A friend sent me a link to a YouTube clip of a photographer, John Dugdale
….who makes beautiful art, despite being blind. Yes, blind.
I watched his very brief video, where he describes his physical suffering and how it changed his work, but more significantly, altered his sense of who he is.
He says, “When I lost my sight, I needed to re-invent myself.” In very matter -of -fact language, he talks about how he began to do that. He concludes his talk with these words, “There is an alternative world out there, as powerful as anything we consider ‘normal.’”
I found myself thinking about how a chronic illness requires re-invention. For some of you, that meant thinking about different work, or fun activities. Others have had to make difficult choices about parenting or adjust your definition of how to be the kind of partner you want to be. The idea of “re-invention” brings a creative element to these changes. It isn’t so much about loss, or what you can or can’t do. That is often how we view having to live in a new way.
Life is more than what we wear and achieve, and more than our to do list of activities. Life has a profound and mysterious level that requires us to slow down, to feel what we feel, and tell ourselves, and each other the truth.
Re-invention suggests choice – taking charge of how you want to describe yourself and see your life.
What does it look like for you? Many readers have written to tell me about new discoveries or areas of growth and talent that they never would have found without the “help of their disease.” Maybe not what any of us would choose, but once we are dealing with an illness, then the choice is ours how to live with it.
Which brings up the second part of the Dugdale quote that grabbed me. He witnesses to “an alternative world out there, as powerful as anything we consider ‘normal.’” His sense of all the alternate possibilities comes from his illness – the “handicap” of his disease is the portal to seeing in another way and recognizing subtle beauties that he may have missed before.
What does that magic look like for you? What is the “powerful alternate world” that you have seen and experienced?
For some people I work with, it is the world of art and beauty. They create – with pens and paint and clay. Or their creativity is their children, their teaching, their work of discovery. Some are inventing communities. Some find that alternate world in prayer and spiritual service. Others practice the power of alternate healing – both to give and receive. Still others have a mindfulness or meditation practice, do yoga or tai chi. There are many paths – but I see my clients and friends on those paths, living their own witness to a ‘different normal.’”
Over and over again my clients who live with chronic pain and illness testify to this realization. Life is more than what we wear and achieve, and more than our to do list of activities. Life has a profound and mysterious level that requires us to slow down, to feel what we feel, and tell ourselves, and each other the truth. All of our lives weave sorrow and joy closely together. We are invited to see more broadly and deeply and powerfully and then share that wisdom. Those who live with an illness somehow have the opportunity to recognize this level very clearly. Not all, but many see this alternate world and remind the rest of us. All who pay attention have the responsibility to bear witness. Tell us what you see and how you are re-inventing the world. I know you are.
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