Updated: Dec 16, 2020
December 9th, 2020
Tomorrow is another day. Carpe Diem. Here today, gone tomorrow.
There are lots of clichés and aphorisms out there about todays and tomorrows, and the great thing about aphorisms is that you can always find one to support your inclinations. Should I stay late and finish this project today? Ah, tomorrow’s another day. Should I get up early and hit the slopes? Carpe Diem!
In another life, in another body not battling daily with Ankylosing Spondylitis, decisions might be simpler. But that’s not my fate. As much as I try to ward off AS symptoms with a ‘not today, fatigue’ in Arya Stark Game of Thrones fashion, it just doesn’t work. So instead here I am, sitting at my laptop, writing a diary-style ode to all those things that will have to wait for tomorrow.
My Thoughts on Any Given Day
I’ve been trying to write a blog post for over a week now, but long and busy work days followed by cooking and household chores in the evening frequently leave me lacking spoons.
The shower is getting grimier by the day. My hips are throbbing, my lower back is so stiff, and though my hands don’t hurt now, they will after scrubbing the tile. What I need is a morning dedicated to all the bending, kneeling, and forceful scouring required when cleaning the bathroom, followed by an afternoon of rest.
That book is calling my name this evening. I’ve only managed to get fifty pages in so far. But do I have the mental stamina necessary to read right now, or should lay down and watch a mindless TV series that asks nothing of me?
My car needs to be cleaned out. It’s dusty and dirty from several dirt-road adventures in the last few months, and scattered with items that I’ve been too tired to bring inside. But I can’t do it today, lest I forfeit the rest of my day to recovery.
Do I cook dinner, or do I go grab take-out? My hand is swollen, so cutting up chicken and vegetables is out of the question. Take-out it is, but somewhere close because it’s getting late, I’m fatigued, and brain fog is starting to set in.
I want to hike. I haven’t been able to for several weeks because of other engagements filling my weekends. Hiking sounds exciting, but staying in means recovering and preparing for a busy work week ahead. How do I make time for both?
Making Plans and Managing Expectations
I write about plans and expectations a lot. To be honest, I spend a lot of time thinking about it too. Whether I’m out exploring a new trail or trying to plan what tasks I can reasonably get done in a day, I’m constantly weighing the benefits of marking something off my list with the drawbacks of depleting my energy reserves.
Granted some days are better than others, but on most days the gap between what I want to accomplish and what I can is wide
Sometimes I have to tell myself that if I don’t get to that thing on my to-do list, it will still be there tomorrow. But isn’t that a double-edged sword? Yes it will still be there for me to complete tomorrow, as in it doesn’t need to be done today. But then it will still be there tomorrow, along with some lingering stress that the thing hasn’t been done yet.
This isn’t a healthy mentality, with or without Ankylosing Spondylitis. But so many of us think this way. As Nick Martin writes in the The New Republic: “This mindset is the natural endpoint of America’s hustle culture—the idea that every nanosecond of our lives must be commodified and pointed toward profit and self-improvement.” That mindset isn't realistic for anyone, never mind someone with a chronic and debilitating illness.
Being Realistic About Ankylosing Spondylitis and Productivity
As difficult as it may be, a chronic illness such as Ankylosing Spondylitis often necessitates an adjustment in work-load and expectations. Granted some days are better than others, but on most days the gap between what I want to accomplish and what I can is wide. And while I don’t always create accurate plans of what I can accomplish in a day before chronic pain and fatigue become overwhelming, I’m learning to manage my stress and disappointment over tasks left undone.
If you’re like me and have been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, know that you’re not alone in your stress, in your fatigue, in your desire to do more than your body will allow. Don’t push yourself and trade in future productivity to get just one more thing done. And make sure to take care of yourself, even if that means leaving tasks for another day.