Stop Pounding on the Door

Attempting to clean my bedroom the other day, I found a couple of worn old notebooks lying buried in a pile on the floor. I hadn’t looked at them for quite a while (maybe a year?), so I was curious to see if anything interesting was inside. What I found wasn’t that surprising, but it was delightful in its own way. I discovered several pages with random notes and quotes scrawled across them, probably to be used as writing inspiration. Some I recognized from Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. And others, I think, are from Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer (I’ll write more about him another time). There are two quotes from Daring Greatly I had jotted down that still resonate with me.

Our Strongest Gifts

“Our strongest gifts are usually those we are barely aware of possessing. They are a part of our God-given nature, with us from the moment we drew first breath, and we are no more conscious of having them than we are of breathing.” 1

I’m drawn to this quote because I think there’s a lot of truth in it–especially for people living with RA and chronic illnesses. Some of the gifts that we all possess include impressive amounts of strength, courage, and resilience. And, sadly, I think that most of us don’t even realize that we have these gifts and just how strong we really are. I know that I certainly don’t give myself enough credit, if any, for continually pushing forward while battling against constant pain and illness.

Society’s productivity-driven definition of “strength” is often synonymous with “success,” and sharply contrasts to what real strength is actually about. True strength and courage and resilience isn’t someone who works him/herself to death to amass money, possessions, or prestige. Nor is it someone who has a perfect life on Instagram (nobody’s life is perfect!) It’s a person who lives with incredible obstacles, such as the deep physical (and emotional) pain we deal with every day that’s usually invisible to the rest of the world. That person who keeps getting out of bed in the morning and living and trying, he or she is the real embodiment of strength. You have these impressive gifts yourself, along with many others, I’m sure. Please don’t forget them!

When Way Closes

“Each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around–which puts the door behind us–and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls.” 1

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of being a “door pounder,” beating against closed doors and opportunities until my self-esteem and soul is debilitatingly crushed. Why do I do this? Why do I fight so hard against things that probably just aren’t meant to be? I don’t know for sure. I’m not a psychologist, of course. Feeling a lack of control in life probably has something to do with it, and maybe the inability to let go of things and move on. Let’s throw “fear of change” in there, too.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with RA how vehemently I fought against accepting that I had the disease. Furious, scared, depressed, anxious, and feeling wildly out of control, I lashed out in frustration and wept bitterly alone in my room for many, many days. I desperately wanted to pound down the door to my former self and go back to being a healthy teenager. But this was not meant to be, and instead the “door” slammed shut, throwing me headlong into a frightening and unpredictable world of chronic illness.

While I’m absolutely not thankful for getting RA, I am grateful for the good things that have come my way in life either directly or indirectly because of the disease. Without RA, I wouldn’t have met some of the wonderful people I’m honored to now call friends. I also wouldn’t have the sense of belonging I feel being part of my “RA tribe,” which consists of some of the strongest, kindest, and most inspiring people I know. “Way” closed for me in a very big and long-lasting way 21 years ago when I was struck with RA, yet it continues to open and often in surprising and magical ways–if I let it.

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