Milk Bottles

milk bottlesI think most of us are familiar with the milk bottle carnival game. A number of glass milk bottles are stacked in a pyramid, and players must knock all of the bottles of the platform with the throw of one (or three?) baseballs. Some people claim that this game can be easily rigged, by making one bottle heavier than the others. Either way, this game is the source of much amusement and empty pockets, as players try repeatedly to clear the platform of milk bottles. (And once they finally do, they are often surprised to find out that their prize is not one of the huge stuffed animals hanging overhead, but it instead a rinky-dink prize from under the counter that must be “traded up” to a larger prize.)

Looking back at 2009, it feels like my life could easily be represented by this stack of jars. In my case, instead of a baseball knocking all of them clear off the platform, it was my rheumatoid arthritis that did all of the work. As expected, the prize was minimal to none. And unlike the carnivals or state fairs where the area below the platforms is well padded, my jars fell straight onto the concrete ground. To say that some of them shattered into tiny little pieces is an understatement.

My first step forward, after months (some might say years) of continuing to step on the sharp pieces of glass, was to finally survey the damage around me, and to admit that it needed to be cleaned up. Looking back at the past year, I realized that this was a critical moment during my journey with rheumatoid arthritis. Even though I still had a lot of recovery to accomplish, I had at least turned my sights around from the fearful unknown to the positive present…and while I did not know it at the time, this counted for a lot.

I started deciding which milk bottles were most important to start piecing back together, and ended up with “physical health” and “emotional health”. This was not easy – sometimes the total number of hours that I dedicated on both of these issues totaled up to more than a full time job – but it was possible. My physical therapy sessions have been reduced from 3x a week to 1x a week maintenance mode. My therapy sessions with my psychologist have been reduced from 1x a week to an on-call basis. This effort took months, and many times it was hard to see some of the results, but looking back I am glad I stuck with prioritizing my physical and emotional recovery above all else.

After I started gluing the pieces back together, I often assumed that a lot of the cracks in the glass would be permanent. I am happy to find out, however, that some of the scars DO heal.

The milk bottle labeled “personal finances” has still not been fixed, but now that I’ve worked on some other milk bottles, I can dedicate a large part of this year to working on this next project. I only recently started surveying the damage, but as the previous examples showed me, this is a critical step for moving forward. While my current income still does not cover all of the expenses, it is much better than where I was last year, when my income for many months was zero. I am currently working on various leads at the moment that will hopefully get me closer to where I want to be. I no longer dream of riches. I would be more than happy with a comfortable income that covers my living expenses, my medical expenses, and a little allowance on the side. I have no doubt that I will soon be there.

And though I did not want to admit it, the milk bottle labeled “marriage”, which continued to appear to remain so strong, started showing some cracks as well. (Luckily, this was one milk bottle that did not shatter into a million little pieces.) A few months ago we recognized this situation, and started putting the effort that was required to not only stop the cracks, but to heal the scars as well. (Including, but not limited to, couples counseling.)

2009 was the year of fixing two milk jars: physical health and emotional health. When this new started a few weeks ago, I decided that 2010 was going to be the year of fixing another two milk jars: personal finances and marriage. After I get all of my milk bottles back into place, I am sure that they will be even stronger than they were before, so that they are not so easily knocked over once again in the future.

In order to fix these remaining milk jars this coming year, I will need to spend less time online. No, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy won’t be going away completely, but I also won’t be able to continue making daily appearances as I have done in the past. While it’s great to be able to feel like a superhero here on my blog, it’s even more wonderful to feel like a superhero over in my daily life, out in the real world.

Plus, I hope to – one day – finally get that really big stuffed animal that is hanging overhead!

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

16 Comments
16 comments
  1. MissDazey says:

    This sounds to me a very healthy, well thought out plan. Perhaps your online time the past year was for no other reason than to help you come to the place you are now. I trust all will work out, and 2010 will be the best yet.

    Too many people become obsessed by the illnesses no matter what that is. It’s refreshing to know you have learned that life must be balanced out.

    MissDazey

  2. Millicent says:

    You have made/are making the best decisions for you at this point, & I am happy that your milk bottles are becoming even stronger & harder to knock over. Whenever you post, I will enjoy what you write, & I will be thinking of you every day. Carpe Diem!!

  3. Wren says:

    You’re taking care of yourself and the person you love the most in just the right way, RA Guy. Good for you — it’s a lot harder to do than to talk about, isn’t it? I’ll look forward to reading your sweet humor and wisdom over the coming year, and wish you the best, always.

  4. RA Guy says:

    Thanks, MissDazey, Millicent, and Wren!

    We each deal with illness in our own personal way, and for me – at least – sharing my journey with rheumatoid arthritis so frequently and so publicly (even though my true identity remains hidden) has allowed me to reach a place of acceptance and coping that I previously never thought was possible.

    I could not have gotten here alone.

  5. Marilu says:

    wow that is a great way of simplifing the struggles that people with RA go through everyday. it also says alot about taking one day at a time, which is not easy to do. Thanks RA guy for your insight and wisdom.

  6. cateepoo says:

    Being married 21 years I can definitely say that marriage is one bottle you don’t want to shatter. It takes so much work but the reward is greater than anything else. I am glad you are taking the time for the two of you. Remember that even if you can’t write daily your words are always here for new people and so inspirational that those of us who have already read them will happily go back to the archives for little pick me ups. I am glad to see this post today because it means you are doing great things for yourself and you deserve that! You are the best!

  7. Carla says:

    Well, I’m on my fourth (and last) husband, and believe me, when you find one worth keeping, it’s worth the effort to make it work. I congratulate you on your choices, I know they were not made without sacrifice, and I wish you all the luck in the world. I will miss starting my day with your blogs, but all of us respect your reasons. Know that we are here supporting you and waiting for the next adventures of RA Guy. Please keep us posted when you can.

  8. Tortoiselvr says:

    I’ll certainly miss the daily updates, but I am in full agreement with everyone else – take care of YOU (and the ones you love). You have spent a long time helping each of us keep a few of our milk bottles from shattering with your strength, honesty, openness, and frank accounting of your struggles – for this I know I will be forever thankful. You are one of the spokes in my wheel of support (and will remain there whether you post daily or not!!)

    Wishing you all of the best and wonderful, crack-free milk bottles
    See you soon
    Tort

  9. andyd says:

    Ahh finances / relationships , the things that determine we are human and not SUPER HEROES .
    Shame that this will make you slow down on this fantastic blogging , which , being a newbie to RA has been an awesome source of amusement / knowledge and generally a great resource .
    I look forward to your future updates and may ALL work out for you and yours in 2010 .
    Andy from downunder

  10. Gwen Flockton says:

    Hi RA Guy
    I have just found you, looking forward to reading and learning more. The idea of RA bingo made me laugh out loud even thought I am in not such a good RA place physically and mentally. Thank you RA Guy.

  11. Pollyanna Penguin says:

    What a great, and powerful, analogy. I really hope that this is the year of the enormous cuddly toy … although don’t you have to smash the bottles for that, so perhaps not …

  12. Viesta says:

    Blessings be yours RAGuy, you are a hero just by saying those very warm words…marriage, you are a real healing being when you can put others before your own pain, you have taken the biggest step forward, all the best to you and your spouse, never stop loving, never stop healing!

  13. Lorraine Rose says:

    I have only recently been diagnosed and found your site. It has helped me to stay positive about all the unknowns that will face me in the future so I wish you all the success with your latest adventures.
    Many thanks for the blog

    Lorraine

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