The best kind of pain

***Warning: I get a bit sappy when I talk about my friends’ kids.  But hey, that’s an auntie’s prerogative, right?

When I was a kid, every winter my family would go cross country skiing once or twice.  We built snowmen and went sledding throughout the long New England winter, but because we went skiing so rarely, it was a real treat.

Every trip was different, but they all had the same excitement: the drive out there, getting fitted for skis and poles and boots, relearning everything we’d forgotten since the last time, breaking in the middle for hot chocolate, falling over in the snow.  It was a magical time.

Until the next morning.

Going only once or twice each winter meant that my skiing muscles never got built up.  Every morning after a ski trip, I’d wake up sore as hell, and all day long it would only get worse.  The first time it happened, I thought something was wrong with me.  After that, I knew what it was, but it was still a tough couple of days.

The other day I woke up with that same feeling.  It was glorious.

A close friend had a baby recently and I drove across the state to visit them.  Before this I knew that the Plaquenil I started last summer
was working, but only because I could climb up more stairs before my knees gave out.  This day really proved it.  First, I held the baby.  A lot.  Much longer than I could with her first two kids.  There’s nothing like holding a sleeping newborn; they’re so incredibly peaceful.  My wrists and hands were sore afterwards, but I could tell the pain wouldn’t last long (thankfully I was right about that.)  Then I was playing with the older kids on the floor, and before I knew it, they were both climbing on my back at the same time!  I never thought I’d be able to do something like that!  It was fantastic.  I’ve always enjoyed being fun auntie Rants, but it was in a calmer way – coloring and building blocks and shaping clay and reading.  This was the first time in their lives that we’d been able to roughhouse together.  Did I mention it was fantastic?  Sure, I said no to them when one wanted to sit on my back and have me crawl around; I know my limits.  But having them climb on me while I wiggled around on the floor (on purpose – they loved it) was really…. am I overusing “fantastic” yet?  And what amazed me was that I really didn’t feel any pain.

Until the next morning.

Actually, though, I wasn’t really in pain the next morning, just sore.  Very sore.  Muscles hurt that I didn’t know I had.  After all, I had barely used them in many years, so I really couldn’t blame them for acting out at me.  It was a rough day, and the next day was even worse.  And I loved it!  I’d do it again in an instant.  Playing with the kids was a dream come true, but the soreness was good too.  Have you ever gone to the gym, done some great new exercise, then ached the next day?  You know how good it feels to know you’re building up your muscles?  That’s what this was!  Only I never thought I’d ever be able to work these muscles again.  I thought that for the rest of my life, they’d remain barely used.

Ok, this isn’t perfect.  My energy still sucks and I felt exhausted for days after that trip.  But this shows there’s hope.  For more than nine years, I was in pain all the time.  I mean all the time.  24/7.  It got to the point where I couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be in pain.  Now I have pain every day, but only for parts of the day, and to me, that’s magical.  It gives me hope that my energy could rebound too.

And yes, I’m realistic.  One day the pain will get worse in all the places where it’s now a bit better.  That could be in a year, or 10 years, or 50 years (longevity runs in my family, even with the autoimmune crap), but I’m sure it’ll return.  For now, I’m just living it up.  And for me, that means getting on the floor and letting adorable kids climb all over me.  And if I’m sore the next day, remembering their laughter makes it all worth it.  It’s the best pain I’ve ever felt.

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