Movement Can Be Joy

There’s a podcast I’ve been listening to in which the host interviews a guest each week and asks three questions: What do you love? What do you hate? What brings you joy? As I listen to these interviews, I reflect on my own answers to those questions. Depending on the day and on the week, my answers vary. Yet, when it comes to what brings me joy, there is a persistent answer that springs up: movement.

Finding joy in movement

One might be surprised that a person with a painful condition like rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease (RA/RD) would find joy in movement. Indeed, I’m unable to make any significant movement in complete comfort. Each time I move my body, whether it’s to lift a glass of water, stand up from a chair, or type these words, my movements are infused with discomfort.

Mild discomfort comes as stiffness or achiness. I’ve become so accustomed to this low level discomfort that I have learned to push it to the outskirts of my awareness; I can forget for a time that it’s there. Much like people who live near hog farms don’t spend their days holding their noses the way a visitor might be tempted to, I can ignore mild discomfort and not even be fully aware of it.

In contrast, when I’m in a flare and my movements are no longer simply uncomfortable, but instead are agonizing, it is hard to focus on anything else. I think about whether the glass of water I want is worth the steps I’ll have to take to get it. I avoid standing up from my chair until I absolutely have to. I don’t type many words.

Therefore, I do not take movement for granted.

When I can go for a walk, I am grateful. When I can go on a hike, I am gleeful. I am joyful whenever my body allows me to move through the world with any level of ease. Of course, being human there are times when I’ve had several good days in a row and I cease being consciously grateful for lifting a fork to my mouth without pain or walking across the room without a grimace. Yet, I imagine I’ve spent time feeling grateful for these minor movements far more than the average 40-year-old has.

When it comes to the major movements, the long walks or bike rides or swims, I always spend at least a few moments flooded with gratitude that I can move in this way. When I am able to flow through a series of yoga postures without feeling unstable and in pain, I celebrate the strength of my body. When I can swim laps, I take joy in my body’s ability to propel myself through the water. When I can access beautiful places in nature because my body is doing well enough to hike to them, I not only revel in the miracle of our natural world but also in the miracle of the human body.

Living with RA/RD means a lot of storm clouds for my spirit.

However, there are silver linings that come with the darkness. I doubt I would feel grateful for having a body that works and is mobile if I didn’t have times when my body doesn’t seem to be working correctly and isn’t very mobile.  I would accept a cure for this disease without a second’s hesitation, but since that’s not currently an option, finding the silver linings and taking stock of what my body still can do, even if only sometimes, brings me a little bit of peace and occasionally great joy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (2)
  • zanda1000
    2 weeks ago

    I love your post, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m so grateful whenever I can move without a lot of pain or discomfort.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Thanks so much for your comment, zanda1000! Wishing you the most low-pain movement possible, Tamara

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