The stoic week theme for today has reminded me of growing up always aware of the night sky, and how I would look at the stars, everywhere you put your eyes there were stars upon stars. I don’t know where I could go now to see a sky like that. I was taken to a Dark Sky site a few years ago, and it was nothing like the sky I remembered from my youth. Those stars really put things into perspective for me, and all my little growing up problems vanished into inconsequence. How much has the human race lost by hiding the stars? Does anyone remember when there was an earthquake and all the lights in Los Angeles were out, and people called up radio stations wondering what was wrong with the sky. People who in all their lives had never seen the beautiful night sky that Planet Earth is blessed with. Where I live now, from my window at night I have only been able to see the moon and bright planets. No stars. I miss even the impoverished view of major constellations I enjoyed in the backyard of my former home. It is so much easier to learn these lessons of stoicism if we can connect with the nature of the planet, if we can find a forest with huge trees, or a meadow buzzing with insects and bright with flowers, or, especially and “above all” the view of the universe in the dark canopy of the night sky. Light hitting the retina after journeying for hundreds, thousands, millions of years….
This is the morning of the second day. So far, I think I am already living a bit like a Stoic – a lot to learn, of course. The reason? Because learning to live with a chronic illness which limits your ability to behave as you always have tends to make one more patient, more able to focus on things that really matter, and to let go things that once upon a time would have dominated one’s thoughts and used up much energy. I don’t like to hear about people fighting their chronic illness, because I feel this is not the best way to manage something you really have no control over. Better to find ways to live with the situation. In my case, for a long time I’ve envisioned my illness (polymyalgia rheumatica) and my medication (prednisone) as two dragons, which my job is to control so they go in the same direction, which I hope will be towards healing. I don’t know if this is the best analogy, but years ago in this blog I wrote about prednisone being a two-faced friend. Some people go into remission in a couple of years, others, like me it seems, end up in this situation for the long haul. I have no choice but to treat this in a stoical manner, accepting that I cannot change the fact that this illness has weakened me, stolen my energy and capacity to do things, but also realizing it won’t kill me, and with the right medication I can live a good life and still enjoy many of the things I like to do. I can control how I feel about the situation, and do what I can to relieve suffering by treating myself kindly and taking my medicine, but the fact of the illness is beyond my control and I cannot fight that.