Most of my readers know that I was born and raised in the United States. After spending most of my early life in Texas (with a short stint in Italy), I lived in New York City for four years (college), followed by Boston for four years (grad school), and then San Francisco for four years (career start).
For the past seven year, however, I have been an expatriate residing in South America. I originally committed to moving here for a couple of years to see how I liked it, and then at that point I would decide what to do.
I’m still here.
And while I’ll always be a “foreigner” in the country that I currently reside in, every day I become just a little less foreign. When I speak Spanish, I have less of an accent. (This is oh so important since most of the commerce here is based upon a verbal bartering system…any hint of being a foreigner, and the prices shoot up!) I continue to learn more and more about local customs and traditions. I actually even show up late to social events. I continue to fit right in, even though I’ll always be a little out of place.
The same holds true when I return to the U.S. for visits. Even though this is “my” country, each year it feels a little more different…a little more foreign. Wide straight avenues surrounded by big box retail. Convenient…but somewhat boring, compared to the hectic outdoor markets of tiny stalls and labyrinthine streets that fill the city I live in. Don’t even get me started on the forms of greeting people! All too often, while in the U.S., I realize much too late that while a kiss on the cheek is the norm where I reside (to not do so is often seen as an insult), to do this same gesture in the U.S. is often a faux pas. I once actually did this during a business interview, believe it or not.
This morning, I taught class to a group of local students. To them, I provide a very American experience (beyond the fact that all of my classes are taught in English, no matter what the subject it). This afternoon, I am going on a mural tour with a small group of American students who are participating in a study abroad program at my university. While I will no doubt have much in common with them, I will also be that person who is very immersed in the local habits, customs, and language.
I am neither completely from here or completely from there. But it’s nice to explore this strange limbo-esque place in the middle.
And when it comes to my rheumatoid arthritis, I sort of have similar feelings. I will never get used to the constant pain and flares…but at the same time, I continue to get used to the constant pain and flares.
The day before yesterday, I had an extreme flare. (This sounds like the next Mountain Dew beverage: Extreme Flare™.) Unlike most of my recent flares, this one caught me quite off guard. Usually I try to sleep through the worst of flares, but this one found me completely awake. The pain, and my mind alongside, continued to race out of control. While deep down inside I probably knew that this would eventually pass, I actually lost sight of this fact. I didn’t know what to do. And to make things even a little more complicated, my supportive partner was out of reach, at work.
So I called my mother in the states. Even though she was thousands of miles away, and even though I knew receiving this type of phone call from me while I was in this state would no doubt be upsetting, I called anyways. That is what I needed at the moment.
When I finally was able to stop crying and start talking, we started talking about the flare that I was in at that moment. She suggested that I go into the neighborhood clinic for an anti-inflammatory injection, which I did after our phone call ended. Towards the end of our talk, when it seemed like the absolute worst had passed (although lots of bad still remained), we started talking about some other topics…like the Dallas Cowboy’s disappointing loss on Sunday night. And then I realized something: that I had made it through yet another (seemingly worst) flare (ever).
So while I will never be able to get used to flares like these, I continue to get used to flares like these.
And I couldn’t have done it alone.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!