In this holiday season, while the sorrows of the world, and perhaps even our personal sorrows, swirl around us, I have been reflecting on courage.

courageous3The major holidays in this season – Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanza, emphasize the role of courage in their stories. Lights lit in the darkness, a young couple fleeing a tyrant with their newborn, the principle of speaking out – all demonstrate the reality of courage.

In a similar way, the daily practice of courage infuses the community of those who live with RA, and related diseases. You may not notice or even believe that your lives are courageous, but they are.

Courage is defined as the willingness to act, even in the face of risk, uncertainty and fear. (Biswas-Diener, The Courage Quotient).

Your lives are full of fears, uncertainties, and constant risks. Will the medication work? Do I dare to go out tonight? Can I trust this person to tell them how I really feel? Can I say no without seeming like a whiner? Can I say yes even though I’m not sure? Will I ever feel better? How hard should I push?

The ongoing dance with these thee demons of uncertainty, and fear, and risk is so constant you may not even notice how you deal with this – day after day, after day.

You may not see yourself acting in the midst of all these unknowns – doing your job, being generous with your time, building relationships, honoring your creativity, all the daily acts of courage that state: I am here, living. I am (most of the time) glad to be here in the midst of my life.

But others see – and are inspired by your witness. Others see who you are and all that you do and are grateful. Your daily courage may go unremarked by you, but it is not invisible.

Who sees? You may wonder.

That is part of the reason for this online community of CreakyJoints – we hold and see each other. Someone in your family sees, maybe just for an instant, your animal companion who gets you so fully sees and knows, the person who hands you your morning coffee and nods, has a tiny inking of what it takes to get going each day.

Do any of us ever fully get another’s struggle? No, we don’t. But we treasure and savor the moments when our courage is recognized and appreciated.

What matters as much as that outside affirmation, is the inner knowing.

So many folks I work with dismiss their courage – the bravery it takes to have constant pain and keep moving, to try another treatment when the past ones have not worked.

It is easy to glide over what you do – how you feel fear, or risk, or uncertainty and still act. How you smile, even when you are wincing, how you talk yourself into “one more time” even as you lie on your couch in pain.

It is important to take a moment and see your own bravery, note the reserves of courage you call on, and admire yourself. We cannot take n the appreciation of others when we have not practiced taking in our own appreciation.

So now, CreakyJoints community, take a collective breath, and give yourself the best holiday present of all: Seeing who you are and all that you do. See your acts of courage and call them by name. Give yourself a hug and a pat on the back. Fill your own cup as you prepare to celebrate in whatever way you celebrate, and light a candle that speaks of how you are lighting the darkness with your life.