Dear Ms. Meniscus:

I am a 40 year old woman with RA who is home because I can no longer work. I’m not married and live alone.  Do you have any suggestions for things I could do to keep myself busy and cheer myself up that wouldn’t cost much money?

Katherine in Virginia

Decide which answer you like best. There are two – one written by Ms. Meniscus and one by Mr. Meniscus. See if you can tell which is which. Read the answer and take the poll.

Answer #1 

Hello Katherine:

Imagine being 40 and not having to work. It’s most people’s definition of living the dream – except for that arthritis nightmare.

I could give you a list of all the usual stuff you could do – volunteer at something that reflects your passion for living, join an online dating service, look for friends on CreakyJoints.org<http://CreakyJoints.org>, or CreakyJoints’ facebook page. There’s always knitting, painting (Bush does it in the bathtub, but nobody knows why or if it works.) Sculpture, gardening, reading, pole dancing, stamp collecting?

But you don’t have to write to Ms. Meniscus to know you could plant a petunia, or revert to third grade art class and stick paintings on your refrigerator door.

So why are you writing? Is it possible that you’re looking for love in all the wrong places? (sorry Johnny Lee)

I’m not a doctor but I am named after the curved space in your knees which makes me an authority, and I think you may be looking for somebody not something. If this could be the case, it brings a new motivation to doing the boring stuff I mentioned above.

Take a look at the old men who sit on a bench. They’re not trying to reshape their butts to two-inch-wide slats with spaces, they’re looking for something worth looking at that just might walk by. In the meantime, they’re getting fresh air, and letting the dog poop, all collateral actions predicated on the search for that Girl From Ipanema (sorry Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz) I think you need to add the word “friend” after all the activities above, so instead of learning how to knit, you need a knitting friend.

If you’re more mouthy than muffled, try joining CreakyJoints’ 50-state network and being a spokesperson for people with arthritis. You could win a free trip to the state capitol (Richmond, for readers who were absent that day in civics class) to testify before legislators about the importance of quality, low-cost healthcare, or the benefits of biosimliars.

I’m not going to map this out for you in painful detail. You have enough pain in your life. Main point though – don’t lead with your illness. Don’t hide it, because productive friendships don’t start with a last doctor recap about the pain in your kneecap (How is your meniscus?). Save the truly boring stuff (identified by the use of the word “I” every 15 seconds) for relatives and people you don’t want to be around. And, as interesting as autopens loaded with a particular biologic may be, nobody else cares. Instead, be aware of other’s feelings, be aware of the world around you, have a compassionate heart and an informed mind. (If you are addicted to Fox News, that’s not evidence of an informed mind. Just know that nothing happy will come out of watching Fox News or the people you meet who also watch it. Don’t believe me – when was the last time you genuinely smiled after watch a Fox News segment vs feeling angry, frustrated, helpless, or superior. No healthy energy on that network.)

Second thought, knitting probably isn’t for you.  Dexterity and all that.

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Answer #2

Dear Katherine,

How wonderful to be in your prime with no obligations to a partner or the responsibility of raising children.  Cherish your independence and pursue whatever gives you pleasure.  One of the things I love most is grabbing a camera (or a smart phone) and capturing images around me, be it interesting people, architecture or street activities.  You can spend hours finding subjects of interest, framing the shots you like and manipulating images online through various available free applications.  If getting out and about is difficult, consider starting a weekly club in your home where you gather a handful of friends to play bridge or to start a book club.  Escaping in a book is a wonderful luxury that only requires time and sharing a great book with others simply adds to the pleasure.

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