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“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms 

I recently heard someone say this quote and it stuck with me. It stuck with me because I knew I was going to blog about it. I knew I was going to blog about it because this is an excellent quote for anyone who manages the pitfalls of life with chronic illness day in and day out.

What immediately hit me about this quote is that I am painfully and woefully aware that my disease has broken me. I am not the same person. I don’t think as fast as I used to. I can’t move as fast as I used to. I live in a foggy world of unusual aches and pains that creep in and out of my body like a thief creeps in and out of a house stealing a person’s most valued belongings.

I no longer have the same stamina that I once did. A strange and unexpected self doubt has slowly and assuredly made a home for itself where my ego once proudly lived.

I grieve who I used to be. I cannot deny this.

Yet despite this thief who has taken up residence in my body and changed me in ways I loath, the thief’s sheer presence in my body as given me a resilience I never knew I had and a new insight on the preciousness of life that I once took for granted.

Because this disease has stolen a hunk of me, it has given me the chance to find new parts of myself that would have otherwise remained buried. Parts of me that would have been left it the shadow of what used to be me. And in a strange way, this has been an unexpected benefit, if there is such a thing, from becoming ill.

The involuntary stillness chronic illness has bestowed me with, has given me a peaceful quiet and in that quiet I am able to appreciate the entirety of truly important things and find that small things once missed in the commotion of a busier life are now savored.

Things like a moment of sunshine on my face on a cold winters day.

Things like a smile from a stranger in the grocery store.

Things like how I feel the moment my husband walks through the door after work.

Things like watching the joy my dogs experience as they chase a ball, share a toy or take a nap curled up together.

Things like the sound of the birds who wake me every morning with a sweet song out my bedroom window.

Things like how beautiful that split second is as night begins to turn to day.

Things like the sound of my husband’s voice.

Things like the joy of a Skype call with long distance relatives when they cannot be near.

Things like time spent with the best people that I know.

Things like letting go of what just doesn’t matter.

Things like saying sorry and meaning it when I hurt someone even when I don’t agree there was any real reason to feel hurt.

Things like the act of putting another person’s needs before my own.

Things like work is not life.

I have found strength in the broken places in my life because I appreciate time wasted is time lost. I have found strength in the broken places in my life because it has awakened my belief that while we don’t always understand why things happen to us we are better off learning from our experiences rather than dwelling in them.

I have found strength in the broken places in my life because my illness has given me the ironic gift of free time and with it has roused a creative side that was long deadened by the drudgery of things once thought of critical importance. With this creativity I am able to see, feel and hear things around me with more gratitude.

So the world may have broken me but I am being reborn anew in ways that I would not have been if I had never gotten sick and I have learned that life truly is what you chose to make of it.

And I am excited to find more ways I am strong in my broken places.

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