Singin’ in the Rain/Pain

I lived in Bremerhaven, Northern Germany, many years ago. The city lies at the mouth of the great Weser River where it opens out into the stormy North Sea, right on the coastal edge of a vast, flat, peaty moorland. It was strangely and breathtakingly beautiful.

It rained pretty much year-round in Bremerhaven. It was also windy. Sometimes the winds were light, like sweet little autumn breezes that clatter and stir the fallen leaves. Sometimes it was brisk, the kind that blows your just-done hair all to h**l the moment you leave the house to go to work. And sometimes it was a gale-force wind that could shove you along like a giant schoolyard bully.

No matter which wind was blowing in off the sea, though, they were all utterly unpredictable. They’d blow from one direction, then switch around and gust from the other just that fast. I quickly learned not to trust an umbrella.

There just wasn’t any point. With the rain blowing sideways in all directions, there was no good way to hold an umbrella. Putting it above my head—the normal way—didn’t work when the rain was horizontal. Using the umbrella like a sort of shield against the sideways rain didn’t work either because the wind shifted so fast.

And the moment you thought you had it beat, that bloody wind blew your umbrella inside-out.

So, for the six years I lived there, almost every time I went outdoors, I got wet.

Sometimes I only got a little damp. Other times I got soaked. In the winter, there were times when, once I got to my office, I’d slowly drip, drip, drip, shivering and cussing, until the old radiator finally clanked its way up to full-force heat.

Now, I’m not saying this was fun. There were times that I dreaded going out the door for work in the morning because I knew I’d get wet, and cold, and my rheuma was flaring, and I hurt really bad, and man, I didn’t want to go out there. I really, really didn’t.

But after I’d lived in Northern Germany for a while, I discovered a secret: I’d dry off. I learned that I’m just a little drip-and-dry gal.

Now, you may wonder where I’m going with this blowing rain-and-wind story.

It has to do with the pain and other symptoms of rheumatoid disease and how we all have to cope with them, somehow.

RD is like that Bremerhaven rain and wind. Because of where it is (on the coast/inside me) it simply is what it is: a force of nature. It's inevitable: it’s just going to flare (rain and blow). Sometimes the flares are going to be mild (a sprinkly rain/that nice little breeze) and sometimes, they’re going to be frigging miserable (a downpour/the gale-force bully-winds). My umbrella (the drugs I take to treat my RD) aren’t always going stop or even to temporarily shield me from the rain and wind (pain/other symptoms).

No matter what I do, I’m going to get wet (have flares). But I also know that eventually, they’ll ease up (I’ll dry off). So, while I’m dry and warm, I’ll do all I can to prepare myself for my next outing in the storm (buy a new umbrella, get a better raincoat and galoshes). I’ll eat mindfully. I’ll get as much sleep as I reasonably can. I’ll exercise—walk/bike/swim and stretch—as often as possible.

And I’ll try as hard as I can to find some sunshine in the midst of the rain, even if I have to come up with my own (think positively, stay hopeful, be mindful). Because you know what? You try all you want to stay dry, but sometimes you just get wet anyway (the rain will fall). And you can get mad, but it won't stop the wind from blowing it right in your face.

So make like good ol' Gene Kelly and try to dance and sing when the rain and wind (flares and pain) puts a damper (sorry!) on your day. You'll always, always dry off (that flare will ease)—at least, until the next time.

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