Labor Day marked the last day of the Minnesota State Fair a.k.a. “The Great Minnesota Get-Together,” as it always does. Each year, thousands of people gather at the fairgrounds in late August to hear/see music, eat weird foods fried on sticks, see llamas dressed up in costumes, visit “The Miracle of Birth” baby animal center, ride the ferris wheel (and other spinning things) in the Midway, visit their local TV and radio stations (broadcasting live), and basically just walk around all day/night enjoying the quirky sights (Princess Kay’s head carved in butter). Some people wait all year for this event, and there was a time in my life (mostly pre-RA) when I made sure to attend each year, too.
Missing the fair, again
Once again we reached the end of the great and quintessential Minnesota get-together and I was not there. I didn’t go this year. I didn’t go last year. When did I last go to the Fair and actually enjoy it? I’m not sure. My absence is not due to lack of interest or desire; my mind tells me I’d love to go again, but my swollen painful feet and ankles say otherwise. So when my friend Holly texted me last week asking if I’d like to go with her, I had to tell her no.
Holly: “Any interest in going to the State Fair with me?!”
Me: “I wish I could but my feet and ankles can’t handle all the walking [sad face emoji].”
RA and the humidity equals no fair for me
And that’s true, they can’t. Not right now anyway–especially in the hot, humid August weather that my RA tries to avoid at all costs. Walking in circles for hours in order to cover the large span of land the fairgrounds are comprised of, is a surefire way to get my RA to flare up in my feet and especially my “bad” right ankle. I can picture and feel the pain and swelling without even having to step a foot there. A disappointment, absolutely, but is it one worth the agony of a flare-up? I don’t think so.
An isolating and depressing side effect of RA is the devastation it can cause to your social life and personal relationships. I hate saying “no” to people or canceling plans because of my RA. Even if I try to explain myself and my friends seem to understand, I still feel bad about it. Like I’m letting them down. Sometimes I feel guilty and ashamed for maybe letting myself down even more. Familiar thoughts play on a loop in my mind:
I shouldn’t cancel, no matter what.
I should just make myself go.
I should be stronger.
I shouldn’t be so weak or lazy or flaky.
Maybe I’ll feel better if I go out?
I should hold up my end of being a friend better.
A little self-compassion, please
I should, I should I should…stop beating myself up, really. I know this yet it’s hard to get that loop of negative self-talk to stop playing. Why? I suppose because there is always a part of me, no matter how long I’ve had RA or how much experience I have dealing with it in everyday life, that feels inadequate because I’m not “normal” or healthy. And I don’t want to give in to the disease, to let it “win” and control my life. But it does, over and over again. While friends and everyone in the entire state, it seems, are chomping on corn dogs at the Fair each summer, I’m at home attempting to make some tasteless vegan thing for dinner and then collapsing on the couch with ice packs on my feet. The Great Ice Pack Get-Together?
I don’t want to be whiny or feel sorry for myself, but the truth is with this disease, some things are just not fair. Missing out on a ride in the Ye Olde Mill or seeing the new Princess Kay butter statue are two of them.