It's time to celebrate the birth of a new year! Dig up your slumbering and buried Januaries past; what promises did you make and break? Which infants' cries did you neglect as you plodded through February doldrums? Did you make a clean getaway, or do you wince each time you look yourself in the mirror? I have a proposition for you: this year instead of handling your resolution with kid gloves, handle yourself with perfect attention.
A summer snapshot taken around the time I started writing this blog reveals more than my mirror ever did. I see the delicate crows-feet taking shape at the corner of my eyes. Edges of my lips carved into what should be a smile, but the rest of the face doesn't allow for it. My skin is lightly freckled from the sun and thinned out from years on Prednisone. The portrait is pensive, resigned. I don't recognize this person and yet she is my avatar to the world.
The picture was a surprise, she is not what I see in the mirror. I expected such a transformation to explode from my body in one pain-filled moment, like a hot house flower bursting from my head; but it instead has been born of a long winter's nap. I'm dreaming of sunshine and green places while Father Time has been dreaming of me.
He's had a little help from his friends: drugs, alcohol, and delicious food; in July the portrait wasn't necessarily false advertising, just bad. Glimpsing it the other day, I wanted to bust out my boxing gloves. However, my joints can't handle the pounding, so I've resorted to using Thermoskin arthritic gloves to combat Father Time's best buddies with a friend of my own.
Which tactic has been the most effective during this brawl? Treating myself like a baby. Not pampers, just pampering. First, I took the time to understand the physical accommodations necessary for my comfort and honored them. Then I made an honest effort to get acquainted with myself, as I would a new friend.
During the darkest days I was willing to do just about anything to end my emotional anguish. For me it wasn't enough to repeatedly reassure my hurting adult-self. I tried a different tactic. I pictured myself at an age I felt receptive to and said hello ( for me, that was a younger, more vulnerable side of myself, about age 5 or so). I found with practice I could ask my mini-me what she needed to feel good, and sometimes came up with surprising answers to that question. Occasionally I spoke out loud, other times I journaled. I was startled with how easily I could be attentive and caring to a younger version of me than the adult. I discovered I was much more likely to take care of myself as an adult if my little girl requested something. As a result, I became more receptive to my needs, and slowly began to break out of my I-can't-believe-this-is-happening-to-me funk.
This January I'm celebrating! Instead of allowing RA to make decisions for me, I consult my new friend, myself. And I'm happier. I began taking graduate classes for a master's degree, started voice lessons, played an instrument in a wedding, and I'm working on whittling away the insulation that surrounds the woman from the July portrait.
I was diagnosed one year ago, my birthday, January 6th. It has taken that long to cope with the diagnosis of this illness, and to slowly find myself again. My hope to you during this blustery start to 2012 is that you recognize the hopeful youngster in yourself, and honor her. Your joints may not realign, but your thinking just might. Happy New Year!