Wednesday 20 June 2018

Mary Kenny: An ill wind… How falling sick can expand our horizons

 

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

We talk a lot these days about having "agency" - our capacity to exert our own will - and "bodily autonomy" - our rights of ownership over our own body. But if there's one thing that totally wipes out notions of "agency" and "bodily autonomy", it's illness.

When you fall ill, you resign all those affirmations of your bodily entitlements. You crawl back into bed craving rest and semi-oblivion. You don't own your own body anymore. It's been taken over by another force - the bacteria, which is now calling the shots. There have been a variety of winter bugs doing the rounds over the past couple of months, and for 10 days or so, I copped a nasty strain of whatever it was. So did lots of people.

Being ill is part of the human condition, and yet the experience can take us by surprise. It's astonishing how the landscape changes. Life becomes colourless. Everything seems difficult and wearisome. You have to drag yourself to the kitchen or bathroom. Food is a matter of indifference, and the effort to make a cup of tea seems too much bother. A lot of things that appeared important last week now somehow don't matter.

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