Jon and I got to go on a beautiful hike together last week. I loved it. My Mom watched the kids all day long. (Thanks Mom!) We hiked to Silver Lake up AF canyon and it was gorgeous. The weather was perfect - cloudy with a gentle breeze to keep it from being too hot, but it wasn't so cold that I wished I'd brought my jacket.
And there was something new in my hiking experience: trekking poles. Two walking sticks to help me get up and down. I wasn't sure if I'd even be able to do this hike because a few months ago, I was diagnosed with a type of arthritis (AS - or really the precursor to it) and it's centralized in my knees and my back. So, I got the new poles to see if I could still handle hiking. I'll be honest, leading up to this hike, I was pretty apprehensive. The new diagnosis has been hard for me. There's a lot of unknowns now that weren't there before.
My symptoms go up and down. It just depends on whether or not I'm in the middle of a flare up. I can't run anymore, it's too much on the joints. And often my fingers, toes, elbows, and wrists ache. Something that used to be really simple, like exercise, is now complicated. If I exercise too much, I could cause a flare up. If I don't exercise enough, I could loose mobility. And just to make it more fun, the variables that affect what that perfect balance is, are constantly changing. Weather could affect it. It's up for debate about whether or not diet could affect it. Stress can definitely affect it. Hooray. More complicated.
Another thing that has been hard is talking with people about my arthritis. Many just say, "Wow, Lauren. That's hard - I'm sorry." And that is so helpful for me. But sometimes people say things, meaning to be helpful, that don't help me. Being compared to others illnesses or the severity of their illness is hard. Being told, "at least ________" is hard. And being told, "maybe someday it will be better," is too overwhelming for me right now. I know that it might get better but it might not too. Part of really accepting this is living in the present and right now...things are different then they were before my diagnosis. I have to live with that. I can't try to live in an alternate future where this is under control because then I'm not really living - I'm waiting. Adjusting to all of these new variables is tricky. I feel like I need some space to grieve this loss and to accept my new normal.
I like this video clip that first introduced me to the idea of holding space for people in their struggle. My favorite section is this: One of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult conversations is we try to make things better...But the truth is, that rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection." I've definitely been guilty of trying to make things better. It's so natural to do.
I'm so happy that I was to be able to do the hike this week. I'm glad I had my new poles, and that they helped me so much. I'm grateful to my Mom for watching the kids (they had a blast). I'm so lucky that I got to go with my husband who loves me and holds space so beautifully for me. He knows how to just listen and bear the discomfort of all of this. And I'm learning to submit to this new situation in my life, but it's not easy for me. I can't make it look easy. I can make it through this - but I can't pretend like I'm not struggling with it. It is what it is.