mug of coffee, smartphone, pen and paper

Create Ritual, Not Religion

The definition of ritual is: A series of actions or type of behavior regularly followed by someone.

While religion can be described as: A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

While both sound like a good and dedicated way to live, when it comes to managing your ankylosing spondylitis, advocating, or living your life, I urge everyone to create more ritual and less religion.

For the benefit of this article, I choose to define ritual as the things we must do daily. And, I will define religion as the overpowering need to follow every step, do every task, and structure every moment, or else face eternal damnation. (Or, at least, a gut feeling of failure).

The reason for ritual

Living with ankylosing spondylitis, or, for that matter, with any chronic illness, there has to be a bit of consistency. This is a solid fact. We need to do things daily that allow us to live with some comfort. We must take our meds, use our heating pads, eat the right food, and/or do whatever you need to do.

I view these as the little treats in life that keeps you going. And that is how I feel everyone should view them as. Treats.

Let it be the spice of life

Make a mental effort to enjoy these little things that you need to do. If you enjoy cooking, view it as an artist would with a painting. Every ingredient you toss in only adds to the overall masterpiece, and think about how good it will be to eat.

Catching up on social media can be a wonderful moment of connecting with friends. Don't just idly scroll through Facebook or Twitter feeling upset that Dan and Trisha are in St Bart's. (it probably rained every day anyway) Pour a cup of coffee, turn on some soft music, and write your friends. Keep those connections and make it a fun morning ritual.

Fun can be had anywhere

Heck, I even have fun with my injections! I line up all my supplies for both injectable meds like I'm preparing to go to war. It reminds me of the “Rifleman’s Creed:”“This is my biologic. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My biologic is my best friend… I must inject my biologic true…” (Truthfully, I have never said that until now, but I will probably think about it every injection day from here on out)

Whatever you do with your daily ritual, the point is to have fun with it. Daily medications, infusions, doctor appointments, whatever. They can be draining, so find a way to make them fill you up instead.

The problem with religion

As I said before, religion can be seen as something you have to do or suffer the consequences. I forgot my meds, now I'm going to hurt all day! If I don't catch up with friends, they will hate me! I must settle every argument in my support group, or they might leave me! There isn't enough time for my morning soak! I do that every day!

When you believe that you must do everything every day or you will have a bad day, you probably will. Stuff happens! Murphy’s Law: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” You can’t expect the unexpected! Sometimes the dog pees on the carpet and you can’t answer your friend’s email. Your car won’t start and you now don’t have time to make it to Starbucks before work. This sucks! But, don’t let ruin your day.

Shake it off

Instead, enjoy what you have time to enjoy. Having rituals is a great way to make your day and your illness your own. Religiously following a self-imposed plan that will determine how your day goes is begging for disappointment. When things go wrong, be like Taylor and “Shake It Off.”

There is always tomorrow.

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