Today I am writing a "free form" blog post as it isn't based on our Stoic reading for the day. A close friend of mine has been dealing with a chronic illness that she was diagnosed with last year. She has become a voice for the chronically ill, writing a blog to help make people aware and to make people aware of symptoms and complications of the disease. In taking on her role as "a voice of the chronically ill" some people see her as whining on Facebook, being a depressing read, etc. Unfortunately, she has lost friends because of it. People that she thought were close and good friends. They don't want to hear about her struggles, challenges or illness on a daily basis. It makes them uncomfortable and they don't want to be reminded that life is not always comfortable.
I responded to her blog and wrote a somewhat naked response, talking about my own health issues and thanking her for speaking out and making it "okay" to not be "normal", making it okay to let people know what we are really struggling with.
As a Stoic how does that effect how I deal with my "disability"? *I was born with a congenital malformation of my right side. It is a genetic defect which means I have no inner ear, canal, etc. and have only a bone piece and an ear lobe where my ear should be. This has also caused my jaw to be malformed, etc. causing severe TMJ and painful headaches. I am hearing impaired due to this deformity which I barely acknowledged until I hit my 30s.* Being a Stoic has allowed me to acknowledge my challenges, allow myself my idiosyncrasies, realize that sometimes my hearing loss causes me to react differently, sometimes I read lips and body language to fill in the gaps of my understanding, a lot of the time this "filling in the gaps" causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings on my part. Studying Stoicism has allowed me to recognize my universe is the way it is. If I cannot hear someone I need to let them know, ask them to repeat themselves, rather than filling in the blanks and opening the door to the possibility of misunderstandings and injury. It is okay that I want to craft a life with as little stress as possible. To live according to nature is the primary Stoic principle and my nature is part of that principle. To avoid loud, noisy environments, to ask people to repeat what I have not heard, to craft my life into a life that is beautiful for me.
We all need to face our reality and craft a life in which we flourish. A life in which we put our individual gifts in the sunlight, out from the shadows of what we feel society wishes, and face the light of day with strength and courage. Our "normal" doesn't have to be everyone else's "normal", to accept ourselves for who we are and allow ourselves to grow and shine. LOVE ourselves, truly and deeply, as the gift to the Universe that we all are.
In accepting ourselves fully we also need to accept others fully. Nurture others and help them become the unique individual gifts to the Universe that we all are. Nurture a community in which people can be themselves, giving them opportunities to grow in ways that are appropriate to their challenges in this life, a place of discipline with love and understanding. I hope to create an Intentional Community in a world that is increasingly isolationist; ostracizing those who do not conform to the definition of "normal" that society at large has decided.