Postcard_of_ZurichIt’s a struggle sometimes. What words of wisdom or positive vibes could I share despite that I’m feeling great and even more motivated lately? I guess this is exactly my point.

I am grateful. I feel great! Summer has arrived finally here in Zurich and with it lighter days and sunglasses. My assignment this summer for you despite schools are out now is to practice saying, “I’m grateful”, to yourself 5 times and then repeat throughout the day. Each day. Why am I focusing on this? I know we all struggle when it’s the pain that awakes us instead of our alarm clocks (or an enthusiastic toddler!). When we struggle to grip door handles, gear shifts and steering wheels, hug our children for the sake of shooting pain, to stir that simmering pot or dare to mix that thick batter with only a wooden spoon, to carrying loads of groceries from the shopping cart and then into and from the car, to fetching the mail or walking the dog (I presume), to getting dinner on the table – on time! – despite how awkwardly we must use our utensils to achieve a dish worthy of Masterchef ratings, to cleaning and tidying our homes, to getting our kids ready, and ourselves, and everyone out the door with matching socks and brushed teeth on time, to using our hands-free devices whenever we need to phone as a gift to our swollen hands, wrists, elbows, and necks, to meeting deadlines without excuses and earning a respectful living while getting the bills paid and all the while trying to not forget who we are along the way… this list could go on for sure.

My point is that with all of these “moments” throughout each and everyday it’s no wonder that we struggle like everyone else but with RA pain added to the mix. Yet, that’s what we live. Ours is a totally different kind of reality. We must pull ourselves together and get through each day despite our symptoms. I’ve written before that painful moments offer me an opportunity to feel alive, and be grateful. It is my perspective. No, I don’t love the pain. But, I’ve learned to accept it in that moment and then whatever I do thereafter is my choice. Do I ignore the pain? No. Do I embrace it and remind myself I am alive and have many things to keep positive and motivated about? You bet!!

I know there are many people on this planet who experience all different levels of hardship throughout life and this helps bring me constant perspective. So typical of me! I’m living with arthritis well over twenty years now and call it age or wisdom of life with this chronic illness, but how I look at today and tomorrow are my choice. I don’t ask for pity or praise. The pain and disease progression keep me motivated and focused. Why? RA wasn’t my choosing, but I’ll tell you what. It’s not going to steer me and allow fear to prevail or bitterness either. It keeps me real. I have a lot to be grateful for now and for what lay ahead, and I’m consciously reminding myself each and everyday to say, “I’m grateful.” Then, I feel calm and positive energy.

Recently, I felt increased pain in a “new” joint and an overall uneasiness. Instead of submitting to it and tolerating it for much longer I made an appointment with my Rheumatologist to discuss a possible change of therapy. Just doing this is how I cope. I did something about it. This illness reminds me it’s always there and that sometimes while I may not be in full charge, how I manage its signals and the fear of possibly losing mobility are what get my fingers to dial his number. There’s possibility in every moment be it joyful or painful. I cannot and ADAMANTLY refuse to be guided by fear or uncertainty. If I don’t take charge and manage my well-being how can my family count on me? How can my son rely on me? How can I live my own life with dignity? Talk about living your life with a purpose! I want to be proud of myself. I don’t want to nor do I have to prove anything to anyone. I am my biggest critic after all and this woman has a lot of living to do and things yet to see!

I guess one of my biggest fears is looking back on life and thinking I didn’t live it to the fullest and how I wished to shape the world around me. I mean this specifically regarding to life with RA. Don’t get me wrong. This perspective didn’t evolve overnight. I live in a curious land and as a foreigner fumbling with the local language each day, the stress level can already leave you frustrated and never wanting to leave the house sometimes. It seems ironic then that my life with RA and my refusal and desire to not be outdone are what give me the strength to also get through those trickier days here when it seems all I do are make mistakes. Yet, I know that I’m awake. I’m trying. I try. I give a good effort. I show up. I don’t ask for anything other than a bit of consideration and a chance to prove myself. RA allows us this opportunity each and everyday. It puts us through this kind of test each and everyday. Your existence is not a movie and you’re not sitting in the audience (maybe enjoying buttery popcorn though!). YOU are the protagonist in your life however you define it and only you hold the remote control to your own life…despite and because of RA.

Think about it now will you? When your frown is turned upside down because you struggle for whatever reason on a given day just think and remind yourself that you are enough. You are good. You are worthy. You are present. Be grateful for the [painful] moments reminding you to tune in and self-reflect. Then, just watch as the whole world of possibility opens up to you!