It is the time before the winter solstice when daylight is fleeting and the long nights breed perfect conditions for dampness and cold. The mornings are cast in frozen iridescence, the anaemic sun breaking through the frosty haze; mid-day flickers like a candle flame in the breeze, fighting against the vanishing light of a bleak afternoon; by evening daylight has faded to black. The stars are granted the occasional permission to peak through broken clouds in the wee hours before the emergence of another sunrise.
It is the tranquil lull between Thanksgiving and the holidays, a time of seasonal hibernation, where I too, will slow down for a spell. The frenetic energy of summer and autumn have collapsed into the bleary winter shadows, leaving me to days of weariness where I strive to renew my strength before the rush of the holiday season. It is this time of year I am burdened with increased fatigue and inflammation. The mornings are rougher, the fatigue heavier, and the pain deeper. In the damp misty mornings my joints shrivel against the ocean-swept chill that binds them in invisible chains and makes them immobile. It the season where I spend most of my time in front of my medicine cabinet, and rely on the assistance of hot water bottles, reduced exercise, ice packs and the comfort of my heated mattress pad.
I am less animated in these lazy days and that’s okay. It gives me time to catch up with myself, to sit with RA, and evaluate how well I am doing. The noise of a demanding life often masks my condition in its mayhem. I have gotten used to a certain level of pain, and most days I am unable to judge if I am doing as well as I could be. Am I missing something vital in my struggle? Is this normal the best I can get? Am I taking care of myself as well as I could be? I am still learning how to pace myself, to find that seamless balance between stop and go.
In the stolen comforts of my day, I tutor myself on ways to tolerate the bad days by listening and responding to the subtle messages in my body. The more I know about the reckless nature of RA, the less power it has over me. On these raw soggy days, I lay in the soothing liquid of hot baths, watching the steam curl around me, the calming scents of cranberry or lavender teasing my nose, recharging my vitality for the return of more eventful days. My joints are temporarily appeased, and it’s my turn to lull RA into false security, to really focus on how it operates in me, to strengthen my resolve so I can deal with it in times of activity when I can’t afford to slow down.
There will be times like these in every season. In all its negative glory RA always has something to teach me. Its trials ignite my imagination enabling me to push through the rough patches and look forward to better days that will inevitably follow. I take solace in knowing these cold November days will not last long – soon the holiday lights will illuminate the pall of the dark misty twilights and I will spring to life with renewed energy.
This too shall pass…
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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.