For all the times someone has asked you how you are, and you felt pressured to say “I am well” when well wasn’t your whole truth. I offer you this, my wish that this writing finds you not just well, but all the things that being human asks of us. And to remind you that your being alive, in all its magnificent and complicated colours, is more than enough for love.
This month I came across a powerful piece of writing by Johanna Hedva called Sick Woman Theory which seriously rocked my world. The article (soon to be a book!) is Hedva’s personal story of living with chronic pain and illness, but it’s also the story of anyone who is wrestling to find relevance in a world that aggrandises wellness.
Hedva lucidly articulates how ‘wellness’ and ‘sickness’ are treated as a binary of opposites in our culture. And those who fall on the wrong side of those tracks are considered unproductive and therefore excluded from the collective conversation. But perhaps more insidious is how this estranges us from our own pain, our wretched illness, our terrible grief. We are so driven to ‘get well’ that we rarely show any welcoming kindness to these unexpected guests in our lives.
One of the great competencies of Belonging is the willingness to give our discomforts and misfortunes a home. Rather than this endless seeking to get well, or yearning for ‘how things used to be’ or ‘may be one day again’ we must be willing to walk with our pain. Or at least be willing to be willing to say, “This too is welcome. This too belongs”
In the end, so much of the conflict we feel in our hearts is because we’ve split ourselves off from the very life we are living. We partition ourselves from the things with which we are at odds, treating them as unbelonging even as we live them. We vaguely imagine some other body, some better career, some other lover – but the irony is that so much of what makes us unhappy is our own rejection of the life we have made. Eventually we must take our life into our arms and call it our own. We must look at it squarely with all its unbecoming qualities and find a way to love it anyway. Only from that complete embrace can a life begin to grow into what it is meant to become.
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Click here to watch Johanna Hedva’s phenomenal talk (1:26) from which her article was adapted: “My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It & Want it to Matter Politically”