Learning How Much I Can Do, Even As I Respect My Limits

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.” –Richard Bach

Earlier this week, I spent three days in New York City. And while I shared many fun photos on Facebook during my visit, I never really mentioned that the main purpose of this trip was business-related. When this trip was originally in its planning phase just a few weeks ago, I was in full preparation mode for my (then) upcoming international flight from South America to the United States. I was also dealing with so much pain and stiffness, that even the most simple movements were difficult to pull off.

For someone who has grown perfectly content with exploring the world through an Internet connection while laying on his back in bed most of the day, the thought of actual physical travel seemed a little overwhelming, even when I tried to focus on the excitement and happiness that surrounded this extended vacation in my home country (and my “escape” from winter in the Southern Hemisphere).

As I walked through the underground concourse at Penn Station Tuesday afternoon, I couldn’t help but feeling a sense of pride in what I had just accomplished. Yes, everyone involved in the project that I had just presented over the course of four hours was really happy with the final results…but that wasn’t what was forefront in my mind, as I marveled at the frenzied movements that surrounded me. What was really making me feel good was that I had actually flown to New York City on my own, traversed the city on my own (it’s a good thing I’m familiar with the city, having lived here during my college days), and sat upright for half a day as I presented to not only individuals who were in the room with me, but also to some people who were being teleconferenced in from around the world.

Just up to a month ago, I thought that committing to such a trip was madness. After all, up until that point, all of my efforts had been conducted while I laid on my bed with my laptop computer propped up on my chest, exactly as I am at this moment that I am typing the words of this blog post. (And exactly as I’ve been during almost all of the blog posts I’ve ever written in the past.) And while signs of my rheumatoid arthritis were definitely visible to others in the room, although I’m sure not everyone was aware of exactly what it was I was dealing with, in many regards the half-day meeting was just business as usual (even though, midway through, my left leg got a major cramp which required me to step away to the side of the room for a few minutes…but even that didn’t really seem to raise any eyebrows).

The night before I left for this recent visit to NYC, I took a long stroll down memory lane. Not only was my scenario quite familiar: bags packed by the door of the bedroom while I was at my parent’s house, ready to take the early morning flight to La Guardia Airport (as I had done so many times before two decades ago, when I was an undergraduate student at Columbia), but I was also dealing with unresolved feelings from my last visit to the city, many years ago. I still remember the excitement leading up to that week that I spent in midtown, as I planned to introduce my partner to the city that had played such a significant role in my life when I was an architecture student. I also remember the complete shock of having to spend almost the entire week in bed at the hotel (it must have been something I caught on the plane, or so I thought), as I struggled to figure out what was happening to my body.

Less than a month after that last visit to New York City, I was officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, ending a multiple year journey of trying to explain the aches, pains, and knees which functioned only on an intermittent basis.

New Year City and walking have always gone hand-in-hand for me, I’ve written previously how I used to just wander around the city aimlessly looking up at the buildings around me, and hours later–when my feet (back then) finally got tired–I would just go into the closest subway stop and make my way back to Morningside Heights. My recent three day visit was a complete success…not only because my professional engagement went better than I could have ever imagined…but also because during each day of my visit, I made a point to once again walk around the city, with my crutches in tow.

On Monday, I walked through the entire High Line, an abandoned elevated train track which has since been turned into an outdoor park. On Tuesday, even as my back started to cramp up from the cold drizzly weather, I walked around the tip of Manhattan and through the World Trade Center Memorials. And during the last few hours of my stay on Wednesday morning, while the sun finally began to make it’s first re-appearance in the previous few days, I walked through Central Park.

And just like that, I once again learned that even as I continue to respect my continually-fluctuating limits, I’m still able to do much more that I previously thought possible…and learning this lesson, firsthand, is priceless for my mind, body, and soul.

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