Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My invalid, diseased, sick characters...and my other truer self

Okay, so my characters tend to be ill. Loic has epilepsy, Psal has polio. Novella had a stroke. Not to mention all the congenitally-disabled children that abound in Carole McDonnell stories.

I've had this idea, this thing I cling to, that there is this other me...the healthy me. The healthy me wouldn't be so reclusive and choosy about her friends. The healthy me would be generally witty and light and funny and not prone to snapping folks heads' off. The me that was, the me that should be...at age 51/52.

But come on.... there comes a time in one's life where one says, "Uhm, this is me. For better and for worse."

I know God has placed his healing virtue in me and I know I will be better soon. I also know my younger son will be healed.

But I also know that this 30-year phase of my life has certainly affected me and my work.

Quite simply, what would I have written about all these years if my in-laws had liked me, if I hadn't been sick, if younger son hadn't been afflicted? Healthy people? Good grief, no! Say not so. I've always had a liking for folks who didn't quite fit in. Of course they were healthy folks and they didn't fit in because they chose mentally and geographically and intellectually not to fit in.

But the past 30 years have given me a body of work that honors the valiantly ill. (This is not me, mind you. I'm never valiantly ill. I whine like whining is the new trend. )

My characters are lovely wonderful and wounded. Some of them, like Loic in Wind Follower, don't whine. But Loic lives in denial, and he makes everyone around him live in denial as well. No one is to mention or even notice when he has an epileptic fit. To be noticed is to bring a burden of shame on him that he can't deal with.

Some ill characters, like Psal in Constant Tower, work with their illnesses but their personalities are nevertheless marred by their illness. I'm a bit like Psal. Psal doesn't exactly whine but he is frustrated. He wants what healthy people have but which his health prevents him from getting. And he gets nasty when people challenge him. Yeah, that's me... Psal.

Some ill characters, like Ephan in Constant Tower, keep quiet because they feel happy to be accepted. So they hide their illness from those who would judge them....and they speak of their pains only to close friends. They soldier on in endurance and patience. I want to be like that.

Funny the way human personalities deal with things. Anyway, yeah, I'm glad I've created sickly characters. Not glad I've been sick...but yeah, the creation of these characters are my treasures in darkness. I would not have created such wonderful literary souls if I had never known illness. So, am thankful to God for that.


Anonymous said...

See, I think that you've discovered through writing one of the fundamental truths about illness for Christians.

The suffering is a trunk line to Jesus. Seriously. I've been a Christian all my life, but it's only as I've succumbed to chronic illness in the last decade or so that I've found the truth of My Grace being made Perfect In Weakness. Or, as Leonard Cohen so lovely put it--there is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

Whenever I come across a MarySue--and that happens a lot more than it used to for some reason--I grit my teeth and plow through. But the frail, the flawed, the diseased? They'll keep me riveted to a story.

--Sherlock Holmes' drug addiction and sociopathy
--Bran Stark's paralysis
--Lincoln Rhyme's quadripalegia
--Tyrion Lannister's dwarfism
--Red Orm's hypochondria

I could go on and on and on...

Like you, I'm seldom valiant in my illness. I'll kvetch, whinge, moan, carry on, whine, pester. Whatever you got that means "complain", I'll do it.

I will say, though, that I do feel lucky my mother in law likes me. My father in law didn't. But he didn't like anybody (son included) and now he's on the other side being perfected by the Father. So it doesn't bother me so much.

Carole McDonnell said...

And what is so interesting is the type of work created by John Keats, James Joyce and writers who were ill. Could we have James Joyce's Ulysses if he wasn't almost totally blind? Could we have Beethoven's 9th symphony if he could hear?

So good to have a mother-in-law who liked you. That's a blessing.

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