I’m not a hoarder. I do keep things, though, that are of great sentimental value.
She is dirty. Her hair is braided in some spots, knotted in others. She has a nick on her face and some of her seams are frayed. Oh, and her head is falling off. It is presently held on by duct tape.
I’m 27 years old, engaged to be married, living in a home that my fiance and I own. I am an adult. Yet, I can’t part with this doll that some would simply dismiss as a “toy” – and a ragged one, at that.
Why? Because, despite her flaws, I love her – we have a lot of great memories together, and, despite being “broken” – she is worthy of that love.
Sometimes, us RA patients need to remind ourselves that we, too, are worthy of the good things in our life. We are deserving of a mate who won’t leave us when things are rough. We are worthy of friends and family members who won’t run away from us and our ailments. We deserve it and need it as much as – if not more than – anyone else, despite our nicks, flaws, and scars.
Even though Winnie is by far not a collector’s piece she has seen me through some hard times. Winnie has traveled with me on family vacations, went Trick-or-Treating with me, been bedside while I got diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis as a child and as I suffered through Bell’s Palsy in my early 20’s. She went to college with me, and let me cuddle with her as a little girl when I feared ghosts or intruders late at night. Winnie went through childhood sleepovers with me and has been there for me as an adult, formerly positioned on my bookshelf watching over me, and now on my headboard, doing the same. She still smells faintly of vanilla as she has for 27 years, and when I cradle or hug her, my heart floods with warmth and I am brought back to an easier time.
But she is about more than nostalgia. It might be absurd, but I keep her because my love for her and my respect for our memories prevail over the fact that she is no longer in good shape. I’m sure many of you have similar things that you keep, that you simply can’t part with, because your attachment to them is greater than the item’s flaws.
Winnie isn’t human. But shouldn’t we treat our “real” loved ones with that same kind of reverence? It is amazing the value that we attach to “things.” Men hang on to high school sports memorabilia or teens still secretly have a “blankie” at home. We keep pictures, postcards, and trinkets from past friendships or relationships. But when it comes to people, sometimes, we aren’t as careful to preserve what we have.
I’ve been blessed with a great support system including my fiance, my parents, friends, and other family members. But I’ve also had friendships crumble and people treat me differently since I became chronically ill. Shouldn’t our care for others outweigh the burdens, the guilt, or the negativity? Shouldn’t love prevail over the hassles, inconveniences, or flaws? Just because circumstances change doesn’t mean that people do – or, that our love for those people should.
Many people with rheumatoid arthritis or other chronic conditions and/or disabilities feel alone. We need to remind our loved ones that, despite being broken dolls, we need you all to keep us, to hold on to us through it all. Just as my relationship with “Winnie” has changed since I was a child, so will your relationships to people or things in your life….but that shouldn’t decrease the value of them.
As I prepare for brain surgery, I, believe it or not, took Winnie to a Doll Hospital to see about having her head properly reattached. I hope that I will be fixed, and I’d like her to have that chance, too. It isn’t affordable at the present time (who would have thought it – doll hospitals don’t accept health insurance ;) ) but I hope that shortly before or after my surgery, she can have hers, too. If not, you better believe that she will be by my side at the hospital and through recovery: just like the “real” people I keep.