Galway woman, Marie Hanna Curran, in this 'Personal Insights' submission reveals how her battle with illness has finally allowed her to appreciate the joy of life.
AS is often the case within the span of a small life, control was suddenly taken from me when life decided to yell at me and push me in the right direction - knowing if she didn’t - I’d never get there.
While my feet moved backwards on life’s chessboard, my mind, being one of logic and linear thinking, cursed and screamed. After all, who moves backwards in this life of ours?
I was a winner. I’d graduated university with a degree, I’d worked for a multinational company in finance. I’d bought a home, I was married and was earning a good wage. Socially I had a good life too, there was the local athletics club and there were races and even a marathon. The boxes were ticking themselves off, and so I was winning.
I was winning until I lost.
My illness wasn’t something I’d really known about, it’s two shortened letters, ME, meaning little to me until they arrived at my door, knocked down the door and walked themselves right in.
Once they were in, they sat on my couch, slept on my bed and sat beside me at my kitchen table as I began sleeping and resting and pacing so as to keep my symptoms of headaches and nausea and muscle pain and bone pain and constant fatigue at bay.
My social life was the first to go, then my running and sure enough my work soon followed, as did my house proudness. Everything was condensed, reduced and as I saw it, lost.
During my first year of illness I did as any losing side does. I fought. I wanted back on that path, back in the past, back on that winning team but the more I fought the more I lost.
There were no known treatments for me so I tried a few anyway. There was a drug which made me worse. There was a therapy which made me worse and there was a strict diet which didn’t make me worse but equally didn’t make me any better.
All the while those around me were on the opposite side of the playing field. They were climbing ladders at work, travelling, socialising, and reaping the rewards of hard work in the form of additional mortgage payments and updated cars. As they continued winning, I continued sitting in my stinking stagnant pond, losing.
Then, somewhere into that first year I stopped losing.
One morning I got out of bed and stared down the mirror at ME and told those two little letters they could sit beside, stare at me and envelope me but they would never become me.
Slapping myself and vowing to end all ridiculousness I decided I was no longer sick with ME but rather living with ME.
Funny to think the rearrangement of a sentence can have such a life altering effect on someone, trust me it can. From that day on, I began living my new altered life.
One away from consumerism and toe tags and lists and must haves and must dos. Suddenly I was free and realised losing isn’t always bad.
Those coins down the back of the couch and that sock in the washing machine. They’re never lost, just misplaced. And so I realised while I was stuck with this life altering, life limiting illness, I didn’t lose my past, instead, I found my path.
Over the coming years I reimagined my life. First was myself. I threw out the excess clothing and bags and shoes. I donated anything without purpose and happily made do with all that I had.
Then I threw social media into the bin and limited my internet usage to reading the news as friends, family and neighbours kept me connected with all I needed to know.
What followed next was the garden, a ¾ acre plot of green which had been idle for years. A garden who’s planting began with fifteen friends and their shovels and gifts of shrubs and my very first tree. A blossom tree.
After that first bed, a bed known as the birthday garden, there were gradual additions and so five years on a forest is slowly developing with over one hundred native trees and a small garden pond.
No matter the day, no matter the season, every window within my home offers up a kaleidoscope of delights and a bench outdoors allows an even closer view of those living within the bounds of this babbling patch. Bats, herons, tits, finches, blackbirds, thrushes, robins, wagtails, foxes and even a pine marten have been spotted going about their daily lives.
My home once used to scrub, to clean, is now used to watch the sunrise and sunset and each of these gifted delights.
As with all paths, there were further steps. There was the addition of fifteen raised vegetable beds and fruit bushes and two laying hens. A once devoid piece of lawn has been transformed into a wildlife haven, a food source and a space in which I can amble and potter.
Nothing on this path has been planned or intentional and yet it’s far more rewarding than the path of my past.
I’ve come to learn what’s important and what’s not and most of all, I’ve learned there are no such things as planning the perfect.
Only imperfections exist in this world and we are one of those tiny imperfections. Each of us hoping to do something useful with our imperfect existence before we’re forgotten.
Marie Hanna Curran's submission is part of a new digital initiative on irishexaminer.com called Personal Insights.
As part of the Personal Insights initiative we are asking readers, creative writing groups and writing enthusiasts in general to share personal essays chronicling an experience which has impacted their lives and any learnings from that life experience they would like to share with a wider audience.
The essays should be sent directly to the executive editor for news and digital, Dolan O’Hagan, at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Please note all submissions should be given the subject line ‘Personal Insights submission’ to ensure they are picked up and should include any related imagery and a contact telephone number.
Only submissions which meet the Irish Examiner’s own strict journalistic, ethical and legal guidelines will be considered for publication.
The Irish Examiner reserves the right to edit submissions in line with those guidelines and before publication direct contact will be made with the person who has submitted the content.
No payment will be made for submissions and our decision as regards publication is final.
Our goal is to publish one submission per week and use all our powers to make sure it is seen by as wide an audience as possible.
We look forward to reading your stories.