What’s Love Got to Do with It?

In honor of Valentine’s Day I had to reference one of my favorite Tina Turner songs for a tribute to the loved ones in my life who make a huge difference in how I cope with rheumatoid arthritis. While Ms. Turner’s song is in reality more critical of the concept of love, I honestly can say I would not be where I am without the support of my loved ones.
My family, friends, and husband are the people who have seen me through tough times, helped me find strength I didn’t know I possessed, and yet also let me be the flawed human that I am. Despite living with a chronic illness and fighting RA every day, the only thing I ever wanted was a normal life.
From the start, my family loved me and treated me like a regular person despite my illness and disabilities acquired at a young age. And it wasn’t just my nuclear family, but grandparents, aunts, and uncles who helped out at various times. I had encouragement to persist through flares and tough times. My family was a constant source of support—I knew they believed in me and that I always had them on which to rely.
Throughout my years, I also had many friends with whom I had fun, adventures, laughs, learning, sorrows, and more. They cared to learn about my experiences with RA and how I view the world because of it. They didn’t treat me differently because of my illness, but also accepted my difference. It was better than “not seeing” my disabilities because it was an understanding of them instead. I learned how to be truly myself in the wider world—the person who has aspirations like everyone else, while living with a serious chronic illness.

My great love, my husband, has provided not only support and encouragement, but helped me through surgeries and physical therapy. He’s my daily coach to help me with my exercises. But most of all he raises my spirits when I have flares or struggle with my RA. He brings me happiness every day! With Richard I live a full life—work, travel, at home with our cat.

Life with RA may be a little different than the average.

For example, I have more physical challenges and need to spend more time on taking care of my health. But the point of life is what you make of it. For me, loved ones are at the center of making life matter.
So what’s love got to do with it? In my book: everything! My loved ones? help me enjoy life and get through the difficult times. And in return, loving and supporting others fulfills me, creating meaning and purpose.
We all need to find that path of meaning unique to each of us. It’s up to us to discover it for ourselves. It cannot be given nor borrowed. The meaning that helps me through the rough times with RA is all my loved ones—the times we have enjoyed and the adventures of tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be fancy because sometimes the best things are simple. But I do love making or discovering those moments with my loved ones!
I am so grateful to have both the support and fulfillment of loving family, friends, and husband. In my view, family isn’t always who you are born into, but also the people you find and the relationships that you purposefully cultivate. In that way, I guess that I am double (or triply) fortunate. This Valentine’s Day I’m going to be sure to thank them for all they do for me.

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