“Fun” is an F-word that doesn’t have a strong history in our home. My partner and I are from the “nose to the grindstone, make it happen, pursue the American dream” generation. Oh, and we try to live up to the adage “Become the change you wish to see in the world.” We can be intense.
With all those noble ideals, we find that doing fun things is very difficult. We don’t know how people take fun vacations. We have never been successful at doing that. Sure, we want to have fun times in our retirement years, but through all the chronic illness time commitments, chasing that little F-word requires more tweaks in the wellness map.
To illustrate how we can’t accomplish the standard idea of fun, I share this story about our attempts at a honeymoon. The first one — the one usually planned by newlyweds — never happened because my wallet was stolen at the wedding reception. There’s no traveling without credit cards or identification. Four years later, we tried for a second honeymoon. During an idyllic trip to Maine, my wife developed a tremendous migraine — her first — so we cut the trip short.
Twenty years into our marriage, we tried to combine a job relocation/house-hunting expedition/vacation at my new job site in Reno, Nevada, with a stay at a casino. We had the heart-shaped velvet bed and all expenses were paid by the company, but our minds were on finding a rental unit quickly and coordinating a 1,500-mile relocation with the movers. It was the last time we used other people’s definitions of fun as our own.
Forty years post-nuptials, we were more successful in combining a trip to Arizona for a friend’s wedding with exploring the countryside and downtown Phoenix. There were no demands on our time other than dealing with chronic disease symptoms.
Changing behaviors that are so deeply ingrained in our lives is what tweaking the wellness map is all about, and it is never easy. We give ourselves permission to have fun and yet, at the same time, we must balance our plans with our ability to achieve it.
Once, we could be more spontaneous or at least show up for activities that had been on the calendar for weeks. Now, we tentatively agree to be somewhere, but roll with the day when it arrives. We wake up knowing that each day must be faced as it presents itself. If we just don’t have the energy or physical ability to meet that obligation, we change the date and try to not feel guilty.
It may seem strange to give ourselves permission to have fun, but we do this every day. If we listen only to that inner worker voice, then each day is just about the quest to accomplish something. “One more thing off the list!” my wife says, with as much glee as the Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland” ordering heads to be chopped off.
But there is a new voice now. We still wake every day asking ourselves (and each other), “What are we going to accomplish today?” But we know we must be flexible. Is this going to be a good day with enough energy to do what is on the schedule? We give ourselves permission to decline or reschedule activities based on how the day unfolds.
The new normal of traveling with a chronic disease requires a separate medication bag, pillows and a cover in the back seat of the car for those off periods, a cane for days when balance and coordination are a problem, a driving schedule that allows a more leisurely pace, and a calendar that tries not to make too many commitments in a week. We try to plan one meal at a restaurant to take a break from the drive, pull over more frequently at rest areas on the interstates, or make hotel accommodations for the night to rest before tackling the next day’s commitment. More tweaking of the wellness map.
Perhaps we really do have fun. It’s just different from how other folks define it. Playtime and time experiencing a lightness of being are both part of fun and adjusting to Parkinson’s, but so is creativity. Fun is gardening, walking our forest path, genealogy, writing, reading, organizing our mineral collection, watching a movie, and just being together to share the journey. We find our fun applying our talents to creative projects and shared moments together, and not letting chronic disease ruin the day.
How do you find fun in your life?
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.