It is the 3rd week of the dark drizzly days of November, in the quiet lull between Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays. I had just stepped out of the spotlight of a busy theatre season and my partner and I were trying to find our way back to a normal routine. In the chaos of rehearsals, work and performance, I had once again, fallen off the exercise wagon and missed a couple of medication doses – and I was feeling the effects. The Pineapple Express had, once again, travelled along the air currents of the Pacific, delivering to us a very wet and cool autumn, making RA active once again. It was time to take a break, dry off, and recharge my energy for the frenetic weeks to come.
We escaped our sodden west coast city and disappeared into the desert hills of wine country. The sweeping valleys are brilliantly painted with yellow, crimson and orange leaves, blazing beneath the barren windswept hills. There is no rain here. It is a welcome escape from damp days and sore joints. It is an effervescent recharge, in a place we may one day live, before the tangled eruption of the holidays explode around me. How fast the days fly in this brief pocket of time, and I can barely hold on as we gallop towards a new calendar year, filled with family, friends and new obligations. It occurs to me that this pleasant break is a good time to take stock, and make sure I am well enough to keep up with it all.
My body is feeling the effects of RA and the lack of a regular exercise routine. It’s easy to fall out of taking care of yourself – until pain wakes you at night, a clear message it’s time to take control again. Life doesn’t stop just because RA joins the party. It’s times like this when I know I need to step back, just for a moment, and create a new plan for moving forward. RA has its own schedule – the only way I can counteract it, is by implementing my own. Life doesn’t always allow for a steady agenda. During those erratic times, I listen to my body as well as I can, until I can get back on track again. After our break in the desert hills, I revisited a physiotherapist to teach me a home program to weave my posture back into good form, strengthen and stretch.
A recharge after a busy time is a grand thing – not everyone can have a break at the exact time they want it, but I’ve learned that taking a break doesn’t always mean getting on a plane and heading out of town. It can be as simple as a walk in the park, taking a swim at the local pool, spending the night with a good book, treating ourselves to a day at the spa, or the simple joy of a cup tea with a friend swapping stories. There are many ways to escape, recharge and face the world again. RA doesn’t always give us a break but we can give ourselves one.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.