Hanging My Head

by Sherry Riter in Health,Lessons of Life

gum on the sidewalk

Without experiencing pain and sorrow, we would not know the feeling of joy. I’ve always found this to be an unfortunate reality from which there is truly no short cut or escape.

Walking from the office to my car in the parking lot today, I noticed that my head was drooping a bit lower than usual. Since people “hang their heads” for several reasons, I thought about which pertained to me:

  1. Sunshine in my eyes – There was definitely a lot of sunshine, but it wasn’t near as bright or reflective as usual.
  2. Safety from falling – Granted, I am a klutz, however, I know that there are really only a few “bumps” that I have to worry about and they aren’t that big of a concern.
  3. Shame – I wasn’t hanging my head in shame.
  4. Self-esteem/Shy – I was completely alone and I’m not shy anyway.
  5. Sadness – Ahh, yes. I believe this is the reason.

I would consider myself still “young” in many ways, but today I feel old. About ten years ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I remember the day that I saw the specialist. The waiting room was filled with older people donning white or gray hair. I was the only unwrinkled person and also the only one not using the aid of a cane or walker.

After being led into a room, I waited patiently for the doctor and read the charts and information on all forms of arthritis and bone disease. My elbow at the time was red, hot and three times larger than it should have been, but I was sure that it was just injured. Unfortunately, the doctor took one look at my elbow, then my knuckles and gave an acknowledging smile.

During the appointment, I went through a battery of tests and the nurse was a true vampire with all her vials filled with my blood. I was sure in my mind that there was no reason to worry because I was young. Needless to say, young and old alike are afflicted with every disease. I cried many tears feeling sorry for myself when the sad news was later confirmed. My mantra for quite a while was “Why me?”

For the most part, my arthritis stays controlled without extreme medication, but I make a special effort to be very kind to my bones. With much trial and error, I’ve picked up a few tricks that help me avoid frustration at my lack of strength and incapabilities. Simple choices or changes lower the number of inflammation flair ups that cause pain such as not over exerting, not twisting caps that are stuck tight or opening cans manually.

This whole week I have hurt. When I am very still, my entire body throbs in unison with one aching pain. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had only hurt on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, but the ugly swollen knuckles and sharp shooting pains have continued 24/7 each and every day.

While staring down at the pavement as I walked to my car, I felt very sorry for myself and then I saw a black round spot. It was immediately recognizable as an old glob of already-been-chewed gum. At one time that piece of gum was probably a bright, cheerful color and very much desired by the chewer. Today, it was flat, hard, and dirty black with chunks of trash and rock in it. Totally undesirable.

That gum is exactly like my arthritis. I want it to disappear. The pain wears me down and the effect it has on the way my joints look and feel make it totally undesirable. However, the sidewalk continues to serve the purpose it was built for in spite of the dirty gum stuck to it. After crying for a few moments in my car, I wiped my eyes and told myself a few things that I think are important for all of us to remember…

  1. It could be worse, so be thankful for who we are and what we already have
  2. “This too shall pass,” and suffering can bring out the best in us all
  3. The unpleasant trials and tribulations are meant to keep us humble, teachable and make us stronger if we do not fight the lesson to be learned
  4. Without pain and sorrow, we could not enjoy the feeling of true joy

As you can tell since I typed this post with fat fingers that look like cow utters, I will not let my arthritis defeat me. I have come too far to stop now. Besides, I have so much more life left to enjoy.

Thought to remember: Black gum gets sticky if left in direct sunlight and still has e-l-a-s-t-i-c-i-t-y when stuck on the bottom of a shoe.

The Redhead Riter

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lanie July 2, 2010 at 2:19 am

So sorry you are in pain. What a beautiful post. I hope your pain eases up soon and admire you for your strength and courage. ~Lanie


2 PJ July 2, 2010 at 3:08 am

Hey Gal! I wish I could take away your pain. I sympathize with you. I only have osteo arthritis, but my hubby has rheumatoid. He has been fighting it all week, due to the weather.He hurts even in decent weather, but when it's rainy and the barametric pressure is crazy, he hurts a hundred times worse and swells like that too. Anyway, my prayers are with you. How's Alyssa doing? I was so hoping to talk to the other day, but I know how it is with so much on your mind, as well as trying to work.

God Bless, and love ya bunches!



3 marlenebarber July 2, 2010 at 3:30 am

I'm so sorry your hurting! I have a friend in her 20's that was recently diagnosed with RA. It is hard for me to not be able to do anything to make it better for her. Saying a prayer for some relief for you and a better week to come.


4 misssrobin July 2, 2010 at 5:23 am

What a great lesson to see during a time of pain. I do hope you start feeling better very soon. I will remember you in my prayers.


5 More Milestones July 2, 2010 at 6:48 am

I'm sorry for your pain. I'm a migraine suffer so I understand a bit of what you must feel. I am also so optimistic it sometimes makes my family sick of me. I too try to focus on all the good things in life. Gratefulness is really the key to happiness.


6 Teresha@Marlie and Me July 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm

You have a knack for seeing the silver lining. I hope your pain goes away soon my friend.


7 Zen Mama July 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I'm so sorry! I'll be thinking of you. Your post reminds me of a poem by Kahlil Gibran which starts:
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

Check it out at this website:


8 viewfromdownhere July 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I hate to hear that…sorry you're in pain. My aunt had arthritis, too, and I know how much it made her life that much more difficult. Sending prayers your way…


9 Nancy Crowley July 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I'm familiar with your pain. And your positive outlook. I've had it since I was a teenager and it's just starting to rear it's ugly head again. Just keep moving and doing everything you can to reduce the inflammation. I find a swimming pool is my best friend for this. My prayers and good thoughts coming your way.


10 writing4612 July 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm

"It could be worse" is something I remind myself quite often. One thing that never changes is the fact that God's grace is more than enough to get you through this week!

Hang in there.


11 Sunny Day July 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm

My mother had RA and was always waiting for the time it "burned itself out" as she had been told it would do. She, like you, was never pain free. She was diagnosed at the age of 47 and lived with it for 32 years before her death. I know what she went through, the pain and the surgeries. My thoughts and prayers are with you.


12 Gretchen Seefried July 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm

so sorry. chronic pain is an understandable path to sadness and depression. Hope you can find ways to ease the pain. Acupunture?

thinking of you


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