Sunday, June 9, 2013

Shifting Gears, and Getting my Edge Back

I've been wondering where to take the direction of this blog. Yes, I want to keep it real, but I also don't want to start being some kind of self-appointed poster person for RA (rheumatoid arthritis). A big yawn, indeed.

Above is a picture of my newest accessory, which has replaced my beloved old briefcase. It became clear recently that I'm past the point of juggling -- crammed briefcase in my right hand, commuter mug in my left, purse on my left arm, and my Aladdin thermos-full of coffee cradled in the crook my left arm. How did I then manage my back door keys, and then those to my car? Good question. All I know is that, if Burbank had been hit by some freak tornado, I might have had enough added weight to keep me grounded, while everything else blew away.

After my knee surgery, I shifted to a baby-diaper-backpack, but somehow managed to keep lugging around the same poundage, while hobbling around on The Cane. Not good, either.

I've been using my new wheelie-tote for almost a week, and I can't believe I didn't make the change sooner. There's lots of storage for files, my make-up, my lunch, AND the industrial-sized thermos--perfect for my 8 AM to 6 PM Friday. My back and my hands thank me.

Recently, I got some wise feedback from a high school friend. She suggested that if there is any benefit to having a injury, it's that it makes us more aware of our bodies' workings and our environment -- mindfulness, one could say. Maybe that's why a lot of these "owies" visit us in later years. Youth is for moving fast, whereas middle age and beyond is for down-shifting, to appreciate what we've experienced so far. Our bodies remind us, "Really, what's the rush?"

Still, there are some, like me, who stubbornly bridle at this getting-older stuff. A few days ago, I got very melancholy while driving through parts of Glendale and Burbank. Looking at buildings and neighborhoods, I saw what has changed (or not), and how this reflects my aging, and that of my 1972 BHS cohort. I suddenly felt physically mortal, and emotionally vulnerable. I don't want to "just fade away," like that line that the Who sang in "My Generation."

So, I want to take my recent setbacks as a challenge. I took a class in my doctoral program about the psychology of disease, and wrote a paper on how certain conditions can be seen as a trickster. This trickster could be seen as malevolent, bent on making someone's life miserable. It could be perceived as a taunter, a bully, to crush one's optimism about life. Or it could be a challenger, saying, "Okay, here's some obstacles. What are you going to do about them?"

Okay, one thing I could do more of is laugh-- at myself, and the absurdity of my situation. For example, how many of you ladies have struggled with dressing when your hands are stiff? Those hooks and straps can be pretty frustrating. I recently googled "arthritis bras," and came up with lots of images that reminded me of the training bras we wore in the sixth grade...plain, white, and nondescript. Really?? In today's multi-billion-dollar, international fashion industry, it's ridiculous that ladies would have to choose between functionality and femininity? Please...

And then there's the perspective of gratitude. A few days after my RA diagnosis, I was walking beside two ladies about my age. One wore a teeshirt with a logo urging continued efforts toward an eventual cure of rheumatoid arthritis. She greeted me with a bright smile.

She also struggled greatly with her walking, aided by crutches. As I was accompanied only by The Cane, I felt a bit ashamed for my recent grumblings about my own condition. I want to toughen up, or, as the now-popular 1939 English saying goes, "Keep Calm and Carry On." Hope and optimism need to be vital parts of my daily regimen.

Maybe a better song for this post would be one from Fleetwood Mac:

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