First off I must tell you that I did not write this. It is either from an arthritis site or the Arthritis Today Magazine. I cannot find the author, I wish I could to give credit where it is due. I have had it for years and I am assuming it was an author unknown because I am almost sure I would have written her name at the end. I hope you enjoy and connect with it as much as I have over the years.
I Still Am
I look at photographs from years ago, and I remember her. I remember her boundless energy and the things she accomplished. She was active and so full of life; mother of two small children, full time and part time secretary, board member, community volunteer, student, writer actress, sister, confidante, friend.
She walked almost everywhere, not because walking was good exercise, but simply because she liked to walk. She’d walk five miles to the rec center, swim for a couple of hours, and walk home again. Or she’d walk 10 miles to the mall and 10 miles home without ever having set foot in a single store.
And as I look at photographs from years ago, I’m saddened. I’m saddened because the woman I see no longer exists. The once slim, athletic body is now a shapeless blob, puffed up by an abundance of steroids. The sturdy legs that carried her on long walks to the rec center or to the mall can barely get her down the stairs. And on some days she literally crawls to the bathroom and prays that the powerful arms that used to propel her through the water at the rec center have enough strength to pull her up off of the floor.
The boundless energy that allowed her to be a mother and work two jobs, volunteer, serve on boards, and take classes has been replaced with a weariness that scarcely allows her to function. Cooking a meal for her family leaves her too exhausted to sit at the table and enjoy the fruits of her labor.
I’m saddened that the smiling, healthy young woman in photographs from years ago is a woman far too old for her age who lives life in four hour increments when she pops pills to ease pain, reduce swelling, minimize bone loss, boost vitamin levels, lower blood pressure, increase thyroid enzymes, alleviate depression, and allow her to sleep.
I’m saddened because when I look in the mirror, I see no remnants of the woman I see in photographs from years ago. I thought I’d be young and agile for much longer than I actually was. I always knew there were two options to life: get old or die. I just didn’t expect to get so old so soon and I didn’t expect to be this ill at this age. And as I look at photographs from years ago, I can’t help but indulge in a moment of self pity. I long to be who I was before pain visited my body and, like an uninvited guest, refuses to leave.
And then, when I stop feeling sorry for myself, I realize that I didn’t lose my self; I merely lost the ability to do certain things. There are still days when I laugh so hard I cry (and almost wet myself). I still write, though not as much or as often as I’d like, but as often as I can. I still act, though no longer on stage before hundreds, but for much smaller audiences every time I pretend not to hurt in order to make others feel more comfortable.
And my heart continues to grow more and more in order to accommodate the infinite love I have for my grand children; a love that multiplies exponentially every day. They may not be able to climb on my back for piggy back rides or on my knee for horsey rides, but they can climb on my lap for the best hugs that I can give. I didn’t know what a great kiss was until I was kissed by my sticky-faced grand child who whispered, loud enough to be heard from across the room, “I love you, grandma.”
I savor the things I’ve learned to do differently. And while I sometimes still mourn the loss of the things I used to do, I remind myself that I still am aware of who I am and where I am. I still am able to function without the use of a wheelchair or an electronic device that speaks for me. I still am able to think for myself and, most of the time, I still am able to tend to my personal needs. I still am loved much more than I ever thought I could be by my family, friends, and a God who has never left or forsaken me.
And as I look at photographs from years ago I am reminded that I am much more than the things I used to do. I still am me. And with the precarious nature of life, I am just grateful that I still am.
God bless your day!