One of my most favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. I love the pure purpose behind it—giving thanks. There’s no confusion with religious tensions or commercial pursuits. Instead we gather with our loved ones and spend a day together feeling thankful.
I have to admit that it’s not always easy to feel thankful as a person living with rheumatoid arthritis. Especially on a cold, winter day when I often wake up feeling achy and crabby. What’s there to be so thankful about?
Every day I think about what I can be thankful about. I can’t remember how I got into this habit, but when I keep things in perspective I find it easier to not feel sorry for myself and wallow in self pity. For me, this train of thought leads nowhere. Instead of doing my best with what I’ve got, I could waste a lot of time and energy wishing for things to be different that I don’t have any control over.
Don’t get me wrong, I have my down days when I eat chocolate and feel bad about myself. But I find that if I change my thinking and focus on my good fortune and areas of my life where I can make a difference, then I feel better overall—including my RA.
I may have limited range of motion, achy and stiff joints, but I also have plenty of ability to do what I want in life. I enjoy my work and feel I make a difference. I have a loving family and opportunities to spend time with people I enjoy. My RA is not what defines me—I am much more than a diagnosis.
So as Thanksgiving approaches, I feel it’s worthwhile to recollect some of my blessings.
- Good healthcare—Without my doctors and other health providers, I wouldn’t be able to navigate the ups and downs of my RA. I’m so glad that I have these resources and that I have help trying to keep my disease stable.
- Supportive family—Where would I be without my terrific family? They cheer me up when I’m down and help me cope with pain and frustration. When I threaten to give up, they keep me going.
- Successful recovery—My recent surgeries were very challenging, both physically and emotionally. It was a long, hard road and I am so grateful to have made huge strides in my recovery. While I am still working to get stronger, I have made it most of the way and am so happy to be experiencing better health than a year ago.
- Persistence—This is a nice way of admitting I am a stubborn mule! But without this trait, I would have given up long ago when I needed to keep working and enduring. Refusing to accept “no” or “can’t” has been crucial for me to never surrender, even when the odds have seemed impossible. Many times over the years I have surpassed others’ expectations because I refuse to accept them. Instead, I live according to my own self-knowledge about what I can accomplish.
- Sense of humor—Even on the worst days I can laugh. Sure, sometimes I have some gallows humor. But laughter lightens my spirits and reminds me that even hardships can be ridiculous. Laughing in the face of pain or impossible odds can be my cure for the urge to give up. When I had a spacer instead of a knee, I made up silly songs and rhymes about living without a knee. It gave me an outlet because instead of crying I was laughing at my silly predicament.
While living with RA is not fun, I have a lot in my life to be thankful about. Every day brings its own blessings and I’m glad to share them.
What are you thankful for today?
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