Milepost 43


222px-Mile_Marker_43.svg

I am not sure what I am marking, or is it just a milepost in my life?  I don’t see it as an anniversary or a celebration or anything like that; it’s simply the month I was diagnosed with RA 43 years ago.  I don’t remember the particular date, though I know it was before Thanksgiving.

We had come back from Australia in September of 1970 and found jobs as well as a place to live in about a week or so.  I was working in a nice department store in San Mateo and our apartment was in Redwood City.  As I think back to that time, it almost is as if I had read it in a book or someone told me about it.  43 years is a long time ago and a lot has happened over the years.

I am still not sure what triggered RA – was it bouncing down the concrete stairs on my butt holding an upright vacuum cleaner?  Was it lifting up the wardrobe truck to check for water damage?  Or something else I haven’t associated as a contributing factor?  Then again, it could have been my body trying to throw off the stress of Australia once I was back in my home country.  I have often wondered through the years what happened, but is that relevant now?

Then I began to see myself as a victim, an innocent bystander sideswiped by RA.  But  I now know I am not a victim even though I have spent a lot of years with a victim mentality.  It’s the “Why me?” question.  Did I do something in another lifetime and this is payback?  If so, I hope I had one hell of a good time in that other life.  Or the “What did I do to deserve this?” question.

I’ve thought about it at different times and come up with other possibilities – a preparation for the next life; this is my soul contract; there is a reason and purpose for it; this is my purpose in life; I chose to experience it in this lifetime.  I am sure there are many possibilities; what I have learned after a bit was not the “Why?”, it is the “How?” that is important.

The “How?” is the how do I deal with it?  At the time, I didn’t know I had a choice; I could go get treatment and see what I could do to help myself, or dig a hole and bury myself and not do anything.  Looks as though not knowing I had a choice was a good thing.  I think of all those times I just wanted to curl up in a ball (or as much of a ball as I physically could) and bury myself in the covers.  Then the times when I felt good I was able to do things and have a good time.

When we moved to Connecticut, I became involved with the Connecticut chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.  I started out in a support group, but found it was too “me” centered.  Yes, if I was having a difficult time, it was good to whinge and get it all out.  But I get depressed with constant whingeing, so when I was asked to be a Self Help instructor, I said yes in a shot.  Later I asked to become the Speaker’s Bureau Coordinator.  I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

I will admit both scared me a lot – I always found being up in front of people an agony.  What I learned from both of those was to be comfortable talking in front of people.  Now everything I do tends to be more personal – I can do technical but it’s not comfortable for me.  I put personal things, stories, humor as well as facts into what I do.  If time is limited, I will jettison my stories to be sure I present the important information.  I had a card with the things I needed to cover, so I made sure I followed that.  I will admit I never had a time limit, I just talked until I was finished.  Plus I always told them, any time you have a question, just let me know.

The biggest bonus was feeling I was finding something positive in RA – people would thank me for helping them, saying it made a difference to hear from someone who has it, sometimes it was helping them know and understand “it wasn’t all in their head”.   This from many older women, especially in the class.  There are all the times when I helped someone and I didn’t know it.  I often think each of helps a lot of other people without confirmation.

I loved to hear how wonderful I am, but I was also concerned.  I figured as long as I kept a balance of “feeling I was hot stuff up front” and “do I look stupid standing up here walking back and forth and waving my arms?”, then I would not get a swelled head.  Now there are people in my life who would tell me there is no danger of me getting a swelled head.  A subject for another time.

Ye Gods and Little Fishes!  I am at the end and I am so surprised.  I saw pictures in my mind as I was writing this, a bit of going down memory lane.  Interesting to think about it at this point and seeing it with a different perspective.

P.S.  You have no idea how long it took to find that photo of a mile marker 43.  I wasn’t about to let technology win this time!

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