There's Something Very Beautiful (Internet Inspiration, Pt. 2)
Last October I wrote an article inspired by memes I came across on the Internet that caught my attention and resonated with me in some way: "Internet Inspiration." These "word inspiration" memes (inspirational quotes) are all over the place on social media, especially on Instagram. You've probably seen one or 10 or 500 of them before.
Looking through my phone tonight at screenshots I've saved of the memes (so I don't forget them), I realized that I've amassed quite a few new ones since writing the original article. So! I've decided to do a "Part Two" list, sharing my personal reactions and the connection I feel to these mini passages of wisdom and how they resonate with me as a person struggling with RA.
These help me in my struggle with RA
- "We're starting to understand that just because you're born with certain genes, you're not in a biologic prison as a result of those genes." --Rachel Yehuda, neuroscientist and epigeneticist (via Instagram @onbeing)
I love this because it points out that we are more than the biological makeup of our bodies. Having "bad genes" and a biological sickness doesn't mean that our lives need to be defined by those things. It's not my fault I got RA, and I know that no matter how bad it gets, my life will not be defined or taken over by this disease. You don't have to be imprisoned by your illness, even if you feel like there's no escape.
- "Empathy is not pity or sympathy. Pity, you're looking down on someone and feeling sorry for them. Sympathy, you may be looking across at someone and feeling bad for them." --Isabel Wilkerson (via Instagram @onbeing)
Having the empathy of others while living with RA is not a common thing. Sympathy and pity, yes, but not empathy. What is empathy anyway? According to Psychology Today, empathy is the experience of understanding another person's thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. Able-bodied people who don't have RA or a similar chronic illness have a lot of trouble understanding what we go through struggling with this disease. And I think this is partly why those of us with RA often try to hide or downplay our illness. We don't want sympathy and certainly not pity. We want others to know how we truly feel, and what it's like to walk (or limp) a day in our orthopedic shoes.
- "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter at all, because once you are REAL, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." --Margery Williams, "The Velveteen Rabbit"
Do you remember the children's book "The Velveteen Rabbit?" I haven't thought of it in years until just recently but I can remember my mother reading it to me as a child. It was so moving and sad, and I think I even cried. The story reminded me of my favorite and special stuffed dog I received as a baby, "Doggie," and how I dragged poor Doggie everywhere I went. Over the years Doggie's stuffing fell out, some of the paint wore off from his eyes, and threadbare bald patches appeared where his fur once was. I didn't care much, though, because I LOVED Doggie so, so much. He brought me comfort and happiness and in my eyes, he could never be ugly.
The lesson here (I think) is that being "real" and living through all sorts of experiences and trials in life makes you into the incredible person you are today. You don't have to have the perfect life splashed all over social media or look like a supermodel. It's OK if I have a "buffalo hump" neck from prednisone, lose my hair from Methotrexate, or become physically changed from RA. I may feel like I could many days, but I don't break easily. My strength and resilience on the inside is what matters and makes me beautiful. I just have to keep telling myself that.
- "When we're worried about what's going to happen in the future, think about all the times we worried in the past and the thing didn't happen." --Ellen Langer, social psychologist (via Instagram @onbeing)
Worry and fear are such huge parts of having RA, and I often find myself stuck in the habit of being afraid over virtually nothing and worrying way too much. Yet worry is an understandable and natural response to living with the unpredictability of chronic illness. I never know what might happen next with my body. Will my feet and ankles suddenly swell up rendering me unable to walk? Will the unbearable pain in my hands return along with disabled, sausage-like fingers? Maybe. But there's also a good and very realistic chance that those things won't happen. It's easy to lose yourself in worry and anxiety, but many times those bad things you imagine never actually come true.
- "There's something very beautiful about people who can find it in themselves to love when everything around them has crumbled." --Nathalie Joachim (via Instagram @onbeing)
Love is stronger than pain, failure, disability, depression, shame and everything, Joachim seems to be saying. We who keep on loving in the midst of chaos and illness and broken hearts--we're the beautiful ones. Love is beautiful and so is resilience. I feel my life breaking and crumbling around me all the time, yet I strive hard to never let go of love--for myself and for others.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?