The first skiff of snow-covered the ground, a light frosting on the desolate earth glittering beneath a cerulean sky. The dazzling sunlight penetrated the brisk air and stimulated the sleeping world around me. I woke with my brain buzzing with ideas, but my body was riddled with the notorious stiffness triggered by the moist cold mornings. I dragged myself from bed, stumbled my way through some gentle yoga, and then collapsed into the tepid waters of a comforting bath.
The winter has been challenging – lost in the fog of the unyielding sequence of life with chronic illness I slipped off the exercise wagon, and on more than one occasion, forgot to take my medication, tumbling into the swollen swamp of RA. It was easy to be anesthetized by the fog of routine fostered by chronic illness. My usual determination shrivelled into the cold misty days surrounding me. The end of another year was vanishing and with it the victories, failures and battles in which I had partaken.
Each new day with RA is like wrestling with a new beast. I always think I have it figured out, but then I am taken by surprise at its unexpected turn. In the days leading up to the New Year, I was given a brief pardon from the custody of RA, but on New Year’s Eve it returned with an unquenched enthusiasm, rudely crashing my party. My swollen fingers crushed around the dainty stem of my champagne glass was an obnoxious warning that I would be facing another year of life with RA – but it was also a poignant reminder of all the triumphs I could inevitably achieve. I have worked hard at keeping my disease under my thumb and focussing on the things I can accomplish, no matter how big or small they might be. Each morning presents me with a blank page and another chance to fill it with a new story.
The dim murky days eventually gave way to clear brisk mornings coinciding nicely with the first days of the New Year. There is a mysterious charge that crackles in the beginning that inspires hope for the future and fuels me for another crusade. I know there will be many days where I lose myself in the fog of chronic illness, but there will also be days of clarity and light. The first days are a good time for me to get back in step, to sweep up the fragments of unfinished goals, throw away the scraps of disappointing moments and begin again with a fresh batch of determination and resolve. There’s a mystical power released in the flipping of that first page on the calendar – in the ensuing blank sheets of budding possibility I am pulled from the bog and ready to shake off the grime of RA.
There is still three months left of winter and like every year that has passed, I won’t let RA shape my intentions. There’s something about beginnings that eclipse the setbacks of the past – all the times I fell off the exercise wagon, forgot to take my medication, or didn’t take the time to take care of me are erased in the golden dawn of a New Year. In these bright sunny days the air is charged with electricity, thrusting me towards a scarlet horizon of hope where anything is possible.
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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.