Joyful Noise: What Chronic Illness Teaches

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I have a great teacher in life, and that is my chronic illness.

Just as life has its seasons, my illness has its own seasons. Unlike the natural seasons of the world, these seasons are unpredictable–seasons where I feel at ease and my illness doesn’t bother me, and seasons of pain where it troubles me.

As the seasons of my illness change, I have to respond to my illness as though I’m dressing for the weather. I have habits, rhythms, and things on hand for when I’m well–different types of foods and exercise available to me. When the winds change, so does my approach–I change my activity level, alter the menu, carve out the extra time for healing, and reach out for help in the difficulty.

But all of this requires being truly and wholly honest with myself about what kind of season I’m in. It also requires me to be sober in my evaluation of my capacities. If I fail to acknowledge where I am, I cannot be grateful for whatever gift–small or large–I’ve been given in any particular moment of illness or wellness. In a season of pain: thankfulness for the few minutes of rest, the friend who calls, or the “smaller” accomplishments of the day. In a season of wellness: thankfulness for freedom and the ability to engage more fully in everything–including the (often repetitive) household chores.

And so in my best moments of acceptance, I dress for the weather, filled with gratitude in all seasons.

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