Saturday, 18 April 2015

5 Things Flannery O'Connor Taught Me About Chronic Illness

Or any illness.  Or just life.  I've been working with fibromyalgia for a while, but only recently have I known about it.  That's prompted some serious reflection about how I go about daily life; and, what is more, how my attitude can make or break the day.

Here are five things I learned about handling my chronic illness, from my muse Flannery.

1 // Keep doing what you're doing

When she was diagnosed with Lupus, Mary Flannery, the up-and-coming young author with a bright publishing future ahead of her, didn't stop writing.  It seems like a given, but I can't tell you how many times my thought processing has circled back around to "what am I going to do now?"   And the answer, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, has eventually come back to me clear as a bell: "Just keep doing what you're doing."

There may be days that I can't do it, or that I have to slow down, and projects will be delayed, and plans will be held off.  But if it's not a full stop period, I can keep doing what I'm doing; it'll just look a little different.

2 // Move home

Go where you're going to have help, where you're going to be most comfortable.  I guess for some people, this isn't even really an option.  So why not own it?  At the very least, you'll get a kick out of observing the natives.

3 // Indulge in what you love

Like raising peacocks.  Or, take a page from my book, and:

  • read Flannery
  • blog
  • look up little known ethnic groups on Wikipedia
  • draw up the family trees of imaginary dynasties
  • go to Hobby Lobby and not buy anything
  • make lists

I highly recommend any of these.

Doing something that you love is fortifying.  I think the self-help books and inspirational blogs have hammered that one home; at least I hope.

4 // Have a sense of humor

Flannery was born with a skewed since of humor all her own, and I think it really helped her through the difficulties in her life.  You'll find her sometimes in her letters express worry or sorrow but never self-pity.  I can only chalk it up to exceptional grace and a sense of humor.

5 // "I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing."

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