not suggesting that everyone compile a list like this because it’s generally better to concentrate on the present. And yet, I enjoyed putting together this little fantasy piece.

I don’t resent that I can’t do these things now or that it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to. Resentment always makes me feel worse physically and emotionally. This is the life I’ve got and if I have to live it oceanless, San Franciscoless, Parisless, concertless, movieless, teachingless, danceless, and unrefreshingless in sleep, so be it. I’ll look for happiness where I can find it and I hope you do too.

© 2018 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. You might also enjoy these: “Top 10 Reasons I Don’t Mind Being Housebound” and “Top 10 Song Titles that Capture Chronic Pain and Illness.