Thursday, June 20, 2013
A Chance encounter
I had one of the most uplifting experiences of my life last week and I want to share it here on my blog because it is surprisingly tied to my RA journey.
I was at the pool where I do my water workouts, enjoying the solitude and physical pleasure that I derive every time I get into the water! This time, thanks to the relative calm I am enjoying with my RA at the moment, I decided to up my workout by adding some time to my jogging and laps. I also added 5 repetitions per strength training exercise (I do about 20 different aqua strength training exercises). All of this meant that it was a more vigorous workout than usual and the occasional sounds of exertion I made supported the intensity of the work I was doing!
I had been alone in the pool for the first 15 minutes or so when another woman came into the pool area and after a brief glance/smile of acknowledgment to one another she entered the pool and began her own workout. To be honest I really did not pay any attention to the woman the remainder of my time in the pool as I really enjoy my time alone and I listen to music on my waterproof MP3 player while working out. So it came as a surprise when she entered the locker room later and as I was finishing up and getting ready to leave she said hi and said "Thank you so much for being here today. You were a real inspiration to me!" I said thanks but in what way? She proceeded to tell me her story.
It seems her mother to whom she was very close, had passed away just a few months ago and she was really having a tough time handling her death which was quite sudden. She had not been able to "get out of bed" for months and she was really trying hard to change that pattern. She said they had both been very physically active, ski instructors, etc. and she worked out at the gym we were both at. She even pointed to her locker and commented on how it had been sitting there, filled with her workout gear for months, untouched, unused. She said when she had awakened this morning she decided to come to the the gym and see if she could give it a shot. She said she really did not expect to do much of anything but something told her to give it a try. As she came into the pool area and entered the water she noticed that I was really working hard and as she said "I could tell that it was not easy for you and after watching you for several minutes I decided that if you could do it so could I and it worked. Your dedication and attitude shown through in every exercise and movement and it was so motivational I cannot thank you enough. I felt so much better when I got out of the pool knowing that I had taken that first step back. I really believe this is the first day of the rest of my life and I have you to thank!"
We both stood in silence, tears in our eyes, really unable to speak for a moment. Finally I said how lovely it was to know that I had made a difference for her, even though I had no idea! We chatted some more during which I mentioned that I had RA and as a result my workouts were a real respite for me...something I cherished as I had given up so many activities over the years because I simply could no longer do them. Pool workouts offered me the chance to stay physically active and psychologically healthy as well.
We exchanged names, goodbyes and said we likely would see one another again. I headed out to my car. I have a short but lovely drive home (every drive in Vermont is beautiful!) and as I drove I began to quietly tear up again as I considered the "chance encounter" I had just had and just what it meant to me.
Over the 17+ years of having RA I have come to accept that I have to make adjustments in many areas of my life. Not a big deal. Just a fact that is part of successfully managing a chronic progressive disease. That said, changing and adjusting what I am able to do to stay physically active has been one of the areas that is the most challenging to adapt to. I used to run, play tennis, dance, etc. Over time I have had to give up a number of these but I have learned that it can be done! And it can actually open up new avenues of movement and exercise that I would never have explored - like Tai Chi AND doing strength training and jogging in the water!
The point of discussing this is twofold. First of all it tells you the level of persistence you have to have and nurture to continue to find ways to stay active and keep moving when dealing with a disease that seems to rob you of your choices and ability to freely move. Secondly and this is where the story comes back full circle. Due to the fact that I have some limitations on what I can do and how well I do them, I never in my wildest dreams would have expected someone to declare that I had inspired them with my physical activity! That fact alone was so uplifting and thrilling to me it made me feel elated for some time. And now when I am feeling frustrated with what I cannot do, with my pain, with my limitations, with what has been taken away, I can look back on that moment, that conversation and remember that feeling of pride and joy. I am sure it will sustain me for a long time and the hope it generates will keep me going even when the dark times find there way into my life as they surely will.
So when you are wondering if your actions or attitude impact another person, remember that when you least expect it you may positively effect someone. So stay open to those "chance encounters" because you just never know what joy and happiness it might reap. Always know that the wheel of humanity is what keeps us all living a happy and successful life!