I 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!