Being Flexible

I’ve always been flexible. As a youngster I could put my ankles behind my head. Even as an adult I was able to stand and put my palms flat on the floor (in three-inch heels) and stretch to put my forehead to my knees.

All that pretty much came to a screeching halt after my hip replacement surgery a couple of months after my RA diagnosis. Bending more than 90 degrees at the hip can dangerously stress an artificial joint.

Since then, my RA has progressed and my joints have stiffened. Just getting a full range of motion on some days is a major accomplishment.

While RA has taken away my flexibility in many ways, it has taught me new definitions that, in my pre-RA years, I wouldn’t have envisioned.

There’s an old saying that if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. RA is a lot like that. It seems like the moment you plan something, RA rears its ugly head and you need to rearrange, postpone, or cancel. So I, the poster child for being a micro-managing control freak, have learned to be more flexible. While I still put “stakes in the ground,” I leave a lot of latitude in between those stakes.

As an example, my husband and I have a vacation planned for the spring to visit two of our favorite cities. We’re using those cities as base points from which to explore the surrounding areas. Right now we have a tentative schedule. One day we’re scheduled to take the train to visit a historic region. On another, we’re supposed to rent Segways to explore the cobblestone streets of our home base. But both my husband and I know that dates might have to be adjusted or activities may not happen at all depending on how we feel. This is particularly true when traveling because travel seems to put enough stress on my body that I can almost feel a flare lurking around the corner.

The thing I’ve learned is that having RA doesn’t mean that you have to stop enjoying life but that often you have to discover different ways of doing things. Even a couple of years ago, I’d be exploring on foot rather than renting a Segway. Now I use a jar opener rather than stressing my hands and find myself buying pre-prepped vegetables rather than spending hours standing on my feet and chopping. We’re in the midst of buying a new car and the top thing on my list is no longer styling or gas mileage, it’s how easy it is for me to get in and out of it.

So while my body isn’t nearly as flexible as it was once, my attitude has become a rubber band, expanding and contracting to meet the situation.

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