Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekly Inspiration: Survival is Insufficient

Today's inspiration comes from a book I recently read and loved, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. You may have heard of this very popular and highly acclaimed novel, since it was on many Top Ten lists for 2014 and was short-listed for the National Book Award.

The novel takes place 20 years after a flu pandemic wipes out 99% of the world's population, though the action moves back and forth in time so that you get to know the characters both before and after the horrible event. In this world 20 years after the pandemic, with no infrastructure and people scattered in small enclaves, there is a traveling troupe of actors and musicians. They go from community to community along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, performing Shakespeare plays and classical music. Painted on the side of their caravan is this motto:
"Survival is Insufficient"
          - from Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 

And I thought that phrase was also perfectly fit for a life with chronic illness.

It is all too easy when you are chronically ill to get wrapped up in merely surviving, just trying to get through each day. When your every moment is ruled by restrictions and limitations, you can easily become focused only on survival. But, as this traveling acting troupe points out, survival is not life, and you need more for a real life - small joys, moments of happiness, art, music, and more.

It has taken me a long time to figure this out for myself - certainly in those early years, I was almost entirely focused on survival (though when you have little kids around, they remind you constantly that there is more to life). Now, though, I find happiness, fulfillment, and moments of joy in many ways throughout each day, like:
  • Lying outside on my deck, looking up at the clouds, listening to the birds (so many different kinds!) and the wind through the trees.
  • Reading a book that takes me to another world.
  • Listening to favorite music that makes me sing out loud or discovering new songs and artists.
  • Lying on the couch at night, with a square of dark chocolate and a mug of Raspberry Zinger tea, enjoying favorite TV shows with my husband.
  • Connecting with a friend - old or new - online.
In all of these ways - and many more - I am constantly reminded that "Survival is Insufficient" and that my chronic illness doesn't have to define my life. There is still plenty of joy to be found in this new life.

How do you find joy in your life? What things - art, music, outdoors - lift you out of a life of illness and remind you that you are more than your illness?

P.S. If you enjoy reading, I highly recommend Station Eleven (the link takes you to my review at my book blog - don't worry - no spoilers!). I bet it is great on audio, too.


Unknown said...

Hi Sue, thanks for this post which has come at a great time for me. Very recently diagnosed, I recognise I've been existing in 'survival mode' - I need to get some life back! Thank you from a new subscriber in the UK.

Sue Jackson said...

Hi, Emma - Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Sorry you've been struggling, but I'm glad you found your way here! Those first years are really tough. But you've come to the right place - I try to focus a lot here on finding joy and living your life with chronic illness. Welcome!

Here are more posts on inspiration that you might find helpful:


Brandi Clevinger said...

I agree that we shouldn't just survive, but thrive. I joined a book club a few months ago, and it's the one thing I thoroughly enjoy doing. It's once a month, so there's no real commitment and it's within walking distance. If I get ill or need to leave, I'm close to home.

Thank you for sharing at Chronic Friday Linkup. I pinned at linkup board.

Sue Jackson said...

That's wonderful, Brandi! I LOVE my book groups - I belong to several, both locally and online. There are so many things I can no longer do, but I love to read and I love to talk about books. Book groups are definitely a source of joy for me, too.