Do We Really Need to Know All the Answers?
As has been true throughout out my career and in my personal life, I am a person who needs to have a plan and all the pieces of the puzzle must be put together for carrying that plan out, from start to finish. I found that I had greater confidence in my plan, felt much less stressed and performed better when I had all the answers ahead of time. Of course, I knew that there would be things that would happen that I had not planned for, that were unforeseen and often disruptive. But, even then, I knew that I had done the best I could to be prepared and that knowledge made me better able to adapt and adjust.
RA: a complicated thing to deal with
That has also been true in managing RA. The chronic nature of this disease along with the many nuances, complications, and manifestations meant that the more I could sort out and plan the better I seemed to feel, both psychologically and even, surprisingly, physically. The most difficult aspect of RA is its unpredictability and that has always been the most difficult cross to bear.
All of that said, I have recently encountered a very interesting phenomenon. Upon retiring in January, I began to purge, pack, give away, clean, sort, etc. my home of 31 years. I knew it would be a daunting task and so I tried to get organized and develop a plan to commence and complete this awesome task. In the back of mind was the presence of my RA. To be honest, I had no idea how the disease would be impacted by this monumentally demanding job. I did not know just how much or even what I would be able to get done without either triggering a flare or, at the least, causing daily discomfort. I knew that often any repetitive type of activity like chopping vegetables or pulling weeds from the garden, were instant invitations for pain in my joints. How was I ever going to get all that needed done completed when the simplest of physical tasks were a challenge?
When activity doesn't lead to an "RA activity hangover"
Much to my surprise, 5 weeks into the process, and mostly done I am happy to say, I have had very little pain or issues with my joints! I have no idea why. I have done more physical work in the last 5 weeks than I have in 25 years. I have lugged over 90 contractor bags of trash out of my house, taken dozens of containers and bags of donated goods to various non-profits in my community and cleaned my house from top to bottom. Filled and carried over 40 containers to our storage space in preparation for moving. How is this possible? I truly do not know. Just a few weeks before I got started my hands were swollen and painful from the holiday cooking and my hips and knees were equally angry at the pace I kept over the holidays. Why and how was this different? I worked 5-10 hours a day so I know it was not the time spent daily. I lifted and carried the weight I never should have been able to. I scrubbed and cleaned did my hands were so dry they bled. Yet, I had very little pain.
How did I avoid an "RA activity hangover"?
I have come up with some tidbits that make this different from other times. One is that I am not dealing with a serious deadline. I had hoped to have this done by the middle of March so that the next steps could begin. That was a nice luxury and so mentally there was little stress or pressure. Unlike the holidays, that are tiring and fast-paced, this was all done at my pace, with only my time to consider. Perhaps that is the difference. Or maybe it is because this was largely gross motor work and not so much fine motor, which has always been a big challenge for me and the reason cooking is out for me. Also, I allowed myself rest periods and days to do other things I wanted and needed like teach Tai Chi and go to book club. I think these periods of respite were very helpful. Of course, making progress and getting things done is so exhilarating for me I think the endorphin release was a factor as well.
In the end, I ask my myself, do I need to know why or how I had this good fortune? I don’t think I do. If I stop to examine it too much, I am afraid it will never happen again. Superstitious I know but RA has always had a mind of its own, so anything is possible in this crazy world of chronic disease management we all reside in. So, I think I am just going to relish my amazing good fortune and let the need to know all the why’s and how’s go…at least this time.
When was your last flare?