Seeing the Basket as Half Folded
Living with a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make it challenging to feel like a productive person. The inflammation this disease causes can decrease range of motion, making it difficult to perform certain activities. RA-induced pain can make even everyday activities excruciating. Add the fatigue that can be so intense and oppressive that any action feels Herculean, and a person can easily be rendered unable to accomplish much of anything.
The unpredictability of RA
All of this would be hard enough, but to top it off, RA is incredibly unpredictable. While it’s possible to determine various triggers for RA flares, there’s no way to be certain when one will hit. This means that a person with this disease might feel fine one day (or at least an RA warrior’s version of “fine”) and feel awful the next. This lack of predictability makes it hard to plan ahead.
For instance, after being out of town I’d planned on a “catch up” weekend where my husband and I kept our calendars clear so that we could catch up on errands and household chores. I had a sizeable to-do list, and was looking forward to a “productive weekend.” However, what started out as problematic achiness ramped up to a full blown flare by Saturday morning. It hurt to walk, it hurt to sit, and it even hurt to lie down.
RA flare means no chores completed
Needless to say, persistent pain got in the way of my to-do list. I started to unload the dishwasher, but after bending over a few times to reach the clean dishes my hips and knees were rebelling and my fingers, wrists and elbows were angry at lifting the weight of plates and mugs. I abandoned that task and took a rest. A half hour later I put a load of laundry in the washing machine. Even though I’d enlisted the help of my young children to drag the hampers to the laundry room and assist with putting the clothes into the washer, I felt like I was running on fumes by the time the clothes were clean. The day was spent alternating periods of light housework with rest, and by the time night fell I was feeling forlorn at how little I’d accomplished.
The next day was much the same. Luckily my wonderful husband took the kids out of the house for the majority of the day to allow me to rest and to prevent them from making even bigger messes. With dismay I thought of the hopes I’d had for a “productive weekend,” and realized all I had to show for two days spent at home was a couple baskets of folded laundry.
Just as I was feeling depressed about how differently my weekend had turned out from my expectations, a light bulb went on. I realized that thinking, “All I did this weekend was wash and fold two baskets of laundry” was selling myself short. Instead, I realized that in spite of being in a lot of pain and feeling extremely fatigued, I had managed to wash and fold two baskets of laundry. It’s true that many other chores in the house went undone, but my kids would have clean clothes to wear to school the next day because of my efforts.
Courage and Fortitude
It’s easy to feel pessimistic with this disease, especially when a flare pounces seemingly out of nowhere. That proverbial half-glass of water can certainly look half-empty when I focus on the things that RA prevents me from doing. Yet, when I look at what I am able to accomplish in spite of the pain and fatigue of this disease, I realize that my glass is actually half-full of fortitude and courage. For many people a couple loads of laundry isn’t much to show for a weekend spent at home. However, when facing the challenges I’m contending with during a flare, having my kids’ clothes washed and ready for the week is indeed something to celebrate.
It’s tempting to be hard on myself and my lot in life during a flare, but I’m reminding myself that I can see that glass of water as half full, and see that basket of laundry as half folded.
On a scale of 1(low) to 5(high), how difficult is it for you to talk about having RA?