Living with a chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis can be so unbearably frustrating and maddening because of the unpredictability of the disease. I live each day with much uncertainty, never knowing when RA will strike next and where and how strongly. Having RA continues to teach me new things in life, and many of these lessons are often painful, defeating and anxiety-filled. It constantly tests my patience, and when I stop to think about it, I’m not sure if living with this disease has made me a more patient person or the direct opposite. When it comes to dealing with problems I am a very impatient person in general. I want to know WHY something is happening or going wrong. I want to analyze it to death in order to find an answer (so I can then fix it somehow). Usually all this does is cause more anxiety while driving myself absolutely crazy. Why is this happening to me? Now what’s wrong with my body? Is it the arthritis or a “normal” health problem? Is another part of my body going to become damaged? What’s going to happen to me? Will this ever go away? The difficult questions go on and on.
I just started reading Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippett (I like her radio show a lot despite that her voice annoys the hell out of me). In the book she quotes the German poet Ranier Maria Rilke and the quote has really stuck with me since reading it the other day. When first reading the passage, his views on dealing with questions in life seem very straight-forward and maybe even easy. It’s not so easy though to shut off your brain, those anxious questions and worries, and to instead just live. Regarding all of the RA questions that are constantly running through my mind, I do try to live life one day at a time. If I really stopped to think about all of the frightening possibilities RA can bring, I would probably be locked up somewhere in a straight jacket in a constant state of panic. As I wrote about in some previous blog posts, I have been having a difficult time dealing with a strong bout of anxiety lately. I’m working on it and I know I’ll get better, even when my neurotic hypochondriac self doesn’t think so. But reading Rilke’s advice in Krista Tippett’s book hits home. I hope you like it and can find some reassurance in it as well.
…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to A Young Poet
*Ich glaube an alles noch nie gesagte – I believe in everything that has not yet been said – Rilke