2016 has been a mixed bag, for myself personally as well as the rest of the world. We’ve lost a lot of famous faces to the “2016 Curse”, Trump somehow won the election, the UK voted for Brexit, the NHS is stretched beyond capacity, public services are striking, terrorism has ripped apart lives, and war has devastated countries. It’s an uncertain and worrying time, and that can shake the foundations upon which we are supposed to stand going into the New Year.
But there are lessons to be learned from all of this, bonds that form in the face of adversity against a shared challenge, a sense of renewed strength and purpose and gratefulness. There are continued medical and technical advances, more social movements and small strides made towards fighting ignorance and supporting those in need. Our own challenges, struggles and tragedies serve to make us wiser, stronger, more resilient.
Stepping into 2017, the one thing known for certain is that things are uncertain. I sometimes find dealing with uncertainty very uncomfortable, perhaps because of my slight “control freak” nature (or so I’ve been told!) I like to know what’s going on, I like to have a plan. But it’s just not always possible. You can’t plan for literally every eventuality, and you certainly can’t control the events around you, nor the people around you and what they choose to do.
With invisible illnesses, many of them are unpredictable. You don’t know how you’re going to feel from one hour to the next, let alone the next day, week or month. You may not know where you’re going in terms of the next test you need done, treatment to try, A&E admission, surgery. You may not know if you’ll be able to plan doing something the following weekend because you don’t know if you’ll have the energy to or whether exhaustion or pain or illness will wipe out your plans.
I’ve noticed a similar pattern time and time again when I have stressed about doing something, whether it’s small like what to eat one evening or something a bit bigger like taking a day trip somewhere. I can think and plan and stress, and then make a decision. Then along comes my broken body and messes it all up – that’s what they say about “best laid plans”, because no matter how hard you try, they don’t always work out!
When faced with uncertainty, we can be compelled to try to grasp hold of whatever we can and gain control of our lives. I do this, with varying degrees of effectiveness. It’s reassuring to think that you can build up your own comfort zone and stay in your safe bubble, controlling as much as you can within your life. The problem is, not only can you miss out on life this way, but you feel more shaken and lost when something shakes your safely constructed bubble.
Going with the flow and embracing change and uncertainty is hard, but it’s possible. The first place to start is knowing that whatever happens, you can and will deal with it. Whatever happens, things will be okay.
Think of the last time you dealt with something unexpected. Maybe you handled it well, maybe you struggled. But you got through it, you survived it, and you probably, if you think about it, learned from it. In fact, letting go of some of the need to control things can be liberating, once you push past the initial fear and resistance.
So whether you think you have 2017 all planned out, or whether you’re worried about so many things and feeling out of control and reluctant to step away from your comfort zone, rest assured that you’re not the only one feeling the fear of uncertainty. For 2017, one of the things I would like to do is let go of some of my need to plan and stress and control, to open myself to new experiences and save the energy I would normally spend worrying on either much needed rest or on actually living. A New Year can bring a lot of emotions to the fore, from past regrets to high expectations and pressures. It’s hard to cope with uncertainty on top of that, both in terms of the year in general and your body and health.
But know this : Whatever happens, you can deal with it. Whatever happens, you will find a way to adapt. You are stronger than you think, and whatever 2017 throws your way, you will fight and you will survive.