Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, can teach us a lot about 'making the most of what you have'. Here is a little history lesson about her chronic health problems, and what she could still accomplish in spite of it all:
After the American Civil War broke out she served as a nurse for six weeks (1862 -1863, Union Hospital, Georgetown D.C.). She was 30 years old then. In her book, Little Women, it was her father who went off to war, in real life it was she who had gone. While she was a nurse she caught typhoid fever and was treated with a medicine containing mercury. Some scholars believe that her lifelong chronic health problems after that were due to mercury poisoning from the medicine.
Recently, though, many believe that her symptoms were not mercury poisoning at all, but an autoimmune disease. One late portrait of her shows rashes on her face which indicate she might have had lupus.
In spite of poor health, she kept writing furiously at her home, Orchard House. She seemed to understand what her potential was and tirelessly worked away at filling the measure of her own creation. She even taught herself to become ambidexterous so that
My husband and I toured Orchard House last week (Concord, Massachussetts) and I came away inspired; inspired to create something in spite of...whatever. I'd been a bit discouraged before the trip. Now I feel excited and inspired by Louisa.
Maya Angelou believes that if one person is cable of doing something (good or bad), that ALL people have that same capacity. She said, "If a human being dares to be bigger than the condition into which she or he was born ~ it means so can you. You can try to stretch, stretch, stretch yourself so you can internalize [the Latin phrase], 'Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto' ("I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me'). Basically it means,
if so-and-so can do it, so can I.
So, if Louisa May Alcott can keep writing in the midst of chronic health problems, losing a beloved sister, raising a child she didn't plan on raising, and standing up for women's rights, what can all of us create with the abilities we have; with the time we have? What can you create that is well suited to the unique talents you have...talents that no one else in the world has but you...that will fill you with joy? How can you avoid forming uncomfortable expectations, or putting pressure on yourself? Who around you might need your friendship? How can you feel useful?
For starters, go easy on yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. Pray to see yourself the way your Heavenly Father sees you. Pray to accept your own, unique life's journey and go with the flow. If you have limitations (temporary or otherwise) remember that other people will be blessed when you are true to yourself and fill the measure of your own creation, without competing with anyone else. Have fun discovering new ways to accomplish things that bring you joy which are meaningful to you. The Lord will inspire you to discover new things about yourself, new ways to feel useful, and new people to serve and love. Listen to that still, small voice within you and trust it.
Enjoy the process of letting go of what you can't control. There might be a few tears as you accept losing an ability, a person, or a time of your life. But, letting go leaves your hands open ~ open to catching new possibilties you hadn't thought of before ("weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning", Psalms 30:5). You will gain new abilities and find new people in your life!
After all, one of your Heavenly Father's greatest wishes for you in your life is to have JOY.
*Owl painted on Louisa's mantle by her sister May. Orchard House, Concord, MA.