I write about my life here, about my kids and my husband and the mess and the noise and the things that make me smile and some that make me cry. I write about God and family and the randomness that is my life day to day, and I try to be open and honest and truthful here, because this is not a stage or a work of fiction, but a place to put my heart out on display and hope it blesses someone else. So I post the pictures that show my freckles and crow’s feet and belly flab, and the ones that show the messy living room and the kids with their dirty faces, and I show as much real as I can without completely humiliating myself.
But there is one thing I struggle to write into this place, one reality I live with daily, one piece of me I don’t have enough words for. Not that I keep it secret. But it’s hard to write about. I sit here with my laptop open, screen blank before me, fingers poised at the keys, but nothing comes. Tonight I’m going to force it, because lately I have felt like I need to share it with you. I don’t know why, but the feeling won’t go away, so I’m going to press through and do my best and ask for your grace, because these words do not come easy.
I don’t know why I can write easily about how my toilets need scrubbing, or how right now there are smashed carrots on the floor in my dining room because I was not inspired to clean the up, or how today I wiped the baby’s runny nose on a dirty shirt that was laying on my living room floor, and yet I struggle to write about arthritis. I don’t even know how to write about it. I feel as though my words will come across as a plea for sympathy, or an attempt to seem so strong and amazing, but the truth is that I don’t want your sympathy or a chorus of “you’re-so-wonderful”s. I don’t know what I want. I guess I just want you to know, and maybe to understand a little.
Because the arthritis is part of me too, like the faith and the family and the weird sense of humor. It’s the part I would cut out if I could, the part I struggle most to understand. It’s the part of me I fear the most, more than my temper or my laziness or my deep love of ice cream.
It’s always there, the pain and stiffness and swollen joints, sometimes pushing itself to the front of my mind, but usually just hanging out somewhere in the background. It’s there when I walk down stairs slowly, one at a time, instead of coming down like normal people do. It’s there when I make my sons carry laundry and groceries for me, when I carry things awkwardly, when even my toddler knows how to adjust herself so I can hold her comfortably for both of us. It’s there when I can’t open a jar or a bottle and have to call my husband at work and ask him to come help me.
I don’t always know how to answer when people ask how I’m doing. Some days I say I’m doing well, and I mean it, because on those days I’m at peace with the fact that for me “doing well” means only mildly stiff and sore and swollen. Other days I say I’m hanging in there. Some days I just kind of change the subject, because I really want to throw a giant huge fit about being only thirty-one years old and having puffy fingers that couldn’t button the baby’s dress this morning and not being able to walk right because my toes are acting all evil and painful and honestly, truthfully, arthritis is just plain yucky and I hate it.
Some days I am terrified of what it will do to me.
Some days I struggle with self-pity.
Some days I feel guilty for not getting my housework done when I was having a good day.
Some days I feel guilty for having a bad day and not getting any housework done because of it.
Some days I am jealous of people who can open a jar of applesauce.
Some days I determine to live my life to the fullest and do everything I can while I can, so I don’t have regrets someday.
Some days I just want to throw all that stupid positive thinking out the window and spend the entire day in my armchair eating ice cream.
(Some days I do just that).
Some days I look and act just like a normal person, and no one would ever guess that I have RA.
Some days people ask me why I’m limping, assuming I hurt my knee or sprained my ankle.
Some days I wonder why God would allow all this pain in my life.
Some days I wonder what God wants to do through me that He can only do by allowing this pain. (Those are the extra-spiritual days, I’m afraid, few and far between).
Some days I remember how good I have it, how blessed I am, with a family that loves and supports me, with friends who do the same, with a home and a life that are good and abundant even with the pain.
It’s a roller coaster ride, this life with a chronic illness. Some days I just don’t feel good. It’s called malaise. It’s a symptom of RA. So is fatigue. And of course pain, and swelling, and stiffness. So is depression. And is it any wonder? There are many, many people who suffer from RA that is much more severe than mine, people who truly are disabled by their illness, people younger than me whose disease has progressed much further than mine. Daily pain, loss of mobility, joint deformity, feeling completely exhausted half the time, and just plain miserable the other half– is it any surprise that these would cause depression?
And this is where I truly am blessed, and where I must return when I find my thoughts going down fearful roads, indulging in what-ifs and poor-mes and how-could-Gods. Because I have hope.
Hope. Isn’t it a beautiful word? Hope of heaven– of a future with no pain. Hope that no matter what happens to me, eternity will last far longer than any earthly disease. And because I have hope, I can have joy. Joy in Him, in His love, in His promises, in His blessings. Joy in the day-to-day life, with these wonderful kids, this wonderful husband, this incredible mess. I can find joy even in pain.
Some days I pray for relief. But some days, the days when I am focusing on Him instead of on me, I pray that He will use this pain to make me like Him, and to bless others. I don’t know how He will do it. But I know this– He has promised to work all things together for my good, and for His glory.
All things. Even the pain. For my good, for His glory.
That’s something to be joyful about.