It seems each year, around my birthday, I tend to reflect on purpose; more so now as I approach my last 18 months of full time work. That said, I enjoy this exercise in examining where I am at in my life’s journey AND how that interacts with my management of Rheumatoid Arthritis.
There is something so cleansing to the soul about reflection on purpose. It also gives one the opportunity to make adjustments and improvements. To take on new challenges. To try new adventures.
It is far too easy for those of us who must contend with the, at times overwhelming, burden of RA, to become complacent in making changes that very well could benefit us. Not only in our management of RA, but our lives in general.
I think many of us face the question of purpose often and it can be a very difficult question to even attempt to answer. Especially, when we have so much else to contend with day to day. I remember having all kinds of doubts about my future and my purpose when RA entered my life with such a vengeance. To say I was uncertain about the meaning and purpose of my life at that point would be a massive understatement. I wavered between thinking any purpose I had was completely shattered to feeling like I could keep moving forward with my life if the pain, fatigue, etc. would just go away.
The fact is, RA actually gave me purpose.
I know that may sound strange but it is true in many ways. I was forced to become much more proactive, much more of a deliberate planner (although I already was one to a large extent). I discovered things about myself that I never knew before. I discovered that I am remarkably resilient. You have to be if you are going to survive RA. I discovered that I can tolerate a lot of pain, a lot of fatigue and a lot of sadness and STILL keep going! That was amazing and VERY encouraging.
Seeking support for RA
I found out because I needed and wanted to be with others with RA, and that a support group would be great – so I started one! That was a great purpose and our group, nearly 8 years old, is still going strong. And the people I have gotten to know in our group are some of the most courageous and amazing people I have ever met and I am proud to call them friends now. What a wonderful purpose. I decided I needed to have a purpose outside of my work, which I love. So I took Tai Chi, largely to accommodate RA. Well, I fell in love with it, got certified to instruct it, and now have been teaching classes for several years.
Coping with RA
Speaking of my work, soon after getting diagnosed with RA, I became aware of a wonderful program to offset osteoporosis and so I decided to bring it to Vermont through the organization I work for and we just started our 17th year of this cutting edge strength training program called RSVP Bone Builders that now has over 1000 participants in 64 classes led by 250+ volunteer trainers. That is my proudest “purpose” so far.
The point is, large or small, short term or long term, finding purpose and meaning in our lives is ongoing and necessary for a satisfying and joyful life. I invite you to take the time to seek and find your own purpose. You will be glad you did.