Last week, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy climbed a mountain. While the mountain itself was imagined, the climb was 100% real.
You see, I had shown up at the fitness center – as I usually do on most mornings. I was already in the Pilates room with my mat rolled out, when I just could not seem to get over a nagging concern about my left ankle. Even if I did do my usual modifications which I have grown accustomed to doing during class, I felt that my ankle was still not strong enough even for that.
Usually I would have chosen from one of two choices: 1) participate in the class anyways, even though I knew I would do more harm than good or 2) roll up my mat, throw my things back in the locker, and call it a morning.
This time, I chose a third option – I went to a Spinning class that was scheduled for the same time slot as my regular Pilate class. I have never done one of these classes before, but I have always been a little curious as I passed the room with the stationary speed cycles. (And with the extremely loud music that they play, one can always knows when one of these classes is taking place…especially when I am trying to meditate in the room next door and something like “Eye of the Tiger” is pounding through the walls!)
This session of Spinning was titled “Your Perfect Mountain”, appropriately enough. (I initially hoped it would be something relaxing…sort of like The Sound of Music…but who was I kidding?) Living high in the Andes Mountains, I am surrounded by a horizon of mountains that are peaked with snow year round. I chose one peak in my mind, and for the next 45 minutes I envisioned myself making the strenuous climb in the high-altitude environment. I had no idea if I would even make it though the entire class, but I did…and I can honestly say that is was a actually a little bit easier than I had imagined.
I was on top of my mountain.
I have been putting a new theory into practice during the past month, and is has helped me tremendously. It is somewhat simple…although turning it into reality has been a little more difficult. When it comes to living with my rheumatoid arthritis, I choose to “act now” and “think later”.
Let me explain what I mean, before my words are interpreted as being irresponsible.
During most of the years in which I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis, my activity planning has often gone as follows:
1. Think about what I would like to do.
2. Think about all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do what I would like to do.
3. End up not doing what I would like to do, all the while continuing to believe that not doing so is helping me.
Trust me, I’ve been there – where the pain is so intense that the thought of going out to eat or going to a movie seems tantamount to torture. (Or am I getting confused with some of the releases that slip out of Hollywood…which actually are torturous?) “It’s going to hurt too much if I do that.”
After almost a handful of years, I am happy to share that I have worked through these limitations.
My new thought process:
1. Sure, I’m going to be in pain. But even if I stayed home and did nothing, I will more than likely be in just as much pain…so I might as well go ahead with what I would like to do.
2. End up doing what I would like to do, all the while confident in the knowledge that doing so IS helping me.
So when I say that I have recently started thinking now and acting later, I would like to clarify by saying that when a thought for an activity comes into my mind, I run with it as much as I can – without considering my rheumatoid arthritis and the limitations that might arise at any given moment. My goal at this moment is to commit myself to acting. (As Nike would say, “Just do it”.)
Only when I have promised to myself that I will go out or perform a certain activity, then – and only then – will I start to take into consideration any modifications or extra preparations that I might need to perform. The beauty of doing things in this order is that my thoughts on how I might need to accommodate my RA work in SUPPORT of what I would like to do, and not against it…as was previously the case.
Sometimes my thoughts arises far before I start a certain activity, and at other times they only come out at the moment. When I decided to take the Spinning class, I originally thought that I might be placing to much stress on my knees and ankles…but I was pleasantly surprised that my lower limbs worked perfectly, and it was actually my wrists (with the forward leaning posture of the sports bicycle) that was the problem point.
Which leads me to my last point. As I have more frequently implemented my theory of acting before thinking, I have seen on many occasions that the obstacles and problem that I previously used to predict often do not appear at all. It might be that my body sends me other signals that I must listen to and respond to accordingly, or it might mean that I perform the entire activity with no signs or symptoms of my rheumatoid arthritis.
Either way, I have managed to make great strides forward in living life to its fullest. And the end result is what I need, which is to not allow my rheumatoid arthritis to get in the way of what I love to do.
I’ve learned to roll with the punches (yesterday afternoon I had one of my worst episodes in weeks), but once it passes, I just have to pick myself up – and continue going on. The more that I continue to do so, the more I realize that it is I, and not my rheumatoid arthritis, that is in control.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!