RA Living: Maintaining Your Joy
I am sitting on my front porch drinking my first cup of coffee this morning. The air is fresh with a slight chill. Nothing like drinking hot, steaming coffee on a beautiful fall morning.
The southern sky is a baby blue color today, with muted shades of pink and yellow streaks just above the treeline. The breeze is gentle. The wind chimes are singing a rather lethargic morning song.
I live in the Missouri countryside. It is beautiful here. I find peace when I am quiet and observe nature. I often sit on my front porch and talk to God.
Several people have asked me how I live with the ups and downs of RA. I have thought about this for some time now. My faith in God sustains me.
When I hear the rush of the wind through the trees or see my wild bunny tribe playing around the front lawn, the tension of everyday life just slips away. The noise of the world is gone, and I can focus my thoughts and my emotions.
I see God everywhere in nature. I see the circle of life unfold before my eyes every morning on my front porch.
I've learned many lessons from my wild bunny friends. They have been visiting me for three years. I have a little spot on the lawn I call Heather's carrot garden.
Early morning and early evening, Heather, Harry and Henry come to their garden for carrot treats. They chase each other around in a comical game of "bunny tag", and they make me laugh out loud.
Sometimes they have disagreements. They face-off and jump three feet in the air repeatedly, until one of them runs off. Heather is the matriarch of the tribe. She doesn't run off. Harry and Henry are the "runners".
I have noticed that the bunnies never hold grudges. They forget and go on as though nothing happened. That is a good lesson for all of us to learn.
Living with RA is a challenge, especially when the RA Troll is active and making our lives miserable. When the pain and fatigue is severe, it can be difficult not to give up.
When that happens to me, I listen to my body. I rest as much as possible. I have learned the hard way, that you should never push an RA body when it is flaring.
Most of us have been in a "dark place" at some point in our lives with RA. All one can see at those times is darkness. If we aren't careful, the darkness can summon us into the void, where we would be lost forever.
I have learned that the pain does eventually stop. The fatigue does get better. I hold onto that knowledge and weather each RA storm. At those times, I often think of this verse from Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me."
I am an optimistic person, but we all know RA can turn a sunny outlook into a dark cloud when it rears its ugly head. My faith gives me the strength to resist the call of that particular abyss.
People who live with RA every day often experience isolation. Friends and family frequently try to help by offering advice. They just do not "get it", and their lack of understanding can drive a wedge between them and their loved ones.
How many of us have heard we would be better if we would just exercise more, drink the latest health tonic, or sleep less? While well-intentioned, comments such as these are just plain tiring. We only have so much energy. It seems a waste of precious time to address such uninformed comments.
I don't know about you, but I get cranky when I don't feel well. When I was first diagnosed and learning to live with RA, ignorant comments would leave me rolling my eyes. I had no patience for ignorance.
I am happy to say that I have gained some patience over the years. RA teaches you nothing, if not patience. I don't just roll my eyes now, and walk away. I do my best to explain that RA is not a curable disease. I do my best to educate friends, family, and strangers.
I am able to do this only because of my faith. I realize these people are not trying to hurt me. They are trying to help. I forgive their ignorance. I hold no grudges.
Holding grudges is not good for anyone. Being resentful and angry only hurts the person who is feeling the anger and emotional pain.
If you can forgive the offenders, you will be free. Free to meet new people. Free to start each day with a positive outlook. Free to be happy.
Forgiving others isn't always easy, but it is essential for our emotional well-being. I have found the more I forgive, the easier it gets.
I love life too much to let petty or ignorant comments rule the day. My mantra is this: Do not let anyone steal your joy.
How do you react when others make ignorant and insensitive comments to you about your RA? Do you have any coping mechanisms that might help others in our community move forward? How do you maintain your joy?