Feb. 18, 2014

Finding the Energy to Play

By Cindy Coney, former National Board Chair of Lupus Foundation of America

Earlier in the week, I woke up, tossed on my shorts and headed out for my morning walk. About half way out the door, I realized it was raining. This is not a common occurrence in Tampa, so it caught me by surprise. I stood in the doorway and listened for a moment; no thunder rumbled, no lightning flashed, so I figured it was safe to head out. (Tampa is the lightning capital of the world, so always better to be safe than sorry. I figure it defeats the whole purpose of exercising for health if you get struck by lightning!) Trading my usual sunglasses and visor for a giant purple umbrella, I proceeded with my walk.

I must admit, it’s been a long time since I intentionally walked in the rain. I remember the fun it was as a child to play in the rain with my friends, or to turn on the hose and run through the yard in my bathing suit squealing with laughter as drops of water from the sprinkler showered down on us. But, as with many of the other things that made us laugh and giggle as children, somewhere along the journey to adulthood the fun of being soaking wet lost its appeal. (Or perhaps it is the thought of running through the yard in my bathing suit?!) Yet playfulness is one of the hallmarks of resiliency.

When I am sick, or my physical energy seems to be lagging behind my energetic mind, I miss the ability to exercise my playful spirit and it makes me sad. Somewhere buried deep within, I am always a fun loving, somewhat zany, creative soul who loves to laugh and smile. (I do laughingly tell my daughters that if I become senile in my old age, it’s going to be hard for them to tell because my zaniness often makes me look a bit off kilter already!) Yet, on my slow days, I have trouble accessing that part of myself. It sometimes feels as if a blanket has been draped over my best parts and I’m left with the bits I don’t like as well. I think, for me, not always having the energy to “play” is the hardest part of living with chronic illness. Yet I do know that if I don’t find a way to access this part of me for a long period of time, depression and sadness are likely to creep in uninvited.

During these periods, I’ve found that it is extremely important for me to stay connected to friends; to recognize my current state, work with what I have and where I am, and find ways to add some fun into my life. This is not always easy for me, especially on those slow days when it would take much less energy to just stay home and rest. And while rest is often exactly what I need to do, it is important that, when possible, I make a little more effort to have some fun. It might be watching something funny on TV-though I’m not sure how many more times I’m going to find Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates in their mouths funny, but so far so good! Some days it is a funny book, movie, or conversation with a friend. It doesn’t matter what I amuse myself with; the point is that I’ve got to get out of my own darkness and reconnect to my little fun loving unsinkable spirit.

Now, for those of you who know me, don’t worry; I have no intention of donning my bathing suit and running under the hose in my front yard anytime soon. But when you see me on my walk under the big purple umbrella remember, I’m simply refusing to let lupus rain on my parade!

Cindy Coney, a nationally recognized speaker and former National Board Chair of the Lupus Foundation of America, was diagnosed with lupus in 1980.  Drawing on her own zest for living, Cindy has assisted thousands in moving beyond “coping” with limitations to discovering their own unsinkable spirits. From coaching individuals living with chronic illness to delivering keynote addresses and trainings, she dedicates her life to helping children and adults live the best life possible. Cindy is also the author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Living with Chronic Illness. Learn more about Cindy, read her blog, or contact her by visiting CindyConey.com.

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