Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.Robert Frost- The Road Not Taken
When you have a chronic disease, the road to disability is an unpaved country road not found on any map. Sure all the old-timers can tell you just how you get there from here but no one knows how long it is exactly or just when you should expect that hairpin turn.
So you do what any sane person with a destination and no map does, you listen to the directions, put one foot in front of the other and try to stay on the path. Unfortunately, this particular path has forks (and occasionally disappears into a bank of thick fog).
Being on the road to disability means your abilities and dreams are always in flux, What sounds like a dream today might be a complete nightmare tomorrow. The things that once soothed might now be out of reach. And so becoming disabled is a process that requires seemingly endless adjustments. As ability becomes disability. (That word. I hate that word.)
The last few years have really hammered this fact home for me. Don’t get me wrong, at no point did my life smoothly follow some nicely mapped out route. But before rheumatoid arthritis took the wheel I at least knew I was in control, and the possibilities were limitless. With a can-do attitude, some hard work, and a little innovation anything is possible. Things I have always believed 100%. Turns out nothing is always true. Even the powers of mind, might, and determination. They don’t win every battle.
And so, I’m learning to adjust. I’m learning to be a person who accepts their limitations. Those who love my stubborn ass know just what an adjustment that is. I’m still not great at it and do things I should not daily, because I think I should be able to.
But hey, sometimes I can says stubborn me. And she’s right. Did I mention the path loops back around? In times of calm, ra patients gain strength and mobility. Like little injections of hope in every joint.
Then the disease flares and you are reminded what road you are actually on. As I come to accept the road I’ve been traveling and admit the damage it has done, I find myself, again and again, searching for the “right” branch in my pathway.
Being someone who doesn’t like to admit her limitations, this often means taking paths that end in a roadblock or having to double back, or carry on stubbornly and strain something. Confession, I’m in the latter situation more than the others. I’m working on learning the art of retreat.
I’m learning that I do have limitations and accepting them will hurt less than living in denial. With those limits as a framework, I am finding a new pathway. Because being disabled will not stop me from finding my ability.