In December I had the pleasure of chatting with Cheryl Crow, creator and host of the Arthritis Life Podcast. We discuss living a creative life with RA, how to honor the present, the power of saying “no”, and the importance of recognizing your own self-worth. Cheryl is an occupational therapist living with RA. She is a passionate advocate, helping people live a full life with programs and tools designed to navigate the physical and emotional challenges of living with arthritis.
I look back only to go forward. I take strength from my accomplishments, washing my failures away like dirty water down the drain. There will always be setbacks, especially when living with a chronic condition, but they don’t hold power over me anymore, and there is always a win to claim in every moment, even if I don’t recognize it right away.
Most people are aware of the pain and damage arthritis causes, but one of the biggest factors with living with RA is what cannot be seen. On the surface, it looks like I have a very active life, and I do, but what isn’t obvious is the phantom lurking underneath, ready to knock me off balance with a storm of unpredictably.
Summer days invite me to be more active and enjoy the outdoors again. My husband and I go for walks around the seawall and explore beaches and parks. We sometimes take our bikes out for a spin around the neighbourhood. In the summer, I begin most days with an early morning swim. There’s nothing like swimming to get the body moving and the blood flowing, and in the morning there’s a certain kind of peace that is not present at any other time of the day.
I have spent most of my life on the stage. Ballet was my first love, but I adored all forms of dance, and I learned as many different styles as I could – salsa, ballroom, belly dance, flamenco, swing. From dance I twirled my way into acting, and that became my new focus, but I always returned to dance – and then a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis changed my choreography.
I have been busy preparing for new changes– the end of one job, the continuation and further development of a career. I’ve been thinking on how to navigate these changes and the goals I’d like to work towards. I don’t make resolutions per se – it’s in the word. Resolution. It sounds so final, and I don’t believe that anything in life is final – finality means the end and while there’s still life, there should always be room for growing and learning.
The winter solstice is a time of hibernation and restoration. After the solstice, the days start to get a little longer and the light returns. A New Year is here before we know it. It’s an opportunity for renewal, to begin again, to hope again…
This is the time of year to sweep the negative energy into the darkness, honor our ancestors and plant the seeds of transition into a new year. The fall is always a season of new beginnings for me, a time where the major changes materialize transforming my life, as the fall transforms the color of the leaves – and this year there’s a big transformation looming beyond the full harvest moon.
The summer is almost at its end. The days are getting shorter, the sunsets deeper, the lush green leaves are tinged with orange and a hint of crimson blushing around their edges. I look up at the sky, blue, with tiny wisps of clouds. I float on my back in the pool enjoying the peace…
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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.