Arthritis / Awareness / Personal Stories / Uncategorized

Broken Dolls: The Things and People We Keep, Flaws and All ~ by Ashley Boynes

I’m not a hoarder. I do keep things, though, that are of great sentimental value.

One of these many “things” is, to me, not just a “thing” but a very real part of my life. Her name is Winnie. She is a 27-year-old Cabbage Patch Kid doll.

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.

Winnie and I might be broken dolls, but we’re worth it – and so are you: flaws and all!!

Stay well,

Ashley Boynes

15 thoughts on “Broken Dolls: The Things and People We Keep, Flaws and All ~ by Ashley Boynes

  1. Wow what a poignant blog.. You truly are a kind compassionate young woman. Since reading your blogs I feel that I truly know you. You will never be broken with a soul like that. Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

  2. wow ashley, that made me cry….I also had a cabbage patch doll that I held close to my heart. she is in a storage container at my moms….I just might go get her and give her a long, much needed, hug after reading that ♥ good luck to you in your battles ♥

  3. I read most of your blogs. I have never commented before but this one really touched me. You are such an incredible young lady. Your candor and compassion amaze me. I hope you realize how many peoples lives you touch!


  4. Ashley…What a wonderful post…I so needed to be reminded of that today…That we are worthy flaws and all…You see today I went Bridal Dress shopping with my engaged daughter. It was a lovely day…and then it was my turn to try the Mother of the Bride dresses on…With my weight gain & steroid moon face I started to feel very down on myself….Looking in the mirror I seemed to be a shadow of my former self…I wondered where the young person I feel is still inside had gone. I feel like that broken doll, with my nicks and scrapes. Maybe just maybe I can learn to love my imperfect self with all its scars and surgical lines. On the way home I saw a bumper sticker that said “Be where you are” I was reminded to try to accept where I am and who I am right now….and long for my past self…and then just tonight I saw your post. Another reminder that my nicks, flaws, scars and scrapes are just that, they are not who I am. And I am no less worthy than those who are less broken and surely worthy of love, especially self love…so maybe next time I am fitted for my Mother of the Bride Dress, I will do less of mentally putting myself down based upon my outward physical appearance…and let the Bridal experts help me find the dress of my dreams as well…Thank You Ashley! ❤

  5. Ashley… a wonderful post… a must read for all the near & dear ones of RAers.

    Wish you n Winnie all the very best for the future… hope both no longer remain broken dolls…in body or heart.

    You also have one more Winnie… rheummates when you want a shoulder or otherwise…
    All the best!

  6. One of my most favorite articles!!!!!! I still have my childhood blanket that was with me when I lost my grandparents in elementary school, a year ago when I had a cancer scare, & two months ago when I had my thyroid surgery! So I can relate hardcore! Its fraying, falling apart, and faded but it always makes me feel better! You rock miss ashley!!!! Xoxo

  7. What a great analogy, Ashley! And so true that we do tend to value things over people. Maybe we as people are afraid of getting hurt, so we attach to things instead. I am glad you have a fiance who loves you no matter what. He loves you for you. I am lucky to be married for 27 years to an understanding man who often has to go out without me or forego activities because of my never ending headaches. Love to you and Winnie. @andreager

  8. All my dollies were trashed by my XH. I have acquired some new ones, compliments of my daughter and my now-husband and myself! the one I like best is my Teddy Bear that has buttons and laces and zippers, and velcro, etc. My DH couldn’t find a Vermont Teddy Bear that wasn’t outrageously expensive, so he got that one for me! I treasure him and hug him tight when I’m feeling bad or sad or when DH goes on a site visit for a week at a time! My daughter made a rag doll with ribbons for hair that I named Amy. It has gotten a bit bedraggled, and I still hug her when I’m feeling bad! I also have an RA-Chicks bear, and a turquoise blue bear (both hand-sized) that i can’t remember where came from. But both of them live on my side of the bed! I’ll be keeping all of these near, and hugging them as needed! If they break, I’ll just hug them more and love them more!

  9. Very true – I still have things from my childhood and I’m 66 – I am friends of your Uncle Rob and your Grandmother, Joan. We do value their friendship and consider them part of the family
    Pat LaCroix

  10. Dear Ashley,

    You and Winnie are not broken, you’re well-loved 🙂 Growing old is a gift. Carrying battle scars is a gift too. We carry those scars because we have survived. They tell the story of our lives, and our strength. Our experiences have changed us, physically and mentally, but just because we are threadbare on the outside, it is no indication of what lies beneath.


    Ellen S

  11. Can we start a fund to send Winnie to the doll hospital???
    Thank you for this amazing post, which I have shared with many. Burst into sobs because of it’s truth, poignancy, and . . . well, just because!

    • Glad you enjoyed this touching blog. Happy to announce that both Ashley & Winnie got their surgeries a year ago! Thank you for your thoughtfulness, though! 🙂 Ashley’s family gave her the money to have Winnie’s surgery done as a Christmas gift last year. Ashley’s surgery was February 2, 2011. Winnie’s was right after that — after she comforted Ashley in the hospital. 🙂

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