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My 'To Be' List for Living Peacefully With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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I sit on the lounge, every window open inviting in the cool change brought upon by the heavy rain and storms of the wet season. Raindrops pitter-pattering on my balcony are drowned out by the city sounds of roaring engines and tires slapping at saturated roads. The cool air brings small bumps to my arms and I smile at them, thinking about the heat of the day, the year and the relief of the chill.

It is a new year now and even though I know it is naïve to think today is any different to any other, I can’t bring myself believe anything less. I have never needed a fresh start as badly as I do right now.

The past year was a war of fire and rage inside of my body. The past year I felt robbed and stripped and left broken and vulnerable on the ground. I felt robbed of my abilities, my hobbies, my interests, some of my cognition, my social life, my love of the outdoors, my peace, and my comfort.

I’ve felt robbed of everything; robbed of me.

At the beginning of last year I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and it left me with severe chronic pain, fatigue and low self-worth. My flares last many months at a time and my medication suppressed my immune system so thoroughly that I kept ending up with pneumonia that would last more than a month at a time and stop me in my tracks. I had to stop working, stop exercising, stop going out in the heat, and stop looking after my family and myself. This has impacted every single facet of my family’s life.

But the cool change in the air today and the promise of a new year has me thinking. If a day can go from scorching and burning and stamping my skin with new freckles to suddenly causing pinpricks of coldness to creep across my limbs, then why should I believe I am incapable of affecting changes across my own life in as much time as a year?

I may be fractured and thus a little weaker than I used to be, but I am not entirely crushed. I am not beyond repair. It is entirely possible that, with a little effort to change the way I approach the world, I could find new ways to feel the way the things I used to love, made me feel. It is possible that I could find fulfillment from smaller moments, a slower pace and celebrating victories that are monumental, but might not seem like much only when compared to what I used to be, what I am no longer.

I won’t set resolutions or rules and challenges. I won’t write a list of “to-do’s” and chip away at it, or let it chip away at me. What I will do though, is this: I will set a little list of “to be’s” inside my mind, and I will commit to living to the tune of those. If I can be what I want to be – I will be doing the things I should be doing.

They will be things like:

• Be a person who tries her hardest

• Be a person who is kind to herself

• Be a person who loves, supports and is kind to others

• Be a person who respects her body and its limitations

• Be a person who celebrates and recognizes the little things

• Be a person who takes it day by day, free from expectations

• Be a person who recognizes an opportunity

• Be a person who can let go

It started with a slight breeze, that lead into a wind that pushed balls of white fluff together and lassoed in ominous grey beasts. It followed on with silent streaks of light way in the distance and tiny droplets that made us question, “Is it raining? I’m not sure.” Then there were rumbles that lead to earth shaking cracks that made me jump, water fell so heavy that the gutters began to flood and sharp blades of burning white light split open the horizon. The sunny day became a powerful storm and though its impact was enormous, it was made only of many small changes.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 27, 2017
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