Is Less Really More?

Yesterday morning as the week started, I woke up with a mental list of emails that I needed to send out. When lunch time rolled around, and I still had not worked through my list of emails, I was somewhat startled. It’s taking me this long to do something that in the past wouldn’t even have registered on my list of thing to do?

Looking back at my morning, I wasn’t too surprised: after each message that I typed, I was tired, and needed a break. (On the plus side, I was giving myself these breaks.) While I recently installed Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my computer and have taken it for a couple of test drives, I still haven’t started using it on a regular basis.

A couple of months ago my good friend, fellow blogger, and Show Us Your Hands! co-director Lene Andersen gave me a great tip, in response to some comments I had made about how I always feel rushed when I leave the house. She told me to give myself “ridiculous” amounts of time to get ready whenever I needed to go out (and we’re not talking a matter of minutes, but of hours).

So right after yesterday’s lunch, I found myself preparing my shoulder bag by gathering all of the things I needed in one corner of my bedroom. I was starting to get ready, even though my physical therapy appointment was still three hours away. This ended up being a smart move on my part, because half an hour before I was scheduled to leave, my body started to shut down. Luckily, my shoulder bag was completely prepared with wallet, keys, cell phone, emergency meds, natural stress relievers, Nexus 7 tablet, and the list goes on an on. All I had to do was figure out how I to get my body from my house to my physical therapist’s office.

While I sat in the back of the taxi cab on the way to my PT session, I started to think about not only my day up to that point, but also about all of my days over the previous few weeks. I’ve noticed–how could I not?–that what I am able to do on any given day continues to decrease. Doing some of the simplest tasks takes twice as long as they once used to. Leaving the house requires a level of planning just below that which is required to have a U.S. President visit a local bookstore. Not only have I had to double the amount of time it takes to do something, I’ve also had to double the amount of time that is required to recover from doing something.

And no matter what thoughts I have in my mind, no matter the optimistic attitude that I continue to maintain during the roughest times, deep down inside, this truth sometimes feel like it is eating away at the essence of the person who I am.

Having admitted as much to myself–while still sitting in the back of the taxi (which is actually the location of some of my biggest breakthroughs)–I also told myself that it was okay to accept these feelings, but that I also needed to counter them…because if I didn’t, the weight of these emotions, of doing “less,” would become too much to bear.

So I started my search for the silver lining. What good could I possibly find from such a situation? I am typing less. I am leaving the house less. I am cooking in the kitchen less. I am even reading less, as the fatigue often seems to take over every time I lay down with a book. Less. Less. Less.

Then it hit me, as I thought not about the quantity of the things that I am doing, but about the quality of the things that I am doing.

Yes, I am doing less. But the “less” that I am now doing has so much more meaning that the “more” that I once used to be able to do. Every email counts, whether related to personal stuff, RA Guy, or Show Us Your Hands! counts. Every day’s exercise session–even though they may sometimes last no more than five or ten minutes–count, and I know as much because these stretches have already done wonders for my shoulders and my back. Every trip outside of my house counts, especially since I am usually going to see a doctor or my physical therapist. Every meal that I make, even though they are less frequent than ever before, counts, because I am doing what I love.

Everything that I am doing counts.

And what matters the most is not how much (or how little) I am doing. What matters the most is how I am doing it.

And I am realizing that when I really, truly love every tiny little aspect of what I am doing, all day long, that I am actually in a place that is so far ahead of what I was forced to leave behind.

Once the taxi stopped in front of my physical therapist’s office, I stepped out. I was in more pain than ever, and I had just accepted a whole new level of “limitations” that have entered my life, but I was smiling.

Most importantly, I was happy.

Because there is a beauty to be found in doing less…and I had just found it!

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

11 Comments
11 comments
  1. Kary B says:

    I’m very fortunate, thanks to new meds, to be enjoying a period of comparative wellness.
    What this has given me, after many months of being able to do less and less as you describe, is a different attitude and outlook to my life.
    I no longer put off doing things, even the simple things like walking the dog, even if its blowing a gale, or cleaning the bathroom.
    RA really does make you appreciate what you can do.

  2. Norma Faumui says:

    To RA Guy
    My name is Norma and I live in Wanganui New Zealand and was diagnosed with RA 8 yrs ago. My daughter got diagnosed with Lupus when she was 16. Our conditions are both chronic and are on or have been on nearly every thrapy availble. I follow you on twitter. Today I just got out of hospital after urgent surgery for infection in my hip joint after a steroid injection and feel overwhelmed by what just happened in the last 5 days. All so fast. Just read Is Less really more and you put into to words what I feel everyday but have to been unable to express. Thank you for your inspiration. I am a mum with 5 beautiful children aged 14 to 24 and also run a specialist medical practise. Yes I would never get out the door without advanced packing and planning several hours before departure sometimes even the night before. Not much support for RAa where I live so reading your words each day helps put it all inperspective.

  3. Julianna Shapiro says:

    I always tell people that I talk to about #chronicallyawesome that part of what I try to do is look for the gifts of our condition. Of course that is always met with a look or sound of surprise or disbelief. Or a tweet full of question marks.
    Gifts? How can chronic pain and illness have a gift at all associated with it?
    You have just described what I have been talking about.
    Sometimes when we find ourselves “#chronicallyathome” (Chronically At Home) we learn we have talents we never knew we had. Some learn to crochet or cook, or in my case, I learned that I can lead a community and I can write.
    You obviously have so many gifts. You too have learned that you are an amazing and inspiring leader and writer. Did you know that about yourself always?
    And now, now you have learned another gift. You have learned that it is now how much we do, but how we do the things we do and what we get out of those things. That stop and smell the roses mentality is a gift, but it is one that does not come easily.
    You have more than earned the right to slow down, look around at your world, and not only enjoy the accomplishment of how you got where you were that day (you managed to get ready, to get in that cab, to get where you had to go). You earned and certainly deserve the gift to look up, look around, to see the beauty of the world, and even the not so beautiful, to see the real world as it is, to take it all in. It is a gift to stand (or sit) for a moment and take in the world.
    Congratulations on making it to that moment, congratulations on discovering yet another gift you may never have discovered if you lived in the high speed, corporate world that “they” live in.
    We are presented with that gift, it is a matter of whether we take it.

  4. Sallie says:

    It really helps me to know that you have these negative thoughts, that it’s OK to do so but the art is in learning to successfully counter those thoughts.

  5. Denise says:

    Wow! Your article on the 5th could have been written by me…
    Less, less, and less, is the way I’ve been feeling everyday for months.
    Now, if I too, can find a way to counter the negative thoughts, I’ll be ” good to go “…
    so far, it ain’t happening
    reading your blogs, will be my first ” positive ”
    Thank you

  6. Lee @ Autoimmune says:

    I love how you sort and searched for the silver lining and found it. I also really appreciate to hear you’re getting less done as I can relate to it so much and it’s just so good not to feel so all alone as only another with an autoimmune condition can make you feel

  7. Sheila Martel says:

    My days are starting to be just like yours.Take’s about an 1 to 2 hrs. to get moving. Its only been 2 years so I’m new at this. I have a question do you know anyone who has RA, Fibro,and crohn’s together? Or am I just special! Have you heard of anyone trying to deal with RA without the meds? The Medications are doing more harm than good. Constant UTI’s, polyp’s, Starting to feel hopeless. Sorry this is not a positive reply. Just looking for some answers. I had to stop the metho. because of blood work and getting sick. of course right back on it.wish I could stop it. Is there anyone who has tried to just see what happens without the meds.

  8. Caroline says:

    Less is more. Since my diagnosis last fall, I do less and less. It is cutting back into how much I work as I find I need down time to rest and recover from the simple things. You put into words, what I feel.

  9. Carla says:

    Hmmm. I don’t know if Less really is “More”, but you’ve certainly made it clear that in many ways, Less can be “Better”. It’s kind of like life. It’s not the years we remember, it’s the moments. May you have many fulfilled, quality ones. Cheers, Carla

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