Wednesday, July 8, 2009

6 Ways to Get Hard Projects Done With RA

How to Scheme to Get Something Done in Spite of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Remember the old movie “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”? Sometimes I think I am living in it! Everything in my world is too large for me now. Cups of coffee are too heavy to lift; dishes are too heavy to wash; pulling on a gas pump feels like wrestling a python.

I feel a bit helpless most days… but I like to look on the bright side. So, I am repeatedly thinking, “Is there any way for the new me to ever tackle a big project again?” Of course, for some of them, the answer is clearly, “NO.”

No, I can no longer lift 50lb. bags of concrete. No, I cannot move a ton of fill dirt with a wheelbarrow. And, NO, I will not be planting trees or trimming them 15 feet above my head.

However, I have amazed even myself with some of the things that I have gotten accomplished over the last few years. Every day is different, as many of you know. So, I always hold out hope that there will be more good days coming and I still keep a list of projects I wish to accomplish “someday.”

After yesterday’s post, I thought we could all use a little encouragement as to how to approach those “larger than life” sized tasks with our new “reduced” abilities. For the things we still keep on our lists, here are my suggestions:

How to do big things with undersized ability:

1) Plan. Plan out the details and study the process to mentally prepare. Get an accurate view of what steps you will need to take.

2) Find different tools. Take time to gather tools which will be more appropriate for you: smaller, lighter weight, and higher quality. Examples include child-sized garden tools, smaller sized professional paint brushes, and soft rubber mats to kneel on.

3) Ready, set, wait. Gather all of your supplies and wait for a good time. That might mean a good shoulder day or a good hand day. It might mean a week with no doctor’s appointments. If you plan ahead, when a good moment comes, you will be able to seize it.

4) Enlist help. Find someone to partner with you, even if you are a big DIY-er. He / she can help with little tasks like opening cans, carrying tools to the site and setting them up, and cleaning up the utensils or trash. This allows you to preserve your strength for the actual task. Also, helpers are your back-up when you need a break. (I cook this way with my kids almost daily.)

5) Work in bytes. Take frequent breaks. I have painted a room this way: paint for 15 minutes… lie on the floor 15 minutes… Rinse. Repeat. Your new motto is “PATIENCE MAKES PERFECT.”

6) Do something else. No, I don’t mean give up! But think outside the box. When I bought a $10 chair at the Salvation Army, I thought I would just re-upholster it as always. What was I thinking? I don’t have the strength to pull and staple!

After I thought about it a while (only one year!), I realized I might be able to sew a sloppy slipcover instead. Maybe you can think of something different which will be just as good, but more feasible for you to undertake.

By the way, I used every step on this list to accomplish my chair.
So, what is on your list? Is it making jelly or homemade pizza? Writing a blog? Planting flowers? Taking a road trip? Sewing a baby quilt? Teaching a class? Building a snowman? (Still on mine!) Don’t just do something; sit there. Sit, but scheme.


Angie said...

Amazing isn't the new person still thinks they should be able to do what the old person used to do.

I still catch myself doing some of those things....but pay for it later.

I have taken on the approach like you the task for 15 minutes, rest, then go back again. It may take longer but it will get done.....eventually, right?

Kelly said...

And you might still be able walk the next day. :)

Sara said...

I love that saying! And I completely agree. I've found that taking the time to really think ahead and plan things has helped me do way more than I thought I could. I took one of the most ambitious trips of my life last summer, marking one year of RA, and am taking another one this September, so it can be done!

Kelly said...

Way to go!

Jenny said...

Thanks especially for these last two posts. You have poured out your heart and it has touched mine! Yesterday's post made me very sad but today and I am very encouraged. Even though I've been diagnosed, my life is still a lot like your "before" life....I'm still holding onto it...just cant hold it quite as tightly. :-)

Kelly said...

Hold on as long as you can, Jenny. :D We are all different, so do not give up.

Robin said...

I just love you! You are such an inspiration. I am struggling with the "I can't do what I want/use to do" syndrome pretty bad right now. Thank you so much for sharing your struggles and triumphs.

Kelly said...

Thank you, my pleasure. Sorta. :D
(My wrists and fingers are hurting from too much typing right now...) Thanks for the encouragement. :D