I broke a plate this morning.
It wasn’t on purpose.
Sometimes I really take for granted what I have in this world. And I’m not talking about materialistic things like a closet full of nice clothes, food in the fridge, and a roof over my head. Though those are very important things to have, don’t get me wrong.. I am extremely grateful for the roof, and the apartment it’s attached to. I am happy to have clothes to keep me warm/cool, even though the majority of them are secondhand (clothes are clothes). And I know I’m lucky that I get food stamps monthly that provide the food that fills my fridge and cupboards.
I am grateful for everything I have.
But what I’m talking about is taking things for granted that we don’t usually think of. In college, I took American Sign Language, and for one day our professor asked us to put ear plugs in so we might understand what it would be like to be deaf. I lasted about three hours before enough was enough, and I took them out, continuing on with my regular day. I couldn’t handle what I felt was a burden. The worst part, of course, being that I totally missed the life lesson my professor was trying to teach about how good we had it, when others aren’t always as lucky.
Yesterday, I really got what my professor was trying to convey a decade ago (you can stop counting, I have no issues admitting I’m 34!). That morning I woke up with a really painful flare in my right hand. Yeah, that’s right, in my entire body-head to toe-I only had pain in my hand. Not a big deal right? WRONG. Not only was the pain in my hand excruciating, but I’d also lost all motor function there. And I got to learn this the slow and hard way.
I woke up, and started my morning routine… Walked into the kitchen to turn my electric kettle on so I could get to caffeinating. I usually put my two cup French press out the night before, along with my coffee cup, milk frother, and Pyrex measuring cup (to heat milk in), to set myself up for the following morning just in case I wake up having a bad day.
My sisters friend Faith, got me super addicted to drinking cafe au lait last Christmas, which is basically hot coffee with steamed frothy milk on top. Of course I don’t have the super expensive Nespresso machine that she does, so I can’t make espresso style drinks at the drop of the hat. I can, however, do the next best thing by making my coffee in an individual French press, and then warming up the milk in the microwave and using a cheap milk frother I found at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $22 to make the frothy milk that goes on top of the hot coffee. It may not be a fancy drink like you get in a cafe, but the fact that I can make a cafe au lait in my own home in about 10 minutes (as long as my hands are cooperating) is pretty miraculous. And delicious!
Well, I didn’t think I was having a bad day til I went to pick up my electric kettle, full of just-boiled water, and nearly dropped the thing. Pain shot up my right wrist and forearm. It wasnonlynthen that I realized my right thumb knuckle was discolored purple, and the flesh around the joint was shiny and stretched. My hand looked much larger than normal, every joint puffed up from the inflammation. Definitely not what I was expecting.
But I figured it was just a regular pain flare, I get them all the time, and I should be able to just deal with it. They truth of the matter was that I thought I could handle what I figured would be a frustrating, albeit painful, nuisance. Boy was I wrong. You may not realize it now, but you use your hands for EVERYTHING.
All day I was dropping things that ended up being too heavy for my pained hand to deal with (insert broken plate here). I had to switch hands to do the simplest of tasks: opening cabinets and the fridge door, using a pen/pencil to attempt to write anything (what a joke!), making the bed-can’t pull the sheet if I can’t even grip it! Everything was so difficult and painful. Not to mention how nearly impossible it was to shower with only one hand! Especially when it’s the wrong one! I had to use my teeth to bite my shower gel bottle to get the stuff onto my wash cloth. Shampooing my hair was painful at best. And then when it came to wrapping my hair in a towel? I might as well have made a video and sent it in to America’s Got Talent for all the embarrassing maneuvering that took place in my tiny bathroom.
I was suitably humbled.
A few years ago (well maybe more than a few), a movie named Constantine was in theatres. It was an instant hit for me since Keanu Reeves, my future husband, was in it, and the genre was sci-fi/fantasy, which I LOVE. I think it may even have been one of the first movies Shia LaBoeuf was in as an adult, pre-Transformers days for sure. I know, I know, get to the point Christine! Anyways at the end of the movie, Constantine slits his wrists in attempts to get the devil to appear so he can talk to him. And once the devil does in fact appear, (excellent entrance by Peter Stormare by the way!) he attempts to light a cigarette, but finds that he can’t. Loss of motor function, due to his cutting of the nerves and tendons in his wrist, made it impossible for him to use his lighter. I’m not sure why that particular scene seemed to be on a repetitive loop in my mind yesterday, but the fact of the matter is, that it was. And all day I was cursing(often out loud) on my inability to use my hand. Something so easy, so small, how could I not use it?? Agh the frustration!
Getting dressed? A nightmare! Do you know how difficult it is to put a bra on when you can’t even hold one end up for the other to clip onto? I’ll answer that one for you- VERY. And it wasn’t just the fact that I couldn’t hold or grip things. The pain was so harsh that I couldn’t bear the weight of anything. The smallest of objects, a book, or the tv remote, we’re just too heavy!
I very, very, slowly attempted to make breakfast. With two hands, poured the hot water into my French press to get the coffee brewing. It took two attempts for me to open the refrigerator door, after finding I couldn’t pull it open with my right hand (GRR!), so I could grab the milk for my cafe au lait. While my milk was microwaving, I went to the cupboard to grab a plate for my toast, and voila!! Smashed to pieces on the floor was one of my small plates. I had already forgotten that I couldn’t lift practically anything, and the plate proved to be too heavy. I grabbed it out of the cupboard and hadn’t taken two steps back towards my kitchen counter where my toaster was happily toasting my English muffin, and it literally just dropped from my fingers onto the floor, where it broke into millions (yes I’m exaggerating) of pieces.
Agh how frustrating!! All day I came across normal things that I couldn’t do. And when I say all day, I really do mean ALL DAY. The pain never let up, the flare never abated. It was continual and never ending it seemed.
In the late afternoon I went to meet my oldest sister at a local coffee shop near my house. Getting dressed for that little trip took ages. In fact, I ended up ditching my denim shorts with it’s annoying buttons and zipper for the easier skorts option where I could just pull them on and off. Though to be honest, it was still hard even then, as I still couldn’t grip anything with my right hand, so I sort of had to shimmy into them. Anyways… I met my oldest sister for coffee and once again struggled with a plate when I had to carry my latte in its saucer to a table. My day of struggles seemed never ending!
And after coffee with my oldest sister, I had dinner with my youngest and her fiancé. The hilarity of my unusable hand continued. I couldn’t use chopsticks with our takeout dinner, I couldn’t hold the glass of iced water I had requested to drink with my meal, and later when attempting to light a candle, I encountered the same problem as Constantine had faced when trying to use a lighter. IMPOSSIBLE!
By the time I got home at 9pm last night I was ready to call it a day-or hell even call it a month. I couldn’t believe how hard life was without the use of your right hand. And the thoughts that swam around in my head all day as I dealt with this at first nuisance, but eventually burden, came to light when I realized that some people deal with his permanently. Think about all those soldiers out there fighting for our country every day, putting their lives (including body parts) at risk. Coming home with missing limbs, hands, not to mention serious mental stress and anguish. And here I am bummed out that my hand hurts from an arthritis flare.
Life can be a real handful, especially when working with only one hand! But I guess I just have to push through and make the best of what I’ve got. Sure, it can be painful, really, really painful! But I have to remember that it’s just one day. One day I struggle with. I think I can handle one day of stress and nuisamces, when others don’t get that option.
I didn’t sign up for Rheumatoid Disease. I didn’t choose it. I didn’t ask for the pain and the hardships and the struggle. But at the end of each day, when I think about what my life is like now, I remember that I’m grateful for what I still have.
Air in my lungs to keep me moving, two feet that take me places I need to go, two hands that feed me and help clothe me, and a voice to remind myself and others that it’s not the struggle that keeps us going til the end, it’s the memory of the journey and how we tell it that gets us there. I am grateful for all that I have, and I will continue to share that for as long as I can.
Thank you to all of my friends and family and readers and supporters for all that you have done and given me so far. I appreciate you. If you or anyone you know would like to help further, you may visit my web page at http://www.gofundme.com/sixthousandsteps