Spring Intentions

Spring is a new season, and a time of renewal and rebirth and, I think, a good time to emerge from being stashed away in your winter hibernation cave (or house) and focus on making some life changes. Or reestablishing and recommitting to goals and resolutions you have already made. January 1st, like many other people, I made some New Year resolutions/intentions that I wrote about for RheumatoidArthritis.net. Looking at the article now, and my list of Intentions, I feel that I haven't been very successful at making these changes. Granted, I wrote about making some very big, difficult changes in my life. I think it's good to revisit this list now and take stock of what I've been doing and where I'm heading in the upcoming months.

Here are the Intentions I wrote about in January and my current updates:

1. Get Physically Healthier

I'm sad to say I haven't fared very well in this department, mostly because of being sick constantly all winter. I know I shouldn't beat myself up about it, but it is disappointing. I, um, didn't really do any of the things I wanted to do in January: lose weight, go swimming, do yoga, cut down on gluten and carbs, give up Diet Coke and cut back on coffee and caffeine (well, I recently did give up Diet Coke), and eating only whole foods. Sigh. Nope, I barely did any of it. But that doesn't mean I can't start now. I will start now. I really will. After months of sickness and lethargy and pain, I'm so ready to feel better again. And, I didn't totally fail in this category. Spring's warmer weather and melting snow has made it possible for me to pull my bike out from the garage, and this is a very good thing. My goal is to get back to going on regular bike rides each week; my body and my mood improve drastically every time I hop on my bike and go for a ride.

2. Get Mentally/Emotionally Healthier

Ah, this department also still needs some work. I did not "fire" my therapist, as I previously debated doing. It was too draining and too much of a hassle to find someone new, although I did look into it a bit. Plus, I'm moving soon so there's not much point in trying to find someone before I leave Minnesota. I also couldn't afford to go to a lot of therapy appointments this winter because of my health insurance deductible and out-of-pocket costs being too high as of January 1st.

Meditation? I haven't tried it yet. I should.

Keeping a journal? I did start one but it's been sitting in the back of my drawer for quite a while now. I think that's where it is, anyway. I did start writing in a health/RA journal that I've been using to track health problems and RA flare-ups and anything health-related that might be important to remember.

So how have I been coping emotionally with RA and life in general? I haven't been doing much socializing because of being sick so much this winter. Now that I'm finally feeling better and more energized and motivated, I'm looking forward to hanging out with friends more and going out to do fun things with people. I think this is an important activity to keep up; it's not good to be alone too much or for too long. During these past three months I've mostly been burrowing at home, reading books and watching movies and doing that sort of thing. Spending time with my three little nieces has also kept me quite busy and is something that always lifts my spirits and brings me much joy.

The plan for, say, the next three months is to get back into doing yoga again, and maybe try some meditation (even though I'm still hesitant) or some other things to help bring more calmness and peace to my life. Anxiety is something that I struggle with a lot and I would love to find ways to make it better and even go away for a good stretch of time.

3. Get Financially Healthier/Smarter

RA is expensive. Really expensive. And honestly, I can't afford it (even with health insurance), so I keep racking up lots of medical debt. But going without medical care, treatment, or medications is not an option for me. The repercussions of doing that would be way worse than being perpetually broke and in debt, I think. Taking care of my health and my RA is my top priority so I end up making a lot of financial sacrifices. Despite that, I think I have made some progress during the last three months regarding my financial situation. I got my Minnesota substitute teaching license finally, which allows me to take better-paying teaching jobs. I've also been working really hard to pay off bills and save for my upcoming move to New York. This is not easy to do and it's stressing me out to no end, but I'm trying to make it work. I hope I don't end up living in a cardboard box somewhere! Being mindful about smart spending habits and the importance of saving is something that I'm always trying to work on and I hope I can keep getting better at it.

4. Be Grateful

In my January "Intentions" article I described what a wreck I was last fall before I went on a trip to Boston and New York for a health conference, and then what a positive experience that trip was and how much better I felt because of it. During the trip I tried hard to focus on the good things that were happening in my life and to just be grateful for everything--good and bad. Having this attitude and practicing gratitude, really for the first time in this way, yielded powerful, positive results. I almost couldn't believe it! Job offers were flying into my E-mail inbox, I was making new wonderful friends, exciting opportunities were jumping out at me from seemingly nowhere. Then I returned home and sunk into a depression of loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and disappointment. I was crying in the greeting card aisle in Target, embarrassingly.

Time passed and I mostly shook myself out of it; I wasn't crying in stores anymore. But up until right now, even, I still haven't been able to get back to feeling or sustaining the level of gratitude I had during my trip. It's something that takes practice, I think, especially if you're more of a worrier and have pessimistic tendencies (I'm guilty of both). I really want to become more of a grateful person, though, and find good things to be thankful for in all situations, rather than wallowing in hopelessness and despair. An important part of managing a chronic illness such as RA, as well as coping with life in general, is being able to find the good in things. Even the things and people and inflamed joints that hurt you and break you and drag you down.  Right now and in the coming months I want to recommit to my goal of living with gratitude and thankfulness as much as possible.

5. Do Not Give Up On Your Dreams

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you have imagined," said the writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. This is one of my favorite quotes and lately it's been popping into my head at random, inexplicable times. I have been thinking about my future a lot and reflecting on my dreams in life: what dreams I have now, which dreams are dead, which dreams are worth fighting for and which might be actually possible.

I'm happy and scared and excited to say that I have made some progress going confidently in the direction of dreams--well, one of them at least. As I've already written about this a bit, I've decided to leave Minneapolis and move to New York City! And very soon. It's a big change and I really hope it works out. I'm incredibly anxious about it and have been battling against doubts and second-guessing, but I also feel like the time is right to make this move.

I've been stagnating in Minneapolis for a long time, despite many efforts to make my life better; nothing seemed to work out or move forward. New York is a huge place, full of new, interesting people and exciting opportunities. I also think it's a much better place for me to be right now if I want to pursue my journalism and photojournalism career goals along with my desire to be in an international city, with the opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world. Relocating will be full of ups and downs, of course, and I know that no city or state or country is perfect. But I really want to give this a shot and hopefully it will help propel me forward and pull me out of the rut I've been stuck in for so long. I'm worried about the added challenges of moving while having RA, but I know I can find a way to make it happen. I don't want this disease, of all things, to stop me from going after my goals.

"I think when you are truly stuck, when you have stood still in the same spot for too long, you throw a grenade in exactly the spot you were standing in, and jump, and pray," wrote Renata Adler in her book Speedboat, which is another one of my favorite quotes. You're right, Renata. I'm ready to throw that grenade and JUMP! NYC, here I come.

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