I did this painting some years ago when I was sick. I really wanted to be out there on that beach, out of my body and away from the life that I was living at that moment because it was filled with loneliness and illness. Not aloneness, but loneliness, there’s a difference. I was married and had two beautiful young children, so I wasn’t alone. Yet as my health failed and weeks became months and those months dragged into years of living in a body that had become a kind of prison, I felt isolated. I was like one of those mimes in an invisible box, I could see the life that I wanted to be part of happening all around me, but I couldn’t quite get to it, it was just out of my reach.
That is what chronic illness is, what it does to those living with it. If you’re lucky and have a supportive family and good doctors some of that burden is lifted, but even still, it is a journey that wears on the body and on the soul. Nietzsche once wrote, What does not kill me makes me stronger. I would sometimes think about those words back then, and the truth is, I sure didn’t feel like I was getting stronger. I think that what life’s trials really teach us is that we can survive. We can do what we never thought we had the strength or the courage to do. Are we stronger? Maybe, maybe not. But as we step out of that box, battered and scarred from the crossing, we take with us the wisdom that no matter how dark the day the wings of hope can take us anywhere we want to go:)
For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.
~ Christina Rossetti
When I downloaded Paul McCartney’s song Let it Be the other day from iTunes, I also found the version in the video above from the movie, Across the Universe. Sung by veteran stage actor Carol Woods and 15 year old Timothy Mitchum, the song is set against a scene depicting a family losing their son in Vietnam and the Detroit riots of 1967. I grew up in Detroit, only six miles from the epicenter of the riots. As a seven year old child at the time, I thought that the riots happened “downtown”, far away from my own quiet, tree lined street. And in many respects I suppose it was far away. As a white family, our experience of life in Detroit and in our country during the 60s was very different than that of African-Americans living only a handful of miles away.
When I look at Detroit today, I’m saddened to see that racial, social, and economic separation and isolation continues to have devastating effects on neighborhoods, on schools, and most importantly on children. And as I watch the nightly news and listen to the never ending debate over the political and military issues of the Iraq War, I can’t help but wonder if there ever really will “be an answer” or if mankind is destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. But you know, when I listen to beautiful music like the song Let it Be, when I see exquisite art and watch inspiring movies and plays, when I look up at the night sky and see the glory of a lunar eclipse, or when I look down and into the eyes of a newborn baby it gives me hope, and isn’t that what keeps us all putting one foot in front of the other most days?
One of my favorite quotes is by the poet Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Isn’t that lovely? Have a peaceful and hope filled weekend dear readers:)