I’ve had a few comments made to me since my last post regarding how courageous I was to post photos of my hands and feet. Yea, I know people are probably thinking “Man if my hands and feet looked like that I’d hide them.” But ya’know what? I’ve spent so much of my life attempting to hide the effects of RA that I’m beyond, beyond, beyond done with it. While RA is not who I am it has definitely left it’s mark on my body. When I was younger I would recoil at the remarks and teasing and as a result attempt to disguise the footprints of RA. I learned that if I could hide the evidence then the harsh verbal responses were fewer. I took the rude remarks personally and believed I deserved them for looking the way I did. Each remark stung worse than the one before and with each comment I went deeper into operation RA evidence wipe out.
I guess maturity has brought with it a realness. By that I mean that while I do not identify with the RA, it is to an extent a part of my structure. Take me, take the deformity. Love me, love the deformity. I am a beautiful person housed in some not so beautiful framework. That’s real. No longer do I attempt to cloak the effects of RA. I proudly wear sandles in the summer if I feel like it. No longer do I make excuses if asked why I’m limping. I matter o’ factly respond “Arthritis” and if someone is unpolished enough in social grace to make an unclassy derogatory remark or joke then I consider the source and move on. No longer do I take responsibility for their lack of grace and allow the verbal poison into my heart to occupy space. No longer do I recoil and hide from the remarks. No longer do I allow these cruel comments to master my behavior. That’s real.
When hubs and I were dating he was in the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg for a portion of our relationship. One summer my mom and I took off for NC for some sun, surf, girly time and for me to see my love. Well, this was before my “real” awakening so I was stressing over the beach time with hubs. Because while he knew of the RA, he had never seen my feet. Ahhh, the beauty of living in a cold climate. My footsies were always covered by socks, shoes, boots etc. Now, I had a killer stomach and not too shabby bod in those days pre-three kids, so I was hoping that the ABS of steel in an itsy, bitsy, tiny, weeny, polka dot bikini would distract from the feet (specifically the right foot which is the worst). However, I knew that some guys had to have picture perfect all the way or it was a no go. On the surface, I was pretty (or so many dudes told me) but the fact was that once you dug deeper the “pretty” would quickly be open for interpretation in the eye of the beholder. The moment came. It was now or never. There was no way around it (given that knee-high fishing boots were not an option!)… Barefoot beach time! I hesitated as I debated whether or not to outright tell/show him or let him discover the deformity on his own. I decided it would be best to be upfront and get it out of the way. I’ll never forget this moment. I held my breath and showed him my foot. I stared intently at his face looking for the non-verbal cues that I had grown accustomed to seeing on the faces of people who did not grow up with me and thus, were not used to seeing what those around me grew to love. But I did not see any disdain or even curiosity for that matter. I didn’t see any repulsion or looks of “What the…” He didn’t laugh or make jokes. Rather, he looked at me then reached down and slowly took my foot in his hand and kissed my ankle as he said “Bay, I love you, all of you.” Yes, love me, love the deformity. That’s real.
What I’ve gained in my soon approaching 40yr (gasp) lifetime is we need to be free and stop hiding. We hide behind lies. Hide behind excuses. Hide from the truth. That’s not real, that’s bondage. It’s time we grew up and got real with each other. I bet you’d be surprised that when done with love and respect, people welcome the truth, desire truth and prefer truth. As the song says ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot.’ Fire away with truth.
Get real cuz that’s real!