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Chronic Illness Perspective: Life’s Minor Inconveniences

A tiny fire started in my microwave last Friday and I didn’t catch it until the smoke rolled into the dining room. We were 20 minutes from leaving town for the weekend, so I set up the medical-grade air filter and figured the smell would be gone by Sunday night. Um, no. Although I never actually saw flames, the smoke damage ruined the microwave and permeated the walls and cabinets.

This was a minor household mishap — no one was injured and the damage is small and fixable. What I can’t get over is that I found the situation funny.

Really? Who reacts to a house that smells like smoke and days of cleaning with amusement? Yet neither daunted me. I could only see that my kitchen would be the cleanest it has ever been and that I might be required to paint the kitchen cabinets, which I’ve wanted to do for years. Isn’t that weird?

Trying to figure out the sources of my amusement led me to chronic illness. The many strategies I’ve learned to keep illness from subsuming me are useful for managing any sort of distress. A problem that doesn’t bring harm to anyone and doesn’t permanently damage my home just isn’t that big of a deal.

The fact that I actually feel well enough this week to do the work played a large role in my response. If I were relegated to the couch and had to smell the smoke without being able to do anything about it, I’m sure I’d be pretty frustrated. Still, this is the kind of thing that would have sent me into a tailspin even in the years before I got too sick to cope with the world. Being stuck on the couch this week would have been annoying, but I don’t believe I would have been fretful and distraught.

Chronic illness has given me so much valuable perspective. I’m not grateful for being sick and I will never say it is a gift, but after being so sick for so long, the minor inconveniences of life don’t matter all that much. I do appreciate the perspective.

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