How do I say this nicely? Um, please don’t shake my hand.
No, really, don’t. I’d love to get a hug, but as some of you experienced last Sunday, I didn’t use my right hand to shake hands. I did the somewhat awkward left hand shake, a few high fives, and of course a few hugs. I can’t shake hands because my right hand just plain hurts.
I don’t particularly want to write this post for lots of reasons. I don’t want to tell you that I’m in pain. I know there are lots of folks who are way worse off than I am in our congregation, in your lives, and in the world. I’d rather focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. And if I tell you about the hard times in my life, I’d rather show you how they’ve changed me, strengthened me, and shaped me into who I am today.
But I have to write this post. Most obviously because I can’t shake hands on Sunday. But I also have to write it for just the reasons I named above.
Nope, things aren’t dire for me. I am in pain. I have lived through severe pain before, and I can this time. But this is also what’s going on in my life right now, and you and I are on this walk together. You trust me enough to open your lives and share not just your joys, but you also share your pain and sorrow.
There will most likely always be someone worse off than us. But that doesn’t mean that what I am experiencing is any less painful because of that (thanks for the reminder, Mom). The situations of others helps me to put my pain in perspective, but it does not diminish what I am going through. It also makes me more empathic when you share your pain with me.
And yes, one day I’ll share the stories of my hard times and how they’ve formed me. But that’s for another day. I trust I’ll know the right time.
Right now I’m just beginning this journey. It’s only been a few weeks, and I have no idea how much longer it will last. I don’t know if things will get worse before the get better. But I do know there will be days like today where I am distracted and not very good at focusing as I wait for the doctor’s office to call back with test results. I ask for your grace on those days, and I couldn’t ask for that grace without telling you.
So what is “it” you ask? As best we know, rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, I’ve pretty much been waiting for this diagnosis for the last decade. It’s in my blood. My mother, aunt and cousin are already walking this journey, and I’m thankful to have their wise footsteps to follow. I’m also thankful to have the support of many of you in the congregation (and on Facebook) who are also on this journey.
So here’s the thing: I’m still Jo. I’m still peppy and winsome, I’m still going to dance and make you do arts and crafts. I just happen to have this pain thing going on, too. Give me hugs and say prayers, but there’s no need to overdo it. Just remember- don’t shake my hand when we say adieu.