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The Joy and Pain in These Hands Affected By Arthritis

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Every morning, just before I open my eyes, I do a scan of how my body is feeling in this restful moment. Most days, it’s the pain that wakes me, but on an exceedingly rare day, I will wake first but know the challenges are just awaiting me. Today was one of those mornings. I felt the dog jump onto the bed before my focus was snatched away with the pain.

Today, after doing too much yesterday, my body was mad — actually, it felt outraged. As I took my hands and pulled back my bedding, I clenched my teeth from the pain from the arthritis in my hands.

I had to stop myself right there because I was starting to feel sullen. Why is such a simple task bringing me another layer of pain? (I have lived with chronic pain for nearly 20 years but arthritis has only been part of my journey these last five years). I sat up, and I thought about how I was going to make it through this day. I had to make a choice on how I was going to look at this unremarkable day. So, I chose to focus on the one thing that started this day with pain — my hands.

How could I accept and change this situation that I was so frustrated with? My hands… as I sat on the side of the bed, I looked at these hands. Hands that look like my mother’s and grandmother’s hands. I wanted to change my perspective about these hands in this moment of pain, so I focused on all the memories these hands have shared with me.

These hands: I remember holding my maternal grandfather’s hand as we walked to the store to get his pipe tobacco. His were warm and strong, mine little and innocent. As a child, these hands played in the mud and helped develop my love for arts and crafts. These hands waved to my friends as I approached a day of fun and learning at school. These hands hugged my siblings in times of joy and sorrow.

These hands held my schoolbooks as my husband approached me for the first time in high school. These were the hands that held love letters from my soul mate. These hands wrote letters to my grandparents who always enjoyed hearing from me. These were the hands that held the hot chocolate on the cold autumn nights as I watched my husband play football when we were just teenagers.

These hands held my husband’s as we said our wedding vows. These hands held the papers showing the results of the pregnancy test for each of our children. These hands have lovingly washed each of our newborn children. These hands have held each of the newborns’ hands as we marveled at the perfection before us. These hands have held the hands of our children when they needed comfort throughout their lives.

These hands have held the hands of my father and grandmother as they took their last breath. These hands have held my cane when I needed that support after I had each stroke. These hands have held hundreds of books throughout my life, helping me learn and enjoy words. These hands have provided millions of words that were shared when I wrote a letter or typed a note.

These hands have been broken and mended. These hands have allowed me to quietly move a piece of hair off my husband’s face as he sleeps (and I can’t help making a note that this was when he had hair!). These hands have clapped with happiness and joy. These hands have wiped thousands of tears from my eyes.

These hands have made food to nourish my family. These hands have held fishing rods, flown kites and picked flowers. These hands have held the steering wheel as I have driven to see the doctors. These hands have given each of our sweet animals pats throughout their lives.

These hands have been part of me for my entire life, through everything I have ever experienced. These hands have connected me to the world I live in every day. So how can I be so hard on these poor hands when they have given me so much?

Perspective changed: I am grateful that I have these hands and they are here, regardless of the pain they give me, because they have given me so much throughout my life. They are here and so am I.

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Originally published: April 13, 2021
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