Redefining Victory

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin…But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten though first, some unfinished business, time to still be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. -Alfred D. Souza

captainvictoryYesterday was a difficult day. The constant inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy’s hands and feet has led not only to a great reduction in the amount of weight they can support, but is also limiting their range of motion. Waking up yesterday with such limited mobility felt like crashing into a brick wall. Crash test dummy or not, I made it my goal to at least move from room to room throughout the day. Although it was difficult, I managed to pull it off. (Never before have an Ultra-Portable PC and a MacBook Air – weighing in at 5lbs and 3lbs respectively – seemed so heavy!)

How is it that just a couple of weeks ago I was starting my day with not too many difficulties, I was going to pilates/yoga class five days a week, and I was able to step out of the house on short notice and go run errands – when now, just being able to bathe myself and get dressed sometimes feel like the biggest victories of my day?

So I got to thinking, what exactly is victory? (Is it me or am I beginning to sound like Carrie Bradshaw?) Victory always seems so big. Big “V” posters. Sports championships. Victory is more than just winning – it’s winning big. The confusion in my mind was growing stronger: is it okay to feel victorious after just getting out of bed, after just taking a bath, and after just getting dressed?

I woke up this morning, still reeling from the rapid descent of the past couple of days, and with my left foot in an even worse state than it was yesterday. The thought of going through the day seemed too much to handle. My mind and body were sending me signals of defeat (the thought of curling up and spending the day in bed crossed my mind more than once). I was just on the verge of throwing in the towel when I thought about the question that has been on my mind for days, and decided – yes, it is okay to redefine victory. (I ohhh so much want to make a George Bush jab here – but I think it’s best for me to keep politics out of this.)

So I spent this Saturday redefining victory.

Deciding I would leave the house during the day to go see the new weekend blockbuster movie. Victory. (Even though I had not yet done anything physically, I already felt that just having made this choice was going to be one of my biggest victories of the day.)

Bathing, dressing, putting on all of my braces and supports, and switching my cane for my forearm crutches – I’m upgrading my superhero gear so rapidly, it seems. Victory. (Even though this took over and hour and left me feeling exhausted.)

Allowing myself to lay down and listen to music for fifteen minutes before stepping out of the house. Victory. (In addition to being able to recover from getting ready, I was able to mentally prepare myself for the challenges I was soon going to face by going downtown while using crutches.)

Going to the movies and watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Victory. (Okay, the movie wasn’t that good, but with the sound literally piercing through my bones – must it be so loud? – it did give me an opportunity to get my mind off my rheumatoid arthritis. I would never rag on another superhero, but have you ever noticed how Hollywood superheros struggle when they gain new abilities. What’s up with that?)

Making an unexpected visit to a nearby museum where I spent an hour looking at some paintings and sculptures – one of my favorite things to do but probably one of the last things I would have proactively planned on a day like today. Victory. (Going up and down the antique wooden steps with my crutches -as there was no elevator – doubled as my exercise for the day.)

Taking things one hour at a time today ended up turning what would have surely been my worst day in months into one of my best day in months. If, in the future I have to take things one minute at a time to get though the day, that is what I will do. The pain is still there, the mobility problems are still there, but somehow I am learning that I can continue to live a fulfilling life.

So in closing, I pledge to work on making my feelings of personal well-being less dependent on the presence/absence of pain and mobility limitations in my body.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

*****
Kudos to my sister for recommending “Learning to Breathe: One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival“. I downloaded the book this morning and got through the first 100 pages. Reading about the author’s personal struggle with pain and hearing her motivational message was definitely key in turning my day around.

6 Comments
6 comments
  1. sara says:

    You really are a victor! Thanks for writing such an inspiring and thoughtful post. I’m amazed that you were able to turn the day around so completely, and it is a good reminder of what is possible and within our control when so many other things are not.

  2. JG says:

    What a great post. As a mother of three, I feel guilty every day for what I can’t get done because of my disability. I am slowly realizing that I have to be thankful for what does get done, for the hours throughout the day I was able to walk, fold laundry, and sweep the floors, instead of wondering why I can’t force myself to push past it somehow anyway. I’m still in a bit of denial because I think…I could do this yesterday, why can’t I today? I thank you for reminding me that every little thing is a victory when doing ANYTHING seems like such a challenge.

  3. Prof says:

    Go, RA Guy! This does indeed sound like a breakthrough day. I know how difficult it is to not have your mood dependent on how you are feeling physically. Your reframing of what it means to have a successful day is a good example for all of us in how we respond to our own personal struggles. Thanks for inspiring me to define my own success instead of measuring myself against others.

  4. RA Guy says:

    Reading this two and a half years after I wrote it, I’d like to redefine one more victory:

    Sometimes, the biggest victory is learning how to stay still (without panicking), and allowing my body to get all of the rest that it needs!

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