I love documentaries and one of the few perks we have as chronically ill people is that we are often bedridden and able to watch documentaries for hours on end. I have watched many hundreds of hours of history and science programs over the last decade that I have absolutely adored.
During a recent documentary binge I learned more about the everyday lives of the peasants during the Middle Ages.
The fact is that we are still learning a lot about the period by digging up artifacts and piecing together the remains of what life must have been like for the average peasant during this time.
A great deal of history is devoted to the Kings, queens and wealthier persons of the period and there are a lot of information and documentation dedicated to glorifying them as they had access to many opportunities that everyday people did not, including reading, writing and education.
It is owing to a great deal of these factors that many people died young, lived in abject poverty and suffered tremendously during their short life times. Still today little is actually known about joe average aside from his life of servitude and their struggle to survive. Did he or she make future goals or have lofty ideals will remain unknown to us today. One question that remains highest in my mind though is why go on?
Where did the will to go on come from when faced with such difficult and depressing odds?
I ponder this question a lot and it seems to me that there would have been a lot of suffering and very little certainty in the average life of a peasant. I imagine a life dominated by pain, illness, death, poverty, fear, oppression and hopelessness. So what did they do? How did they cope?
Ultimately I can’t know what they truly felt but I can only imagine, based on the history that is uncovered. The fact is that although they were never recognized, mentioned or honoured it was because of these people that their countries flourished, survived and even prospered. Their children fought in wars. Their hard work shaped nations. Their creativity and dedication produced artworks, skills and industries that helped shaped the modern world.
It seems to me that part of their reason for being (raison d’etre) is that they drew meaning from being of service to their families or for their cause. This is where I found myself pondering and giving much thought to my current circumstances.
As I have found myself increasingly more physically challenged and suffering I have struggled with feelings of no longer having meaning or being of use to those I love and care for. Finding a use for my time and my abilities (or lack there of) has been put in sharper focus today than any other time of my life. It is the hardest of all the pains at times.
Initially not being able to do the things that I wanted to do or hoped for in my life was the cause of the most pain and frustration but as time went on I became more intent on being able to do anything or achieve any thing for those I care for.
The fact that society makes us feel unwanted, unneeded and irrelevant is almost suffocating to those who are fighting hard just to survive and exist. Friends and loved ones often reinforce these feelings by no longer seeing many uses for us or reasons to love and appreciate us.
… So what happens now?
Sadly many people in these circumstances can become depressed and isolated and may even feel suicidal if these feelings grow deeper and darker, After all, what and who makes us feel necessary or wanted anymore? What does living actually mean anymore? …Especially if we have no use in this world anymore.
The phone stops ringing, people stop asking for our thoughts and opinions and worse still is that our minds and skills are now no longer valued since they are now inside a body that is disabled or unreliable.
I realized that the days I have appreciated the most are days when I think I have accomplished something. Even if that is something small compared to what others can do everyday. A day where I managed to shower, cook, iron, draw, write, talk to a friend or help my loved one through a painful time are days in which I felt a sense of accomplishment and a reason for going on. I particularly enjoy times where my mind has been put to good use in creating a project, learning new information and planning our future security from the ideas and inspiration I have provided.
It also seems to me that far from living lives in the pursuit of our own personal pleasures, achievements, accolades and gratification our reason for existing is more closely linked to our true purpose and perhaps our ability to serve and help those we love.
Many people today who no longer have to fight just to survive, or battle the type of conditions and odds that medieval peasants once faced, spend the bulk of their time in personal pursuits and self absorption. This was not possible for those living centuries ago so they might have found real motivation and strength from being able to nurture and support their children and family. They seem to have worked tirelessly for those they loved and would even die very young so that others might have a better life or continue to survive.
I have found this very meaningful in my current battles and this is primarily why I began blogging years ago. I wanted to help make life a little better for all those autoimmune warriors out there who are struggling to find their dignity and a place in this world. I will often remind myself that as long as I can be of help or service to my husband and those I love, even if it is only in some small capacity, I would endeavor to be here for as long as I am needed and as long as I can.
This may mean that while I no longer want to inject myself, struggle with limbs and pains, or battle on with frustration and uncertainty, if my husband may require me to help him to battle his own private demons, or need my reassure him on a day where he feels lost and confused, then that will be my place and my privilege.
Many people seem to have lost this message in the modern world.
This isn’t always as easy as it seems and certainly far harder than it is for me to write these words. My pain and feelings of futility will often get the best of me and it is easy to think that there are times when everyone would be better off without me, including me!
Like those people centuries ago, I may never be immortalized, remembered, recognized, appreciated or even achieve anything approaching what most people will be able to do everyday, however maybe we have forgotten a greater lesson that had sustained many of our ancestors centuries ago through the bleakest and cruelest of times and that is to find purpose and to be of service in some way can be a very strong reason for living.
This altruistic view of life may have become long forgotten but it also may be the truest reason why humans have survived and evolved over the centuries and I prefer to think the peasants that did what they did everyday without recognition play a far greater role in the course of human history than the kings and queens of the day.