Argh. Another achy day. Hips, wrists, knuckles. None of it bad enough to justify any prolonged whining, but all of it bad enough to aggravate me and make me grumpy.
Because, let’s face it, it’s tiresome to hurt all the time. It’s boring. Pain—even the kind that hovers around the middle of the pain scale—affects everything in subtle ways. It doesn’t always stop me from doing the things I need or want to do. I can empty the dishwasher. I can chunk firewood into the stove. I can handle wet laundry and prepare a meal.
I just can’t do them without gritting my teeth or, in an unguarded moment, wincing.
It’s the sudden attacks that get me. Like when I’m picking up the heavy cutting board to wash it off, and the rheuma dragon viciously stabs the back of my left hand, making me nearly drop the thing on my foot. Or the way he randomly makes my fingers slow and clumsy as I reach down to clip the leash onto wee Fin’s collar.
Now, these are little things. They’re nothing like the pain I used to endure. That pain was huge and overwhelming. It forced me to limp, and sometimes, not to walk at all. Getting dressed was, well, a pain. Fixing my hair and putting on makeup before work was a mini-marathon and I hadn’t even left home yet, the long day of endurance stretching out before me. Driving my car, which had a manual transmission, required inner-strength and tenacity that, when I think back about it, amazes me.
Today I cuss quietly because I’m a little scared when I need to take Shadow out for a constitutional. He’s very big and very young, and while he’s good for me on the leash and restrains himself and walks slowly with me rather than leaping into a wild, energetic gallop (sweet dog!), he still pulls hard enough to hurt. A few weeks ago, in a forgetful moment, he twisted and yanked—and my middle left finger got caught up in the leash. The joint at my fingertip bruised and hurt for days afterward. I was afraid I’d broken it, but it’s OK now.
Having rheuma means that I must do everything with care. That gets boring, too. And if I forget? Ouch.
There was a time, in the longago, that I was unwilling to believe that I would have RA for the rest of my life. I got lucky, too, and for a good long stretch the dragon hibernated. I lived for many years almost pain-free, like a normal person. But he woke up transmogrified into a different beast, one that was subtler, sneakier. My cane lives in the trunk of my car. I don’t use it—but I know where it is. I don’t have crutches in the closet anymore. I don’t make ED docs roll their eyes.
Today my defenses are smaller, but they’re no less intrusive. Supportive compression gloves that keep my hands warm (and hopefully, flexible). A paraffin bath, always switched on, ready for the moment I hope to soothe the aches. Tramadol rather than Vicodin, and a handful of other pills that I take religiously, praying to the disability gods for mercy as I swallow them and try to have faith.
And I tell myself, every day, to be mindful and grateful for the gift of less pain.
We are amazingly resilient, us human beings. We keep on keeping on even in the worst of circumstances. Mine are not “worst” right now. It’s good to remind myself of that on days like today, when all the small aches and sharp twinges make me feel worn down before the day has even got a proper start. Today I want to do some work outside, to get a start on the annual autumn raking and sweeping, pruning and neatening. The weather is perfect—cool and sunny—and the colors … oh, the colors. So I’ll get out there now. And as I do, I’ll remember to be grateful that I can.