Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
- John Lennon
No one ever plans for a chronic illness, writing down "develop rheumatoid arthritis" complete with hearts enthusiastically dotting the I's on their list of things to accomplish in life. We plan for education, finding love, having kids, learning to speak a second language or play the guitar and mastering the art of perfect cinnamon toast. But medication, pain and fatigue? Definitely not on the short list.
And then it happens anyway and it feels as if your life has been hijacked and nothing is ever the same again. RA affects every aspect of your life, what you feel like when you wake up, the clothes you wear, the job you do and how - or if - you cut vegetables for dinner. It feels as if RA has you in its teeth, never letting go and as you grieve the loss of your healthy self, you wonder what will happen to the life you'd planned - must you grieve the loss of that, as well?
When I was younger, during the moments of being deep in despair about the unfairness of what RA did to my life, a despair often tinged with rage, after listening to me rant, my father would ask "who promised you life would be fair?" It was a trigger for me, a way to elicit a rueful smile and a joking mention that I distinctly remembered a fairy godmother saying words to that effect. There's nothing like a bit of reality to deflate a good tantrum.
These words my father said were a way to get me out of the depths, a way to nudge my sense of humor, but also a way to nudge my reason. Because he was right. No one ever promised us that life would be fair. We like to pretend so, disappearing into a fairy tale of living happily ever after, having perfect health into old age, stability in work, children who never act out and getting everything we deserve. And when the bubble of illusion bursts, we react as if a fairy godmother had indeed stood over our crib, cooing into our drooling infant faces and waving a magic wand, promising us a smooth ride. We stomp our feet and hiss that it isn't fair - metaphorically, if not literally, as stomping your feet might hurt when you have RA - we wonder what we did to deserve this, trying to link a cause-and-effect to make it easier to understand. But the truth is this: RA is not a punishment for misdeeds, it just is. There is no reason beyond a malfunctioning autoimmune system and as for that fairy godmother? She was never there.
There is one constant in life, one thing that you can count on: change. Some changes are initiated by you, others are thrust upon you through what happens to the people you love, to your employer, to a stranger, to a cell within your body. Some changes you control, others will throw your life into turmoil. What matters is how you adapt.