Today I was contemplating life with chronic illness. Of course, for me life with chronic illness has become normal. I am used to it. My life with chronic illness is just MY life. It is the way it is. I was thinking of how there are so many things that I have to be grateful for, such as the love of friends and family, a warm home, plenty of food, the ability to go worship God at Church in the Divine Liturgy. I have the Eucharist with which and for which to give thanks. I am surrounded by such a loving and great "cloud of witnesses". I have prayer.
There is the grass under my feet. There is the air, and the free animals that roam around and grace me with their visits, like Mr. Cardinal that loves to perch on the driver's side rear view mirror of my van when it is parked in the driveway, and Mrs. Cardinal who is often nearby. The chipmunk who lives under the rock in our front yard, and all the squirrels. There are occasional visits from rather well-fed raptors in the neighborhood, too. (... and I wonder that I have not seen the chipmunk in a while.)
There is the garden in the spring, summer and fall. There are the lights in the neighborhood that our various neighbors put up in December, which I get to enjoy. It does not matter that I will never put up lights of my own, because lights are there, and I can see and enjoy them.
There is the goodwill of so many people, who offer a smile in return for a smile when I am out and about doing chores and errands.
There is the cozy intimacy of friendship forged in the crucible of chronic illness and similar suffering.
Everywhere I look, I see love. How is my cup not full? My cup is full.
And I was thinking that one big temptation that befalls those of us who are called to a life with chronic illness is self pity. This can easily degrade into bitterness. "I'm not able to work" "I can't have nice things" "Even Church retreats are painful and a chore for me" "I don't get to enjoy things" "I can't go hiking anymore". Thoughts such as these plague us. Partly because they are true, but there is an undertone of falsehood there, too, which we best deliberately set aside and fight against.
Remember, this chronic illness gig is a marathon, not a sprint.
And when we think about God's great salvation, what are a few temporal aches and pains? An offering, perhaps. An oppoprtunity to unite ourselves with the One Who Suffered.
Complaining in my soul about the bitterness of life with chronic illness is like a child who eyeballs her brother's piece of pie, and who is angry because his, it seems, is bigger. (The reality is, the pieces are the same). And even the his pie is bigger, so what? It's still all you need.
My life is all I need. And my chronic illness is a gift. I have seen it written that chronic illness is a form of asceticism. If this is true, then God has GIFTED me with a form of asceticism because I asked to be close to Him and he knows how ruled by my passions I am. And so I am given another struggle, and it is good. And I can look at my life in this way.
And it is good.