Hundreds of people flowed through the narrow lanes of a local seaside market, bursting with buskers, art and variable visual enchantments. The soulful sound of jazz penetrates the air. People are dancing, a myriad of scents pour from the food trucks and cafes, awakening a wanton grumbling in my stomach. I am sitting on the grass, writing beneath an unblemished summer sky, absorbed in the countless reasons for me to be grateful, to appreciate everything I have, and what better day for that potent reminder than the national holiday of July 1st, otherwise known as Canada day.
The morning began cool and colourless socked in by puffy clouds. I peeked through the curtains and stared up at a solemn sky. The ground was speckled with damp patches indicating rain had fallen earlier that morning and my rigid sore joints confirmed that fact. I slid open my balcony door and stuck my hand into the remains of the fine mist that saturated the air. It was a far cry from last year’s unusual stretch of dry heat that necessitated the implementation of water restrictions and generated the phrase “brown is the new green”.
The first days of summer have not been impressive. The weather has been cool and changeable – instead of mornings bathed in the glow of sunlight, swelling clouds band together smothering the sky. A hint of rain hangs in the air, and when it finally breaks, it arrives in sporadic surges fighting for attention with the sun trying to make a brief appearance before the pattern begins all over again. The barometric pressure has been bouncing around like a ping-pong ball making exercise difficult. It’s not enough to stabilize RA with medication – outside factors always come into play. RA is like a cat – it doesn’t like change, and when it’s faced with it, it throws a tantrum that lights up my hands, wrists and elbows like red color of the Canadian flag.
Regardless of the unsettled mornings and pains of RA, I try to keep moving. It was as good a day as any to take a walk, join in the celebrations and take some time to appreciate life. This celebratory Canada Day weekend reminds me that RA is but a glitch in the incredible life I have. The revelry is the tonic that sweeps me away from the daily grind of life with chronic illness, and helps me remember all the things I have accomplished. It reminds me that in spite of living with chronic illness, I have much to be grateful – food on my table, clothes on my back, my job, family, friendship, passions and above all, the freedom to choose the direction of my own life. These everyday things often get lost in the clouds of chronic illness and in the trials that color our lives.
Presently the bloated clouds parted, allowing the sunlight to stream through and show off the charming beauty of our city, effectively turning a fair day into a brilliant one. The gulls flew overhead, adding their melancholy cries to the rhythm of the music. The pain of RA had dwindled into the trivial delights of the afternoon. A special occasion or public holiday shouldn’t be the motivating factor for me to appreciate the life I live, but joining in the festivities of our national holiday has stirred a potent reminder. I have RA. I also have a life, a family, love, friendship, dreams and the freedom to make my own choices. As sure as there will be storms, there will also always be a parting in the clouds. This day was all about #Appreciation – for the storms, for the calm, for me, for my life and each day yet to come…
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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.