I want to run. I want to pound all of my frustrations and stress into the pavement. I want to feel the gentle breeze I create with my movement. I want to push my body to the limits and relish the satisfaction that comes from the cleansing properties of a good, hard, workout. I want to feel my body move and enjoy the freedom that accompanies a body that performs as it should. I want my muscles to ache in that unique way that tells me I’ve accomplished something great and my body is stronger and healthier because of it.
Alas, this cannot be. It is but a passing dream at this point in my life. My illnesses prevent me from being able to accomplish such goals. I don’t mean to sound defeated, rather I’m facing the reality of how things have changed. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that life is different now than it was in the past. I’ve had to adjust the expectations I’ve placed on myself in days gone by when it comes to the performance of my body. In fact, I’ve discovered that what I thought was a healthy habit of working out and pushing my body to its limits may have accelerated the damage that my particular brand of arthritis causes.
I used to be a runner. It saddens me to type that sentence in the past tense. I miss it terribly. I realize that many of you are thinking to yourselves, “Um, why?” However, those of you who are runners will understand. There is nothing like the feeling of physically and mentally challenging yourself and then overcoming those challenges. It is very empowering mentally and emotionally. I remember the feeling after I finished my first half-marathon. I crossed the finish line exhausted but elated. The tears flowed freely as I realized the goal I had accomplished. I haven’t discovered any other activity from which I can feel that distinctive high that comes from an exhilarating run.
To put things in perspective I’ll tell you a little bit about my weekend. The sis and I decided we needed to get away together for a couple of days. I was really looking forward to our time together. Our first day was spent in some nearby natural hot spring pools soaking in the hot water. It felt great until… oh… my… ugly Crohn’s reared its head. My sister has her own health challenges and between the two of us we struggled to actually stay in the water longer than a few minutes needing to run to the loo more often than we would’ve liked. What a pair we make. I felt that most of my day was spent running to and from the bathroom. Good thing the sis is patient and doesn’t mind my obsession with the toilet.
We made our way to the hotel, where after relaxing for a bit, we went out for an exceptionally yummy sushi dinner. Thankfully this didn’t seem to upset the “Old Crohn”, as my sister refers to my ailment, and I thought the worst had… well passed. (I know; the pun opportunities are abundant.) The next morning we decided to go shopping. After about 3 hours we were both in a lot of pain, she from her fibromyalgia and I from arthritis. In our 30’s this is just plain sad. Don’t get me wrong, we did have a great weekend, we talked, we laughed, and we lamented over our health… or lack thereof. The next morning, however; I could feel the effects of our short shopping trip. The AS has rendered my hips immobile, while the RA is wreaking havoc on my knees. Add to that the fatigue that comes from overdoing things a bit and I’ve been reduced to a useless blob on the couch for several days.
I guess I hadn’t realized how much I’m still mourning the loss of what having a broken immune system brings. I don’t want to be sore and limping because I went shopping… I repeat… I want to pound the pavement. I want to run off my frustrations. I want to hurt because I worked hard to improve my health and my body not because I spent a day running to the bathroom followed by a short jaunt through a mall. I hate it that a dip in a hot mineral pool causes my Crohn’s to flare and that a few hours of shopping means several days of extreme fatigue and joints that won’t move. I hate that I’m so tired after I climb the stairs in my house that I feel as if I could take a nap right there on the landing.
All in all, I’d say that spending the time with my sis was worth it. At least she and I can be partners in crime in every way. It was quite a sight to see both of us hobbling along and attempting to climb the stairs that lay between us and our breakfast on Sunday morning. Good thing we were hungry because otherwise we might have thrown in the towel, turned around, and crawled back in bed. I assure you we must be quite a sight. At least we can take humorous refuge in being together. It is these moments in life when you just have to end up in a heap of laughter on the floor because the only other option is a puddle of tears.
Life is difficult. When we have to give up the things that we love, we learn to adjust and seek out new ways to find satisfaction and enjoyment. The message of the day is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and sometimes it’s ok to not sweat the big stuff either. So I can’t run, so I’m no longer able to spend an hour in the gym, let alone climb the stairs to my own bedroom without pain. Instead I’ll cherish the time I had chatting with the sis while eating sushi. I’ll spend the time I would have otherwise been occupied in the gym with my children enjoying their laughter, hugs, and kisses. I’ll find other ways to let go of the disappointments in life. Maybe, just maybe, I might even learn to enjoy the fact that I have an excuse NOT to run. For now, I’d even settle for being able to put on my pants without wincing!