If you have ever wanted to dream about having a life that is different than the one you are currently living, you are not alone. And if you need any additional help in imagining a life different than the one you have, just go find a 6-year-old. My son seems to start every sentence with "Mom, let's pretend..."

In just the last few weeks I have pretended to be a chef, mailman, grocery store clerk, librarian, waitress, and a clerk at a DVD rental place.

My son has been a stranger who knocks on our front door and wears 3D glasses (from a movie we saw, but didn't put on at all for the film)

He has been the adventurous Indiana Jones with his hat and whip, while I've been his sidekick to back him up when being attacked by a man-eating plant.

I've pretended I am a gardener who comes to shape his shrubs into topiaries.

We've been American Idols singing the Beach "Guys" (his words).

And I've repeatedly had to pretend to be frightened by fake roaches, a giant squid and rubber lizards.

It can be fun and entertaining to see what scenario he comes up with next. He claims the roles of director, producer and guest star. Now if he can just write the theme song I will have a little Clint Eastwood on my hands. But of course, he'd rather be Harrison Ford (you can't beat the guy who stars in both Indiana Jones and Star Wars!)

It seems there is a never a scene I have gotten right the first time. The director always thinks I can put more energy into my role and show my emotions better. It makes me want to get rid of the Indy dolls and go buy myself a Barbie and just sit around and have fashion shows.

A few times after we've done "Take 7," creatively fatigued and I've told him, "Mommy is tired of pretending to be scared. I just want to rest. Go get Daddy."

Are you asking yourself, "What does this have to do with living with a chronic illness? How does this make a different in my dealing of my chronic illness?" I think that living with an illness requires a certain ability to be able to pretend.

There is a new commercial for rheumatoid arthritis, the illness I live with, and the commercial actually makes sense to me instead of causing me to groan. It has a split screen on the television and the actor lives her "actual life" on the left side and then (after taking the medication of course) it shows her living the life she had been living previous to her diagnosis. She crosses over from one side of the screen to the other. The right side of the screen may be as ordinary as sharing dinner with her family (no water skiing or tennis tournaments in this one thankfully.)

There will always be seasons in our lifetime when the drugs don't work like they promised or we've developed a tolerance. Perhaps they are no longer available or we can just no longer afford them. No matter how hard we try to make wise choices or pray for relief, we cannot seem to cross over to the right side of that television screen and live the life we want to be living. But we do have the gift and choice of being able to just pretend. What do I mean?

There are moments when I don't FEEL like participating in anything. I don't want to "go do something fun." I don't want to get out of the house. I feel terrible. I am aching and just want quiet. But we still have to take the step forward sometimes and just "pretend" we do. We have to choose to go through the motions. And guess what? The results may actually come as a surprise!

For example, recently my parents were here for a visit and we wanted Papa to be able to take my son fishing off the dock at a little local lake. We enthusiastically packed everything up, including a picnic lunch on Monday, but when we got there the lake was "closed for fishing Mondays." Who knew that maybe the fish needed a Sabbath too?

So before Grammy and Papa left, we were determined to get that adventure in and we ended up rushing over one night twenty minutes before the lake closed at dusk. When my husband came home from work, I said, "We're going to the lake in five minutes. Grab your stuff and let's go."

Truthfully, I was sore and flaring. I would not have felt a loss if I had just stayed home. I wasn't able to walk down to the dock where the fishing was legal and see them anyway, but I knew my son desperately wanted "the whole family" to go and I didn't want to disappoint him. I went.

And you know what I found? A beautiful, peaceful lake that had hardly a soul on it. Just sitting on the patio deck by the tackle store was relaxing and rejuvenating and I will back there again soon, especially when I am working on my next book.

If you have a chronic illness than you have a body that is telling you "Stop; don't; be careful; you shouldn't; not a good idea; rest; skip it."

It's shrewd to know when to heed this guidance, for example you never want to push yourself during chronic post-surgical pain. But if you try to do it all, you will make your illness even worse and never learn the art of boundaries and energy conservation. And this is something you need to know to live a successful life with a chronic illness.

But you also much recognize when to ignore what your body. A great deal of time chronic pain, for example the condition called fibromyalgia, is treated with depression medication. If your body is whispering "no!" to you answer back, "Why not? What's the worse thing that can occur? I'm going to go for it! It will be okay; I will be careful; Just this once." And of course, "I'll just pretend."

I am not advocating ignoring your emotions, especially if you are dealing with a depression that will not go away. However, there have been many studies around the globe that prove that being an optimist can increase your health and longevity. One study found the people who considered themselves pessimists were 3 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack or need to repeat their surgical heart procedures within 6 months. How you react to what your mind tells you does make a significant difference.

There are hundreds of books that will tell you how to improve the management of your chronic illness, but you may be surprised to find that with just a few choices, you are realigning your actual life on the left side of the screen to the right side, coming closer each day to the actual life that you wanted to live.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Copen is the founder of Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week held annually in Sept and featuring a free 5-day virtual conference w/ 20 speakers. Follow II Week on Twitter for prizes and info. Blog about invisible illness on your site, be a featured guest blogger, meet others, read articles and lots more. Make a impact today!