Radical Gratitude or Ten Things I Love About Having Inflammatory Arthritis

This year, I am attempting a daily gratitude practice. Every day, or, more realistically, a few times a week, I write down three to five things I feel grateful for on that particular day. It’s a lovely, gentle way to notice the goodness in my life.

And then, every once in awhile, I get a little competitive with myself.

James Altucher recommends making lists of ten ideas every day as a way of keeping your brain active and your options open, so I thought, hmmm… what if I combine that idea with my gratitude practice? Can I find ten things to be grateful for with inflammatory arthritis?

I’ve long held the belief that in this life it’s important to celebrate everything. Celebration of the good, the bad and the ‘I really wish this wasn’t happening’ is a huge part of why I write this blog. Maybe it was time to do that with this latest phase of my life. And since no one would know if I failed, I sat down to give it a go. Here’s what I came up with.

  1. That moment as I’m drifting off to sleep or starting to wake up, when I’m lying still and absolutely nothing hurts has transformed from a moment that would pass unnoticed to one of blissful pleasure.
  2. It’s the perfect excuse to not do things I’m not inclined to do but might otherwise be guilted into doing. On the advice of one of my doctors, I haven’t driven in over a year. That feels like freedom to me.
  3. The drugs were fun. And even though I’m glad to be past the point of needing the strong ones, I did kind of enjoy them, especially since I bypassed that phase in my youth.
  4. My monthly massage has gone from being an indulgence to being an absolute health necessity, relieving me of any guilt I may feel over spending money on myself.
  5. I’m thin again. My weight wasn’t a big issue with me, but it was starting to creep up. One big health scare later and I no longer even think about it.
  6. I have a much better insight into what my mother was living with and why she could sometimes be mean. This experience has allowed me to forgive her and to set aside the things she said when she lashed out. She didn’t mean them, she was hurting and I was there.
  7. Long term, my health is going to be a lot better than it otherwise would have been. I had been falling into bad habits, but I’m eating so much better than I ever have before.
  8. Becoming a vegan has made me excited about food and cooking again.
  9. The health free-fall that finally led to my diagnosis made me realize that I do actually want to grow old. I was starting to dread it, but fearing that I might not actually get the chance has made me look forward to the coming years.
  10. Sanctioned laziness! It’s really wonderful to lie around watching Netflix on a weekday morning while blaming the whole thing on flare-ups.

Not a bad list for a few minutes’ work. Some points are truly shallow and I’m OK with that. Some are richer and more wise. They all are true to me reasons for being grateful for something that would otherwise be pretty sucky experience.

Because of doing this exercise, I’m now OK with the possibility that things might not improve any more than they have. If my life/health never gets any better than it is now, I know I can face it. Me and my team will be OK.

I know some of you are facing big challenges in your lives and may not be at a point that you’re ready to feel any gratitude at all. If that’s your situation, I’m here, ready to offer a hand to hold. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’ve been riding this particular roller-coaster for two years and it’s only now, when things are starting to get better, that I am able to look for the good. We all find our own pace.

But if you find yourself wondering if you could find ten things to be grateful for in a particular situation and how that would change things if you did, I can recommend the exercise. You might just surprise yourself.

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