For those of you who had braces as a kid, I'm hoping you can relate. For exactly one year in middle school, I wore braces. Then came the hard part - the retainer. Since it wasn't attached, the responsibility was on me to wear it. Or should I say, the responsibility was on my mom to make me wear it, since she and my dad were footing the bill for my orthodontia work, and it was clear they were going to get a return on their investment.
But fast forward 25 years, and the investment in my orthodontia, or rather, lack of investment, has now become my issue. Over the years, I've continued to wear a retainer at night - but it's been anything but consistent. I wore it when it was convenient, or when I remembered, or when I noticed my teeth shifting a bit. But about a year ago, sweet little Darwin decided he wanted to try on my retainer, and then my mangled retainer was no longer. So I needed a new one, but I put it off, and put it off some more. Just recently, I mentioned to my dentist that my teeth had moved significantly, and that I was ready to do a little crunching to get them back in shape. And he took pity on me (or maybe it was on Darwin), and offered to fit me for a new retainer at no charge. Sweet! I could get my new retainer, crunch my teeth a bit, and then go back to my inconsistent, yet sufficient retainer-wearing routine. But for now, my dentist wants results. He wants me to wear it as much as possible for at least the first few weeks, and then he'll see. He knows I have no intention of wearing a retainer day and night for the rest of my life...but he does want to move this crunching process along, so that in a month, I can just work on retaining, not crunching.
But I got to tell you - I'm finding it very hard to "remember" to wear it. The motivation just isn't there, mostly because I think the money isn't there. Without the financial investment, it's hard to force myself to wear it. I was honest with him that I wasn't going to be able to wear it much during the day, but I committed to wearing it during nights and naps, and any other down time that I could find. But even that's tough...when there's nothing but a little slap on the wrist at stake, it's hard to make the commitment.
And this made me think about the unique investment we have to make when we commit to living well, which isn't so much of a financial investment, as an emotional one.
When we decide to start making good, healthy decisions, we don't pay a membership fee to keep us committed to that healthier lifestyle. There's no money at stake when we decide to make adjustments to our lifestyle, cut back at work, or alter our daily routine. Sure, there are financial consequences to these decisions, but the financial investment isn't there to motivate us - so we have to come up with an emotional investment that's just as compelling. Our obligation to living well has to be rooted in knowing that on the other side of those healthy choices is a life worth living. One filled with happiness, mobility, fulfillment, and longevity.
So for me, I set goals - big goals that reminded me of where I wanted to be down the road, and little teeny goals that logged baby steps of improvement. I knew I wasn't going to go from debilitating flare-status on Monday to totally manageable lupus status on Tuesday. There was a lot of time, patience, and effort involved in making that big of a leap. But my goals kept me going.
What was one of my big goals? The prospect of having children. I knew that the only way I was going to get a shot at becoming a mom was to get as healthy, strong, and stable as possible. And to do that, I had to be on my best behavior - frequently. So that big goal was broken down into small daily goals - since the more often I napped, the more I attempted to cut out stress from my life, and the more successful I was at eliminating "shoulds" from my to-do lists - the closer I got to my goal,
It's not a perfect system - and there are no guarantees, just as there are no guarantees when money's involved either. But figure out your emotional carrot, and you're that much closer to sticking with the program of living well, despite lupus!