RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

Soccer GoalRhuematoid Arthritis Guy loves sports championships.

Granted, I don’t watch the NBA finals anymore. (I just don’t have the time to watch so many games…) But I did follow this recent series on twitter…does that count?

And the truth is, for me baseball has never progressed much beyond a sunny afternoon outing to the ballpark – hotdogs, peanuts, and all. (San Francisco has such a beautiful park right next to the bay, no? I used to work right across the street from there…extended lunch break anyone?)

But if we talk about the Superbowl, I’m there! I certainly enjoy any excuse that allows me to make my homemade buffalo wings, kick back, and enjoy the game. The commercials are usually overhyped, so I really don’t look forward to them as much as some people might. The halftime shows are often entertaining. (Speaking of hype, remember the whole Janet Jackson “controversy”?) But in the end, it’s all about the game – and watching an exciting game is much more important to me than having “my team” win.

My only gripe, probably due to the fact that I have lived outside of the U.S. for many years, is the title of “World Champion” that is given to the winner of the Superbowl. (I think “National Champion” would be much more appropriate.)

The places I have lived in outside of the U.S. are Europe and South America. Being surrounded by what many people consider to be THE worldwide sport, it should come as no surprise that I am now a big fan of soccer. Already, excitement is growing for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as national teams from around the world compete in qualifying rounds.

There’s nothing better than hearing that long drawn out “gooooooooool” as one team scores. No matter what is going on, everything comes to a standstill whenever this word is uttered. I was outside Milan during the 1990 World Cup, and every time Italy played, the city shut down completely, work day or not. Once I made the mistake of going to a restaurant in Buenos Aires as Boca Juniors played. It only took  about two hours for my food to be served, as everyone working in the restaurant was glued to the television for the entire duration of the game.

So as I start get excited about the World Cup matches that are going to be taking place a year from now, I turn my attention to something in my more immediate future: my near-term goals.

For a large part of my life, I have gone from one goal to another. Some accomplishments took days, whereas others took years. Some of my goals are complete (go to college, go to graduate school) and others are still a work in progress (yoga, lifestyle changes). Some are still completely untouched (have kids). Some goals are financial (slowly becoming less important), and others are spiritual (slowly becoming more important).  The one thing all of these goals have in common is that I have often used them to measure both where I am coming from and where I am going to.

Talking about goals brings up one of  my more personal challenges of living with rheumatoid arthritis. As my entire world continues to turn upside down, the whole notion of moving from milepost to milepost is no longer as simple as it used to be. (Heck, I don’t even know anymore if taking physical steps tomorrow is going to be easy or hard.)

For the past three weeks I have been telling myself: “Next week, I will reach a point where I can walk without my crutches.” As each new week arrived, I realized that I had not yet reached this point. In one regard I have indeed progressed, because in the past I would have pushed my crutches aside whether I was ready to or not. (I guess that I was most concerned with the appearance of  progress.) Even as I do the right thing by continuing to use my crutches, I do feel the disappointment of not having met my goals as expected.

I have been careful to not define a specific recovery point. I tell myself that what is important is to continue moving forward, even if I do have to take many steps back during the process. It would be nice to reach a point where my rheumatoid arthritis is in remission, but I am would rather not set myself up for feelings of defeat if this does not happen. I want to stay positive, while acknowledging that there will be negatives.

As I write this, I ask myself once again what “moving forward” means. My head fills with visions of pain-free days and joints that aren’t constantly popping. Being able to leave the house without crutches or a cane seems like an accomplishment. No longer having days where I have to remain within a short distance of the bathroom would be nice. But maybe, still, I am expecting too much.

So as I settle on what “moving forward” means to me, I end up with this: Taking care of myself as much as possible – body, mind, and soul. By this definition, I have been moving forward over the past couple of months.

It is easy to think that I deserve certain rewards for taking care of myself – such as walking without crutches in a week, or finally waking up one day without pain. After all, I have grown up with the belief that for every case of illness there will always be an achievable state of good health – as long as we take care of ourselves. (Get well soon!) I now know that when dealing with chronic illness, this is not always the case.

But maybe I should focus a little less on what I expect my rewards to look like. And in doing so, I just might be able to finally see the many true and unexpected rewards that will no doubt come my way.

I now commit to live each day to its fullest, no matter what comes my way.

As I add this to my list of my personal goals, I find comfort in knowing that I need not rush to put a check mark in front of it and consider it done. As long as it remains open, it will serve as a constant reminder of what I need to do – each and every day.

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