“We never saw it coming. We never could have guessed that a virus would change our world. The possibility only existed in movies, and there was always a dynamic hero that came to the rescue with a cure.” – J.G. Chayko – Imagine RA Network: Chronic Illness in a Pandemic Life.
The year is 2020. It’s a year most of us would like to forget. It brought about an unprecedented change, a tectonic a shift in the way we live our lives. 2020 has redefined the definition of normal.
Chronic illness in pandemic life remains largely intact. Those with RA or other chronic conditions are well versed in how to say no to social situations for their own wellness. They have implemented all the protocols for sanitation and keeping safe. For most of us with these challenging diseases, the common cold on top of our condition can be debilitating, so we are always careful about close contact with others, although, I admit, I have not always applied these guidelines in the tempest of my own life.
The big shift in this pandemic world was the loss of part of my artistic and communal life. As a writer and actress, I was used to going to the theatre and attending writing festivals, working closely with other actors and writers. I had to learn to find ways to keep my creative life thriving in a new world laden with anxiety and uncertainty. And I’m making the most of it.
The isolation of a pandemic world is taxing. Connections with friends, family, colleagues, and other advocates in the community are significant support systems for our mental health. We take inspiration from each other how on to remain resilient and live our best life. I take pleasures in the simple things in my temporary limited world – a hot cup of tea on a cold day, a good book, the transformation of nature right outside my window. It’s the power of these little things that give me hope and the motivation to reinvent my life.
The pandemic world has brought new challenges, but it also reminds us how fortunate we have been. Our ancestors lived through much worse in a world that didn’t have the advancements in medicine, recreation, and technology we have today. I am grateful that I have a place to call home, food in the cupboard, the ability to keep myself interested and invested in the world around me. I still have connections to family and friends. I can still take a walk outside, breathe in fresh air, and listen to the ocean. These are the modest essentials that support the foundation of my life as I know it today. These are the things that remind me to look for the gold outside my window.
*Earlier this year, I participated in a discussion with other advocates on living their best life with chronic illness with the Imagine RA Network, and wrote about my experience living with RA during a global pandemic. You can find it on their blog, Our Voice.
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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.