Searching for Grace in Illness

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

My routine is the most comforting thing to me. I have created my routine with thought and intention. The practices I do during the day I do to keep my mind and body healthy. I do them so I can get out of bed each day, to keep up with my responsibilities, and to be able to show up for my loved ones.

When I get sick, my routine and practices are torn from me. I find myself lost without my predictable comforts. I am left alone with a body that aches from fighting the pathogen and a mind that begins to swirl with negative and anxious thoughts.

I can’t go on a run to boost my mood, to calm these thoughts. Any movement at all, even going to get a glass of water, takes all my energy. Even meditation is elusive. I can’t bare to sit with my body the way it is feeling. The discomfort I feel overwhelms me, and I am unable to face my weakness.

I find myself crumpling into a ball with an aching body, a muddled mind, and shame that I am not stronger. I should be able to face this illness. I have done it do many times before. Why can’t I just be sick without falling apart?

The reason is simple. When I become ill and cannot go about the routine and do the practices that give me comfort and help me find strength, I become vulnerable. I become the child we all are inside that we try our best to ignore.

I am reminded of these wise words by Krista Tippett:

“Our bodies tells us the truth of life that our minds can deny: that we are in any moment as much about softness as fortitude. Always in need of care and tenderness. Life is fluid, evanescent, evolving in every cell, in every breath. Never perfect. The be alive is by definition messy, always leaning toward disorder and surprise. How we open and close to the reality that we never arrive at safe enduring stasis is the matter, the raw material, of wisdom.”

Krista Tippett – “becoming wise”

Maybe it is time to really take these words to heart. Maybe it is time to accept that illness is a part of living in this messy world. Maybe it is time for me to accept that when I do become ill, it is okay that the strength and mental fortitude I can find on other days may not be attainable. Maybe it is time to surrender to the child inside without any shame. Maybe it is time to nurture my body and mind, to love and accept the weakness. Maybe it is time for grace.

“Grief and gladness, sickness and health, are not separate passages. They’re entwined and grow from and through each other, planting us, if we’ll let them, more profoundly in our bodies in all their flaws and their grace.”

Krista Tippett – “Becoming Wise”

I have moved past the worst of my most recent illness and am recovering. I am grateful. I am also aware that all around me looms fear of COVID-19, and it is very possible that a good number of people will get sick. Thankfully, most cases will be minor, but if you do get sick, I encourage you to work on the items below with me below as I continue searching for grace when sick.

Goals for the next time I become ill:

  • Let my inner child come out without shame. Honor my need for comfort, for the extra soft blanket, for the endless cups of warm tea.
  • Don’t be afraid to let my loved ones know that I am feeling vulnerable. Don’t be ashamed if I need to ask for words of comfort and encouragement.
  • Let the tears come if they are there. I am not breaking. I am healing.
  • Try to be with my body, even in it’s discomfort. Listen to what it needs. Let it be my guide.
  • Don’t beat myself up if there are negative and anxious thoughts. Let them be, but don’t give them power. They are not reality.
  • Remember this is one moment. It may seem like it is forever, but it will end, and I will have learned more about myself.

If you know anyone who is sick, I strongly encourage you to reach out to them, especially if you know they live with depression and anxiety. Being sick can be a particularity hard time. Even if you cannot be there physically, let them know you are there to talk to. Give words of encouragement. Offer to run errands. Let them know they are not alone. Make sure they know love is never leaving.

It is time for me to let go of the shame. It is time for me to bring awareness to others that if you are like me, you are not alone. We can work to find hope in sickness. We can find grace. Together.

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