Practicing Self-Control in a Controversial Time

For years, walks with my border collie Izzy were not what I would always describe as “calm”.  She was easily riled up by moving things – dogs, bicycles, trucks, etc. There were times that I cried in pain because my joints hurt so much holding her lease. Yet, I attempted to always stay calm with her. Rather than yelling, I used my quiet voice. I told her, “Keep going.” Lately I have added on, “It’s not our thing.” What I mean by this is: if the other dog wants to get angry and out of control, let her. We can only control our own actions.

On our excessively hot walk this weekend, a dog on the other side of the street was on its hind legs barking at Izzy.  I quietly said, “Keep going. It’s not our thing.” She kept walking, untroubled, with the knowledge that once we passed the dog she would get a little liver treat.

As I gave the human on the other end of the leash a sympathetic smile, I realized those two sentences haven’t just been self-control training for Izzy. For some time now I have been using them as my own mantra as I learn to deal with a world that seems to be more and more controversial and hurtful.

Years of living with rheumatoid arthritis have taught me that stress is my kryptonite. It brings pain and inflammation to my joints. When I don’t control the pain, anger, hurt, worry, or even feelings of sympathy for others, my RA reminds me that it is no longer a choice. I have to either deal with it or a flare. (Thank you RA for reminding me to care for myself!) This past week or so, RA has been warning me that I am letting things get to me and I need to “keep going.” I can’t sit in this unpleasant place.

What does this mean? First, I had to stop and think through all that is upsetting me. From that list, what matters the most to me? Then, what can I control? Finally, what should I focus on? Once I had my focus, I was able to put everything else in the category of “It’s not my thing.” In general, I can’t control what happens to our country. I definitely can’t control the thoughts, opinions, and actions of others. So, I have to stop making every hot topic my thing. I have to narrow things down to what I have control over and then “keep going.” Take control over my actions and let everything else go.

Thanks to my friend Lene for posting this Venn Diagram on Facebook in relation to her health. It allowed me to organize my thoughts. Almost instantly, it guided my brain away from all that is wrong to seeking out what is right in this world – the person my heart calls me to be. And, as my body started to relax, I could tell RA was happy with my actions.

2 thoughts on “Practicing Self-Control in a Controversial Time

  1. I also find that stress is a cause of many of my RA issues. The stress is mostly caused by me. I suggest that most stress is self caused. Though, I suspect we share some of the same external stress these days. Perhaps I will feel better in November of this year.


  2. Carla Kienast

    Hi Cathy: Great post. This reminds me a lot of the serenity prayer. BTW, I realized I hadn’t seen anything from you recently and it appears that my “follow” from your former blog address didn’t transfer. I was getting emails when you posted and they stopped. I just “re-upped” my subscription. Hugs.


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