Chronic illness can be pretty monochromatic. It can take any hint of beauty out of life. When getting through a day takes everything you've got ... when the smallest of tasks are overwhelming or impossible ... when your world is limited to your own home or, worse, to your own bedroom ... Beauty may be in short supply.
And when just pulling together the basic necessities of life takes all your focus and energy, beauty may seem a bit ... superfluous.
But it isn't.
I've been dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for going on two decades, and huge blocks of that time have been devoted to lying flat on my back in bed. As I'd get a bit better, I'd be giving it my all when I'd stumble down the hall into the living room to spend a few blurry moments with my family. And then it was time to stagger back to bed.
It was a very basic existence. I had bed hair, often unwashed. I lived in my bathrobe. Making my bed was a ludicrous notion since I was back into it not long after I'd wear myself out in the making of it.
Even getting dishes or clothes washed was a monumental task. So what -- I'm going to put flowers on the table? There was no energy or inclination for this.
But one day, I was out for a rare walk, and was flooded with the beauty of the sunlight reflecting on the water at the beach. I paused and breathed deep. Felt a sense of flooding and rising within my chest and throat, and tears came to my eyes.
I felt a sense of peace. And a hint of joy. I lingered and savored this moment before going back to basic survival mode once more.
And I learned something important that day. Even when beauty seems incongruous ... even when it seems to be completely inappropriate and beside the point -- perhaps especially at those times -- beauty is not a shallow side-issue.
The experience of beauty can bring glimpses of peace into a situation that inherently contains no peace. It can elevate the mood and thoughts when mood and thoughts have been regularly dragging in the dust.
Beauty? It should be a foundational part of every chronically ill individual's life.