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Leaning into the Little Things

I’d love to win the lottery, or have a rich uncle I never knew about give me a million dollars, or a benefactor take an interest in me and offer any treatment I want to feel better, regardless of the cost. I’d like to have a personal assistant who will write while I dictate on days like today when my hands are so swollen I’ve taken off my ring, carry my groceries for me, and in general be at my beck and call. I’d love to have my insurance company pick up all my medical costs. I’d love to have a masseuse. None of these big, life-changing things are showing up in my life anytime soon. That’s really too bad because I know, with any of these gifts, I’d be in much less pain and under much less stress.

Over the years that I’ve lived with JRA, I’ve learned not to have many conversations in my head about things that I’m missing out on. Whether it’s the million dollars that would ease my strain physically and emotionally, or the fused neck that prevents me from riding my bike the way I’ve always enjoyed, these conversations always end up with me realizing that life isn’t fair and that my load is heavier than many of my peers. But I’ve also learned that if I tweak my perspective just a bit, I’ll realize just how blessed I am.

How I practice gratitude with RA

Thankful for support from friends and family

I’ll realize that, although I’ve never had a BIG thing happen (besides surgeries) to change my life for the better, I’ve had millions of little things, and if I add them up they are not just big, they are HUGE. I have parents that made sure I didn’t need to work through college so I could focus on my studies and graduate despite being in a huge flare-up the entire four years. I have friends who took notes for me during school when my dominant hand was in a cast for six months. Almost every day, I have someone text or call to check in to see how I’m doing. I have brothers who make sure I don’t have to carry anything when I visit them in NYC and work hard to get me a place to relax whenever I need to. I have friends willing to talk whenever I’m not having a good time of it, and a partner who will pick up the slack the minute I ask.

Focusing on the things that I do have or can do

There will always be big things, unattainable things that I’ll wish were different in my life, just like everyone on this planet. And just like anyone on this planet, if I think of the things that I don’t have, that I never will have, it doesn’t feel good. But as I look around at my life, and my history, I see a pattern. I have a life, partly due to my own effort and perseverance, and partly because of happenstance, that is filled with love and support. If I lean into this life, instead of the one that has constant pain, I feel lighter. Sometimes all I’ve had to do is ask, and other times I’ve needed to find a more supportive environment to live in, but a “little thing” life is achievable for every one of us, as long as you lean in, make some effort, and acknowledge the daily gifts you are being given.

Appreciating the little things

When I’m starting to get scared, or anxious about what is happening in my body, or feeling lonely and victimized by life, I find that taking note of all the little things that have helped me that day helps me to understand that I’ve got this. I’ve got this life, complicated as it is, and I love this life that is filled with hardship, and support, love, and challenge.

I’m wondering what little things make a big difference for you. Chime in, I’d love to know…

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