"Any arbitrary turn along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different." ~ Frances Mayes

After losing 112 pounds in almost a year and a half, I have come to realize how very much I was missing. I may be Late to the Party, but I am doing my best to catch up in my own unique way!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Word of the Month - Insanity and The Art of Saying "NO!"

It's been a while since I have written anything about my PAB - translated to Pain in the Ass Buddy - in fact, almost a year.  You can read my first post about my PAB from last year here.  For those closer to me, you know I am referring to my battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  For some reason I always seem to capitalize those words when they really shouldn't be.  Maybe I should stop; maybe it gives the disease too much power that way.  Hmmm.....let me ponder on that one....

To continue, before I knew I had RA, I was continually taking on more than I could handle and then paying for it with hurting knees, elbows, neck, as well as low grade fevers, being unable to sleep because the pain intensifies at night.  People were constantly asking me to do this or that and sometimes I brought it on myself by volunteering my services before thinking about the effort it would require.  Holidays were bittersweet.  I have a tendency to cram so much into preparing that by the time a holiday comes around, I am to the point of taking to the bed with the RA flaring out of control. RA flares can be really bad and brought on by stress or trauma or not enough rest and sleep.  Of course, I didn't know why I was hurting so badly because I hadn't been diagnosed yet.

Then along came the answer.  Rheumatoid Arthritis.  For most people who receive that diagnosis, there is a lag between hearing it and the brain and body to comprehend what it means.  So after I was diagnosed, I carried on as usual, or tried to is more like it.  I didn't know how to say "no".  If my children wanted to come for a visit, that was fine even though I might be struggling just to walk.  Someone needed help with a crafty project or event?  YES!  My new house was CLEAN, the floors tended to weekly, if not daily.  So what if mopping the floors vigorously made my elbow and shoulder so sore I couldn't move it the next day?  It HAD to be done and done immediately! Vacuum and dust constantly?  YES!  Bake a special dessert for a function at work and stay up way past midnight to get it done?  YES!  Coordinate the craft projects for our senior citizens holiday project and do so much work prepping and constructing to the point of exhaustion?  YES!  Spend days on preparing for a cook-out or some other type of entertaining at our home? YES!  Shop and wrap and cook and carry on all the family traditions at Christmas? YES!  My repertoire was endless; my energy wasn't.  I wasn't to the acceptance phase yet.  But what is the saying?  "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." So true, so true......

I'm not quite sure at what point in this RA journey I finally accepted the fact that I cannot do what I used to do and be able to function daily.  I do know it was several years past the original diagnosis and once again I  had overtaxed myself and I was in bed with a flare, the kind of flare that feels like there is a crazed mad-man stabbing me with a hot poker in my shoulder, the type of flare that renders me and my affected joint(s) immovable because to do so there is pain so intense it makes me cry out loud.  Only a Prednisone steroid dose-pack and lots of painkillers will do the trick of easing up the pain, but the exhaustion lasts for days longer.  Like a smack up side the head, as we Southerners say, it hit me that something had to give and if it didn't, it was going to be me -  in a wheelchair.  And I wasn't going there, in my head or in real life, no way, no how.  Message received and delivered. And that is how I added the word "NO!" to my vocabulary.

"Learn to say 'no'.  It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin."~ Charles H. Spurgeon
It is a hard thing to do, this reprogramming your head.  I have always been programmed to assist, work hard, do what it takes, give 100+%.  To turn people down when they ask for help or a favor is running the risk of disappointing them or losing their approval, at least I thought.  More importantly, I had to learn to deal with my own disappointment.  Would I lose my friends' and family's love?  No, but would they understand?  It was hard for them at first, too, I grant you that.  This was a role neither they, or I, were used to or comfortable with. To their credit, after some adjustments to be sure, they have all stepped up to the plate, "manned up", and have eased my burden, which means less stress and wear and tear on me physically and mentally, which means fewer and less severe flares.

The funny thing is, the more I learn to say "no", the easier it gets.  At the holidays, our family has kept many of our traditions, but some we've let go of.  And you know what?  It's all okay. In fact, it's fine.  We concentrate on enjoying each other more, laughing and doing things together, instead of just doing because that what we've always done before.  I don't cook like I used to; neither do I clean constantly.  Time is short and I have learned that cleaning my floors every two weeks or even once a month is just fine!  Dust is a protective covering for our furniture, my older sister once told me, and she is so right!  I don't let the house become nasty but if the towels are folded tomorrow instead of today, I have the right to put it off.  I give myself permission to go have fun first!  The chores and household duties will still be there the next day or the day after; the chance to go play with grandkids or Ed or friends may not!  Seize the day!

When I stand before my Maker and am asked, "Did you take the time to enjoy life?  Did you make memories with your grandkids?  Did you do what you could to spend GOOD time with your family and friends?  Or did you keep a clean house, do too much, and had to lie in bed while everyone else was enjoying life?", I know what I want to answer!

Saying "no"...... what I thought was going to be terrible and awful has become a blessing.  Who knew that such a little word could be so empowering, so freeing, so rewarding?

So, to my friend Gail, who just yesterday got her diagnosis of RA, take heart!  There is life out there even with such a PAB!  Do yourself a favor and learn to say "NO" now.  It is the best medicine you can ever give yourself and the best gift you can give your family.  I know it doesn't seem that way at the moment, but trust me...and your instincts.... and make "NO" a part of your vocabulary today and live a glorious life!

"Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best."~ John C. Maxwell

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