In a Facebook Rheumatoid Arthritis group that I’m in, someone posed the question: How did your life get better after being diagnosed with RA?
Not necessarily because of RA, but after you found out you had it?
I marked it, saved it for later for when I was a) not hurting so badly and b) could actually think of ways my life has gotten better.
My answer, when I had sketched it out, was far too long for a Facebook post. In fact, it’s far too long for a single blog entry.
So I present to you, Part One.
I. I have become more mindful.
I say this one first, because it is the foundation for all the rest of the ways my life has improved.
Within the past few months, I have incorporated meditation into my morning routine, a short piece of time where I try to do nothing but follow my breath. It’s a bit funny…everything comes along just as I sit “to sit,” as they say, and that’s when the dog’s butt must be scratched, the wild cat who detests me decides to rub against me, and the cats in the far bedroom knock something over that may or may not make it dangerous to walk into my bedroom.
But I sit.
2. I also take 20 minutes in the morning and use it to attempt to learn something new.
I have what may be a literal ton of books in my house–many of them I haven’t read. I’ve made a vow with a passion that Brienne of Tarth could appreciate: I will not get any new books until I read the ones that I have. I’ve been tested. There are so many things out there I want to read, and I am ever-so-grateful for Amazon’s wish-list feature.
Aah, my precious. Is that an Oathkeeper in your pocket, or are you happy to see me?
But I have so many books that I have and, at one time or another, wanted to read them. So, I read them first.
Right now, for example, I’m reading Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.
I think i won it for raising my hand at a customer service conference I went to several years ago.
It’s a decent read, at least at 20 minutes at a time. I don’t know that it’s affected my behavior in dealing with people. In fact, I don’t know that it’s directly changed anything except pointed out the irrationalities of some of my own behaviors.
It’s just one of many elements that have been introduced within a short amount of time. But I am different. I deal with people differently. I deal with my time differently. I deal with forgiveness differently.
My life has deepened; it has–perhaps not more–but different meaning. What I love has been magnified: a flower that is where it “shouldn’t be,” a shared laugh with a friend, really, really good coffee, the feeling of accomplishment at adding another 1,000 words to the novel.
What I don’t love has lessened or fallen away: the attraction to negativity, the addiction to distraction.
Mindfulness–as it’s progressing for me, anyway–has been the single biggest change in my life, but it has set the stage for every other positive that has happened since I was diagnosed.
It reminds me that flares are temporary, life–with or without flares–is fleeting, and my proverbial clock is ticking. It forces me to examine the question: What do I want to do with my life?
Rumi said, “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
RA has, at the very least, sharpened my focus and led me, perhaps kicking and screaming, in small steps toward the beauty of what I love be what I do.
I won’t go so far to say that “RA is a gift.”
I am SO not that Zen.
But it has brought about changes for which I am grateful.
And that is something.
(Image Sources: Featured Image taken by my cell phone; Brienne with Oathkeeper from HBO’s Game of Thrones found here.)