Aches & Pains II

By Marilyn Hay

This is the second post in a two-part series.


Changes and adaptations to my arthritis didn’t end with learning to
manage pain or finding new and fulfilling things to do at home. I could
no longer manage the spiral staircase where I was living—I came close
to falling enough times that it scared me. And the long, brutally cold
winters in Winnipeg brought even more constant, relentless pain. I
couldn’t bend well enough to get boots on, so was often confined
indoors, unable to negotiate the snow. The idea of house-hunting was
exhausting and I really didn’t know where to begin looking. I just knew
I needed somewhere that wouldn’t get as cold in the winter and,
hopefully, wouldn’t have as much snow.

Luckily,
just as I decided I needed to move, friends discovered a new adult
housing development being built in British Columbia, so I didn’t need
to do any house-hunting. I bought a unit online and I’ve lived here for
over two years now. I live in a bungalow now, so no stairs to worry
about. In spite of the fact that the prolonged winter rains and damp
aggravate my joints, I love it. At least I can get out to do my
shopping in the winter. And the gorgeous mountain views continue to awe
me and bring me joy.

And as for travel? Well, I tried a short
trip back to Winnipeg and returned home after six days: I was in such
pain and my shoulders were so constrained that I feared being able to
sustain my independent lifestyle. My physio and massage therapists
counseled me that I had tried to do too much in too short a time. I had
to learn to build in rest time in my travels, and to plan longer trips
to see everyone I want to be with.

I’ve had to change the
sorts of holidays I take. I can’t amble around much, so driving
holidays or cruises win out over bus tours and trips that require
ambulatory sightseeing. And I’ve found I need a ton of patience for air
travel. One can wait hours until someone has time to push a wheelchair
so you can get your luggage. Traveling alone by air or cruise ship is
getting increasingly difficult, but my friends are terrific about
including me on their holidays and generously provide the help I need.

I’ve
had to buy a walker and a little scooter, and accept I just can’t get
around without aids like this. But people, generally, are willing to
help open doors. Be wary, though, of situations in which people lapse
into a kind of mob madness, like in port terminals where everyone’s
pushing and shoving to find their luggage. It’s essential to arrange
for help in such situations, as I learned the hard way. There is no
sign of human kindness or patience in a mob.

For the first
time, I have gotten to know my neighbours and enjoy spending time with
them. And they’ve been so kind and helpful. One couple has taken over
my garden, making it beautiful. Others check on me, so if I can’t get
out for several days, they make sure I have whatever I need in terms of
groceries. And I’ve made truly wonderful new friends both here and
around the world through the internet.

Finally, after more than
three years of feeling my way, learning to manage pain as best I can,
and accepting that sleeping pills are a necessary evil, I’m exploring
the possibility of doing more to share my knowledge and experience with
others. I’ve set up a consulting business and coach people over the
phone or by email. Fortunately, I can still live on my own.

The
point of all this? Don’t give up. Life doesn’t have to be a misery just
because you have to change your lifestyle drastically, or even because
you experience pain a good part of the time.

  • Try different things to see what works for you to help you stay active.
  • Don’t give up your interests—just figure out how you can still pursue them.
  • Take the opportunity to explore other interests you didn’t have time for before.
  • Choose to be happy.
  • Remember to be grateful for all you still have.

Bitterness,
anger, fear, guilt and despair get you nowhere and only leave you
feeling miserable. There is always the possibility of having joy in
life. Sometimes we have to be willing to find it in new ways. Sometimes
we have to at least accept that change—even radical, unlooked for and
unwanted change—can have good in it, can offer us a different kind of
adventure.

Life is still a wondrous, joyful adventure—even with aches and pains.

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