One. Day. At. A. Time.

So now, the dragon is gnawing and blowing searing-hot breath onto the bottoms of my feet, mainly at the base of my toes.

It’s been so long since he did that.

I could do without the reminder. Although my life was full of wonder and adventure back then —I was living and working in Germany during the final years of the Cold War and the joyous fall of the Berlin Wall—I was also struggling with daily, almost unremitting pain on a scale that I’d never before experienced. RD attacked my body and joints within months of arriving there.

This pain, in the here and now, isn’t as awful as it was back then. I say that a lot in these posts, and it’s true, but sometimes I feel like I’m apologizing for complaining about it at all. But pain is pain, and it still takes a moment-by-moment toll on the way I live and work. I wake, as I used to, wondering how on Earth I’ll push through it all day. Simply getting out of bed is demoralizing.

Maybe what I’m feeling now is a sort of weary disbelief. My RD was dormant and mild for so many years, I held onto the hope that it might stay that way. After all, I broke down and started seeing a rheumatologist when the dragon began nibbling on my hands again. I started taking drugs for RD—something I’d decided I’d never bother with again after their spectacular failure during my first 10 years with the disease. I was proud of myself for taking this preventive step; for facing the slow re-awakening of my nemesis head on with humor and bravery.

I guess I hoped I’d headed the monster off at the pass. I don’t want to believe he was too big for me.

With my hands constantly swollen, sore, and achy, and now my feet falling under attack as well, I find myself waiting—with some fear, I’ll admit—for the next blow. What will it be? A knee? A big toe? A shoulder? My rheuma-dragon’s ally, hip bursitis, is flaring again, as well—perhaps it’s in training for a ferocious, full-on attack.

I’m trying not to be discouraged. I recognize that stress, in all its forms, affects RD negatively. My stress levels have risen recently, it’s true, though I reject being stressed by finally having work to accomplish each week. I love freelancing. I love writing. I love being paid for my skill and my work. How could it cause me any stress? I don’t feel stressed over it. I approach my desk with pleasure each day.

And yet, the reality is that deadlines are stressful, and stress—even mild stress—creates whatever those chemicals are in my body that trigger more flares. Just acknowledging that stresses me. The hard fact is that there’s no such thing as a blissful little stress-free bubble for me—or anyone else—to live inside of. The only way we achieve that is by dying.

I’d rather not do that, just yet.

The other, more obvious source of stress (and in turn, increased RD activity) is preparing to move mom into a new home. (And me with her, of course.) We’re presently in the serious process of looking for an apartment or condo to rent or lease—and discovering just how appallingly small even “large” apartments really are, along with their equally appalling prices. To move into one we can afford, Mom must discard, donate, pass along to me and my sister, or sell ¾ of her current belongings. To say that everything she possesses is coated in a thick patina of memories and sentiment is an understatement. And she’s soldiering on, but she’s grieving. She knows this move, which will strip her of most of her physical reminders of a cherished past, will be her last, a final defeat as the generous nest egg Dad left her dwindles away in an ever more expensive and bewildering world. Her courage humbles me.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m stressed just witnessing the process.

Now add to all that, that Mom and I interact with each other, daily, with the underlying tension of the universal mother-daughter relationship. Add to that two strong women living in a single household in which one has the power and authority of age, relationship, and ownership, and the other has, well, none of the above.

Stressful? Yes. I can’t wait for this move to be over with.

I worry about Mom, too. Her physical health is, naturally, fragile and slowly becoming more so. She’s 82, after all. Her short term memory is increasingly spotty—and her long-term memory is starting to show distortions, too. I’m fearful that this move will exhaust her, forcing her to watch, helpless and powerless, from the sidelines as her incompetent, lazy elder daughter dismantles and discards her life.

Stressful. So stressful.

Well, there’s nothing I can do about any of this except roll with it. And try not to get too stressed. [laughing] I’ll just acknowledge that my rheuma-dragon has cleverly chosen to launch his real attack at the most opportune time for him, and defend myself as best I can. I’ll meditate. Try to get out for a walk each morning. Breathe. Pace myself. Rest when I can. Take my meds and push on through. This is a big ol’ bump in the road, but it will be behind me by summer’s end.

I’ll just take it one day at a time.