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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ever thankful...

          Some might wonder what a person with RA has to be thankful for and at first glance it does give one pause.  But when I take stock of life in general and see the war torn countries or disaster ravaged corners of the the world I know that I have much to be thankful for.  RA, whether you ascribe to the roots of it coming from fate, environment, genetics, etc. forces you to consider components of your life you might otherwise ignore.
     By looking at the "big picture" you can begin to see that we have much to be thankful for!  In addition to the elements of life that make our very existence worthwhile - and here I am referring to family, friends, work and community life - I am so very grateful for others who support me in this RA journey..namely my Rheumatologist and his wonderful staff, the local pharmacist who is so considerate and caring, the various surgical teams that have worked on my joints over the year, keeping me moving and able to continue to work and stay active. 
      Without the dedicated care and patience of my ENTIRE team I would be far less happy and satisfied with my life. It is actually fortunate that we have a time of year that was historically developed to bring our country together following the divisiveness of the Civil War and has evolved into a time of general thanks for all that we have to be grateful for.  Thanks to Abraham Lincoln for this holiday!
     He understood the need to take time to express gratitude for our well being and believed it would bring people together.  Little did he know it would become such a profound holiday. Thanks, Abe!
          RA does provide me with a unique perspective on life that cannot be dismissed...I have fine tuned my ability to appreciate each and every day.  More specifically my gratitude for feeling good and enjoying being active and mobile.
     It is a perspective that only another person who has to juggle the realities of a chronic disease can appreciate.  Each day as I move through the day (both figuratively and literally) I am keenly aware of my joints, the pain or lack of, the range of motion or lack of, the strength or lack of.  These "sensitivities" are a normal part of my day now...not so pre RA.  
     The highs and lows of RA are part of why we are so finely tuned to our bodies and able to deeply appreciate the "good" days and despise the "bad" days. 

      I have times when I am simply walking outdoors and every sense is so sharp I can smell the air, feel the light breeze, see the mountains that surround our home in sharp contrast to the beautiful cloudless sky, hear the wind howling as I circle the corner to head back home, taste the snowflakes as they land on my lips - all while truly feeling deep and profound thanks for being able to experience all of that despite the RA!  I truly believe that if there is a positive to be gleaned from having a chronic disease it is this ability to feel a depth of gratitude that is unique to RA sufferers.  
      So my wish for each of you is to reflect on what you have to give thanks for this year, no matter how large or small it may is an exercise well worth your time!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Keeping Pace...

     Despite this being a wonderful, joy filled time of year it often brings with it demands that can overwhelm those of us with RA or other chronic conditions.

     My personal mantra during this time has been PACE YOURSELF NAN!  I find that the more I remind myself of this simple but difficult practice the more likely it will become part of my daily course of action.
     In addition, this is the time of year when all the tasks that lay before us can seem so overwhelming that we forget to be "in the moment", enjoying and finding pleasure in this special time of year.  One of the lessons I have learned after many years (and many craze filled holidays!) is the following; as we move through life what we do and how much we do it can be refined and adjusted depending on our life circumstances and IT IS OK!  Everyone will still have a wonderful holiday season even if you don't make "grandma's famous sage turkey stuffing" this year.  It took time and sadly, painful joints, for me to realize that I needed to step back from some of the tasks that really, in the end, did not make or break the joy of family time spent together. In fact, as my family pointed out (over and over I might add until I was finally able to shed the guilt I seemed to wear like a second skin) they would rather I take stock and do less and/or do it differently than overdo and end up spending far less quality time with them.  
     And if you really stop to think about the true purpose of family time it is quite simple...making memories that will be fondly stored in your mind to be "taken out" and reflected on for years to come - that is what makes these holidays truly special!
     So try to focus on what you absolutely have to do and beyond that - really take a moment to examine if it HAS TO BE DONE or - is it just that you are having trouble letting go of it because it is something you have always done....big difference and one that bears some reflection.  Because you will find that your holidays are a lot more enjoyable and less stressful when you can learn to let go and pace yourself to accomplish those tasks you simply cannot dismiss.  
    For instance I do an annual family calendar each year filled with photos from the previous year.  This is a big job for sure but one that I refuse to abandon, irregardless of the time and effort as it is one that we all cherish and so it rises to the top of my priorities....and there is the key...PRIORITIZE!
     Learning this one lesson can be the single best strategy for having, not only, more pleasant and less painful holidays, but also will give you peace of mind you never knew was possible!  I tend to like doing this in my work life anyway so it was not a stretch to carry it over more often to my personal life.  Frankly, once RA became a constant companion I knew that I needed to make room for that in my life by determining what needed to be done and when (or at all!).

     That meant taking stock of who I am NOW (in all its glory) and how does that translate into how I function during busy and stressful times in such a way that I, #1 - don't flare, and #2 - enjoy those times and #3 don't have guilt over it!  That is the perennial challenge for anyone with a chronic disease that has periods of flaring and remitting.  

     After years (15+) of RA I do know a lot more about this whole concept than I often think I's all about trusting your instincts and knowing your body.  As we all know, RA has a mind of its own which it is not always easy to "read" but if you really learn from the past you can at least make some judgment calls that will likely be successful!

     Lincoln was quite the philosopher and this is one of my favorite quotes of his...and for those of us with RA there are elements of truth here that are quite profound.   By adopting the suggestions we have gone over here, you are, in fact, becoming the master of your own much as you can with chronic disease...and that means you can create your own future if you choose to be deliberate and thoughtful in how you approach life.  Something as simple as waking up with a positive outlook can influence the nature of your day from start to finish!  
     So, during this highly stressful but fun and joy filled holiday season take a moment to review the strategies discussed and I guarantee you will enjoy yourself this season!