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Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Open country roads, Main Street, little cabins on the lake, fresh air (except for the stinky turkey farms), miles of green fields for as far as you can see…no, this isn’t a sappy country song. These are things I happily was able to occupy myself with last weekend when I took a trip “up north” to the small town of Osakis, MN–which is about two hours north of the Twin Cities.

Noticeably absent this weekend were: medical clinics, waiting rooms, exam rooms, prescription lists, pain scales, infusion centers, doctors, nurses, sick people sitting around awkwardly on uncomfortable furniture, bitter coffee in white styrofoam cups, anxiety, stress, annoying on-hold music. It was a relief these things were gone, even if just for a weekend. Taking a break and going away felt wonderful and made me realize how important self-care is for my RA and my life. It also made me realize that I’m not doing enough of it. The daily grind of RA has been consuming nearly all of my time, energy, and attention and I’m burnt out.

Why is it so difficult to practice self-care?

Why is it so hard to get in the car and take a little drive somewhere? I don’t know, but for some reason it’s not easy for me to do this. I’ve written before about my challenges regarding self-care, and I still think that one of the main obstacles is the feeling of guilt I often experience about it. I feel guilty that I’m already not doing enough or being productive enough in my daily life due to RA getting in the way and sapping up all of my resources. How can I justify taking time out for myself when I’m constantly behind with everything, trying desperately to catch up, or to at least feel as though I’m accomplishing things?

Leaving the “chronic life” behind

The trip to Osakis was a welcome reprieve from the pain and stress of my usual “chronic life.” It’s a weekend that I’ve looked forward to every year since I was 17 and has become a fun tradition in my family. Each year, during the second weekend of July, I head up north with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and their families for the “Roddin’ Round the Lake” street rod car show where we join fellow street-rodder friends who have also been coming to the show for several years.

My uncle has restored classic cars for as long as I’ve known him, and for many years now he has shown his pale mint green (original color) 1951 Ford in various car shows. The Osakis show is especially fun and special because my uncle is originally from Osakis (he’s married to my mother’s sister). He still has family up there who live on farms and come out to the show and our little after party at “the farm” to hang out and visit with us.

“The farm” is the site of a former century-old, crumbling yet charming farm house that my aunt and uncle purchased over 10 years ago from his brother. About a year ago they demolished the old house and built a new one in its place. Since buying the land and the house, we’ve been staying there each year for the car show (and other times). Friends drive up in their old cars pulling campers behind them and set up camp on the land. The night of the car show my aunt and uncle host a big communal picnic-dinner on the land. We eat, and talk, and sit around the bonfire, laughing and slapping mosquitoes until late into the night.

Sitting across from the bonfire last weekend, I felt calm and happy and even a little bit at peace with myself and my life, which lately is a rare occurrence. I wasn’t wrenched into knots of tension and worry like I usually am. The night was dark and quiet except for the light of the flickering flames and a small glow from the windows of the house across the yard. We were gathered together in our small group surrounded by soybean and cornfields with the occasional bat flapping overhead (I told myself they were birds). The sounds of talking, laughter, and country music on the radio were the only things you would hear near us on that perfect summer night. I loved it. I always do.

I think it’s important to take the time and energy (physical and mental) to get away from your RA life, somehow. Even if it’s just a weekend away from home or a day spent doing something relaxing that’s completely for yourself (reading, writing, drawing, a bike ride, etc.), it’s worth it. Dealing with the daily struggles and weight of carrying around a painful chronic illness gets to be too much to bear for all of us, I think, if we don’t stop and take time for self-care. Let yourself gaze into a bonfire once in a while, and give yourself and your RA a much-needed vacation.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Pwilcox
    2 years ago

    Hi Angela, I totally agree. I have always loved to travel and while my husband and I were in the workforce we visited every major National Park and more. Our dream was to travel more when we retired, then I was diagnosed with RA in 2015 after 18 months of excruciating pain and more than 10 Doctors to get a diagnosis. We thought our traveling days were over, but I was determined. We take at least one day trip every week and around once a month we take a longer trip. So far this year, we have visited the Outer Banks of NC, The Everglades National Park, finished the entire drive on The Blue Ridge Parkway plus numerous long weekends and day trips. My RA diagnosis has made us travel a little differently, but we are still doing it and have no plans to give up adventures. I began Remicade infusions this past April and my RA is mostly under control right now, which is a good thing. There is nothing like taking a trip whether local or cross country to life me me up. I spend all of my spare time, planning trips and doing research on new places to visit. I have kept a list over the last 20 years and we are now at #100! RA has not and is not going to take traveling away from me. Have you figured out I love to travel:) A new adventure around every curve,. P.S. We keep a duplicate of all toiletries and it is never unpacked, only replenished. All we have to do is pack our clothes and medicine and we are ready to roll! Just can’t wait to get on the road again! Life is short, don’t wait,if it worth doing it is worth doing now! All my best too you!

  • stayingactive52
    2 years ago

    Hi Angela, we share the same last name, or we did. My maiden name was Lundberg. I too am from MN and the weekends up north are so wonderfully fantastic. We spent a weekend at a friends place recently, they don’t have TV or Internet. But I must say the cabin has all the other amenities. We weren’t roughing it by any means. We read books, went fishing, visited, it was very relaxing. I always feel so much better when my stress is in check. I understand feeling guilty. But, while on vacation I don’t have that same guilt. Maybe it’s because it is a “vacation”.When I’m at home I feel I should be doing something. I work M-F and my body likes me much better if when I get home from work I rest, but I rarely do this. Us RA warriors need to give ourselves a hall pass. Take a break and don’t feel guilty. Try that self care on for size, I bet it fits.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    2 years ago

    Oh, hello my fellow Lundberg! And Minnesotan! Wow! 🙂 I wonder if we’re related at all? As far as I know, my Lundberg relatives are all from Wisconsin though–Stockholm/Lund/Pepin.

    Anyway, thank you for your comment! I agree, I think just making a point to designate a “vacation” makes the guilty feelings not so bad. Maybe I should just say I’m on some kind of “vacation” every day? ha ha. I also agree that we do need to give ourselves a hall pass and license to relax, recharge, and de-stress. It’s giving MYSELF the permission which tends to be the problem. ha.

    Thank you for commenting and take care!
    Angela

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    2 years ago

    I adore vacations but when I was working I hated it. Going away from work created more work. So the learned behavior of not doing vacations makes them difficult today, even with no work.

    As I write this I see Sheryl looking at me and wondering when we are going to Savannah.

  • Angela Lundberg author
    2 years ago

    Oh, Savannah is awesome….go to Savannah, Rick! 🙂

  • Carla Kienast
    2 years ago

    First of all, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I feel like I took a vacation myself. I’m so happy you got a break from the tedious, relentless pace of RA. I see the stories of kids with chronic diseases and disabilities going to special camps where they can just be kids. While I’ve always thought that was nice, I didn’t “get” it until I was diagnosed with RA. Makes me wish they had camps for grownups. 🙂

  • Angela Lundberg author
    2 years ago

    Thank you, Carla! Haha…I totally agree with you. We need some RA camps for grownups! Desperately, I’d say. Hmm….*hamster wheel spinning*

  • stayingactive52
    2 years ago

    I like that Carla, camp for grownups.

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