Kelly, you want to tell me how to live like a warrior, really…
- When I can’t get anything done from fatigue or pain?
- When medications have failed me?
- When I feel like the disease is trying to taking over?
- When my spouse or my friends misunderstand?
- When I can’t work any more and I can’t make ends meet?
Recent readers have commented on these common battles that many face. I hear you. And yes, I’m going to talk to you about how to live like a warrior – because it’s the ONLY CHOICE I see for us.
1. How to live like a warrior when you feel too weak to keep fighting
When we hear the word warrior, we think of knights in armor or bronze statues of generals on horseback. Not as much a girl on her sofa with lots of pillows and a red laptop. Sometimes in interviews I’ve been asked, “Why ‘warrior’? Who are you fighting?” But it seemed very obvious to me: we fight to get our lives back, or to keep our lives from being stolen, by an evil disease.
Actually, as I fight another battle in my life, it’s the same. To get through tough times, we have to be warriors – never giving up. Notice I said “through”? Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Whether you believe in heaven or remission, we are going through this; it’s not forever.
Meanwhile we must have a warrior’s intensity of focus that can’t easily be derailed. Warriors don’t give up – at least for very long. Living with a chronic illness wears you out. For some the disease itself is disabling, but its psychological toll can also seem immobilizing. Warriors fight on with our whole hearts. So, how to live like a warrior lesson one is…
LESSON 1: Fierceness of focus
Living like a warrior means your whole heart and soul are fiercely dedicated to a marathon, not a sprint. You always fight on because of your True Grit.
One way to follow the fierceness of a warrior is to focus on a goal. Maybe you have a physical goal to achieve like walking, or traveling, or getting back to a hobby you love. Maybe you want to play with your children or grandchildren. When you feel too weak to do much else, picture that goal. Pray for the strength to take one step toward it today.
2. How to live like a warrior when your body betrays you
While the word victim has bad connotations, it makes sense here. Being diagnosed with a terrible illness is like a betrayal of your own body, especially if you tried your best to live healthy (and you never shot anyone).
But even as a “victim,” you can still live like a warrior. Think of it this way. If a soldier is taken prisoner, he is still a warrior. Whether or not he can escape, he is still required to exercise as much self-discipline as possible to do whatever he can for his country.
If rheumatoid disease – or cancer or something else – takes you hostage, you don’t have to give up on your body. Whether it’s trying frightening treatments or pushing yourself through pain, fighting a chronic disease takes extreme ninja-style discipline.
For me, there’s some kind of victory when a doctor says “This shot in your finger is going to really hurt” and it does, but I refuse to wince. It sounds silly but some days, a little high five to myself is all the triumph I’ve got.
Every day I push myself to do things that seem impossibly hard. I know many of you do. I struggle to do simple tasks and push myself through pain.
Warriors know that self-discipline can show you how strong you are. You don’t need to be a martyr or cause yourself extra suffering. Only you know where the limits are and how hard to push them. So, this is how to live like a warrior lesson two –
LESSON 2: Skilled in self-control
Living like a warrior means following self-discipline that will strengthen your battle position. The disease or situation does not control you.
One way to know that the disease (or other situation) does not control you is to control what you can. Maybe you want to quit smoking or eat better. Or maybe you want to move to a warmer climate. These are major life changes, so maybe you could take on something smaller first. Whatever self-discipline you can work toward on your own terms will increase your fierceness factor.
3. How to live like a warrior while you pursue peace
The Bible says to “seek peace and pursue it.” This is one more irony of learning to live like a warrior. I desire peace as much as food or air. How does someone who tends to walk away from conflict end up living her life on a battlefield? Well as I’ve said before, we didn’t choose to battle RD. It picked on us.
This week Roo and I picked up a few groceries at Wal-Mart and got in the “20 items or less” lane. After he put our items on the counter and I greeted our cashier, another cashier walked up. Irritated, she raised her voice at me, “I went to do a price check. That man was supposed to be next.” I stood quietly, not knowing what else to do. We had walked past a cart with more than 20 items in it, set aside a few feet away. The second cashier repeated herself twice and then yelled that she would take the man at the empty cash register.
Here’s the interesting part: Our cashier said, “You handled that so well!”
“I did?” I asked.
“Yes, I would be swearing, well, at least on the inside.”
I said, “You know, all I want is peace wherever I go.” She stopped and looked me in the eyes, “Me too!”
“Merry New Year” I wished her as we walked out smiling. So, lesson three is –
LESSON 3: Rising above circumstances
Living like a warrior means you do not need to fight in every situation. You can walk above your circumstances.
One way to live like a warrior is by choosing our battles. I have no battle with a Wal-Mart cashier or a man in line with 30 items. To me, it’s more crucial that I practice walking in peace and that I don’t let anyone steal from me the opportunity to make someone smile. That allows me to express who I am inside, and that gives me joy. I decide who I am instead of letting circumstances decide for me.
Wrap-up: Be the Warrior you are
I’ve smiled at how many have picked up the term in the past couple years. There are “warriors” for every diagnosis or cause. And there are some good lists about how to become a warrior. But, I don’t believe all warriors have to be alike. Some have more muscle than others. Some have more support. Some have it tougher. My daddy was a Marine. All Marines are not alike. But they must all have the same mettle.
Moving with RA is like medieval armor: “Researchers wore replicas of European armor while monitoring oxygen usage. The subjects’ breathing was more frequent and shallow as they used twice as much energy just to move around… When I saw the picture and read the description, all I could think of was it sounds like living with the frozen joints of RA. Walking around in cookie dough is especially tiresome….” Continue reading What RA Is Like: Heavy Armor Hindered Medieval Warriors.
Swing therapy: “For as long as I can remember, I’ve woken up every morning thinking about what I want to do that day. Sometimes, it’s very early and I don’t quite remember about the RA. I awaken thinking of things I want to do. Of course the delusion doesn’t last long thanks to pain.“ …Continue reading I Want My Life Back.