Proud and a bit cocky-and deservedly soSo, here we are in 2014.  Normally, I would write some piece on New Year’s Resolutions and what I plan to do in the coming twelve months.  Somehow, these oft-forgotten assurances always seem to contain some derivative of a promise to lose weight and be healthier, a pledge to finish work that has been languishing on the back burner for eons, and a banal trio of pointless wishes for events that will never come to pass.  It’s a yearly ritual, though, and, just like everyone else, I always participate.  Well, it’s time to revolt, people!  No more shall New Year’s Resolutions enslave us and heap shame and guilt on top of our weary heads for weeks until we either forget them completely or move on to the next pointless crisis.  This year, we are not going to make a list of our faults and unaccomplished goals, instead we are going to turn things on their head and celebrate all the good things we have done since the last turnover of the calendar.  I christen them “New Year’s Contributions!”

Now, I think it’s probably best to focus on my own accomplishments from last year.  I’d be happy to talk about any and all of yours, but you’ll have to e-mail me first, as my attempts to read other people’s minds haven’t borne fruit just yet.  (When it does, though, Freaky Joints?)  Nothing like tooting your own horn, and my horn is especially ripe for tooting, as those of you who read my column can probably guess. My biggest accomplishment of 2013, by far, is the release of my book, So Young, after four years of work.

I know you may be saying to yourself “here he goes with the book again, sheesh.”  Well, to that I say, “too bad!”  In all honesty, though, the authoring and eventual release of my book almost passed without much fanfare on my part.  Believe it or not, I had resigned myself to publishing So Young and then moving right on to my next book without much pomp and circumstance.  Somehow, writing an entire book had become mundane, and I had lost perspective on what a unique accomplishment it was.  Maybe it was because I always assume my writing is of subpar quality, or because I had resigned myself to the fact that no one would be at all interested in reading about my life, but either way, I didn’t give it the respect it deserved after four years of hard work – until someone gave me a swift kick in the butt, that is.  Now, I can say, without reservation, that 2013 was the year in which I accomplished something noteworthy, and I deserve to be proud.

This revelation didn’t come to me spontaneously, though, as I said.  Someone made me realize just how big of a deal it is.  This person told me to count on my fingers how many people I knew personally who had published a book.  I came up with just one, and everyone else asked came up with none.  After this person told me that a writer knowing someone who wrote a book didn’t count, I realized I had become completely desensitized, and had simply assumed that authoring a 355-page book was something anyone could do well.  The truth is anyone can author a 355-page book – the important part to remember is that not many people can do it well enough to have others actually want to read it.

Well, that takes care of one of my New Year’s Contributions for 2014.  So, I promise not to be so humble, and accept that I have accomplished something impressive.  Now, where’s my golden pen and Pulitzer…

Even though the release of So Young was the last notable exploit of 2013, it wasn’t the only thing I accomplished.  Those faithful readers among you know that a certain special someone has been a part of my life for several years now, and in June of last year, I proposed to my better half, Allison, and for some unknown reason, she said, “yes.”

Now, some of you may not count getting engaged as an accomplishment, per se, but you have to bear in mind the fact that a mere five years ago I had resigned myself to being alone for the rest of my days.  I was in a very bad place then, bloated so badly due to Prednisone that I couldn’t breathe, and hiding from everyone I knew almost 24 hours a day.  It was a terrible period in my life and a time during which my disease was as active as it had ever been since my childhood days.  I had contemplated ending it all more than once, but always stayed my hand because I was afraid I’d miss out on one day being successful enough to have my enemies destroyed.  As you well know, it worked out in the end, and in one of life’s enduring mysteries, the week after I gave up completely on love, it literally forced its way into my world.  A mere two and a half years later, I was on my knees at our favorite restaurant, asking for Allison’s hand in marriage.  Quite an accomplishment to be proud of, I think, and a message of hope to you all.  I don’t care how fat, ugly, ill, or stupid you think you are, you have to stop getting down on yourself and realize that there is someone for everyone in this world.  You can quote me on that. (The “someone for everyone” part, not the “fat, ugly..” part.)

As of now, two major accomplishments can be credited to me in 2013.  I’d consider myself lucky if even one of those things occurred, so I have to mark last year down in the plus column, I think.  There were other less notable accomplishments for the year, but I have to end this article at some point.  Here’s the important thing to take away, though.  Yes, I engaged in a bit of braggadocio, but it serves a purpose.  I want all of you to see and truly realize that just because you may be ill, it doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish something truly great.  Yes, I know it sounds like a message from the Latter-Day Saints, but it’s true nonetheless.  People like us who have chronic ailments tend to downplay our achievements, for reasons that escape me.  It’s ok to be proud and a bit cocky, and you should make your own list of New Year’s Contributions to remind yourself that you are still moving forward, and that even in a year where all you did was preserve the status quo, that’s still quite a feat for someone with autoimmune disease.  As Billy Joel said, “I found that just surviving was a noble fight.” Welcome to 2014, and stay tuned, lots to come this year!

So Young – A Life Lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis is available now on the Amazon Kindle and the B&N Nook!

The softcover version is just out on Amazon and the iBook version is coming out shortly!