Saturday, December 24, 2016

Swimming Toward the Christmas Lights

I'm writing this on Christmas Eve at the end of one of the most challenging years I can remember. 
I've found swimming during the 
holidays can be challenging; I almost 
drowned trying to keep my Santa hat on 
while doing the breast stroke.
Image, copyright, Teece Aronin
My mother passed away in February, a friend took his life in September, another died the night before Thanksgiving, an old schoolmate lost her baby grand-daughter to a rare genetic disorder, and another friend lost one sister only to have another nearly die in a car accident just weeks later.

And that wasn't all of it. There were other serious illnesses and even deaths among those close to me this year. 

Then, like wolves, arthritis took me down. These days I use a cane - on bad days, not all days, thank God.

Christmas has a way of stroking our cheeks with the faux fur of holiday stockings, then snapping our bare backsides with Santa's big belt. We find joy in how children wonder over Christmas and then grieve over our own memories of it and just about everything else - the sad, the sweet, the bittersweet. Those memories crystallize into something needle-like and pierce straight into us like thorns on mistletoe. 

A very wise woman once told me that something positive comes from everything that happens to us, no matter how tragic. After some introspection, I'm thinking she's right.

I challenge you to find at least one good thing to come from any memory haunting you this Christmas. Whether it's a lesson learned, a more compassionate self, a ripple effect that's touched others in positive ways, I believe you can find at least that one thing and maybe more. 

Take me and my arthritis. I don't know how this'll all go down in the long run, but for now, I'm taking it as a scary, painful wake-up call to lose weight, eat better, and move more. I've joined my local Y and am reaping the benefits of swimming, including less pain, more flexibility and a bit more muscle definition in my back. And I'm learning that there are lots of treatment options available to me and that remission is a real possibility. 

I'm also looking at my cane with new eyes and finding that it adds a certain coziness to the entryway. It leans against a table that holds candles and family photos. I think of my Aunt Izzy who suffered not only from arthritis but a severe hand tremor. But those things didn't stop her from cooking and baking and lighting our lives with laughter and wit and fun well into her nineties. She's the one who smiled at her nieces and nephews just before her passing and told them she was having "such a wonderful death."

I'm choosing - and some days it's hard - to believe that having arthritis might ultimately boost my quality of life as well as my longevity because it's forcing me to make better choices regarding my health. 

And you? What light has come to you because of the dark? 

Whatever it is, may it guide you to a better Christmas - this year and for all the years to come.