Flannery O’Connor: A Woman With Lupus Who Accomplished Great Things

It is thanks to the comedian Norm MacDonald and his twitter bookclub @normsbookclub, that I for the past few months have been expanding my mind and reading things I would have never read before if it wasn’t for Norm and his book club.  Unlike most book clubs, Norm’s is unique in that the club mostly reads classical literature. Being a part of the club has “forced me” to re-read and like and understand the behemoth Moby Dick, which I hated when I read it sophomore year in high school.  I have also been exposed to Percy Walker’s 1961 American classic The Moviegoer  and will read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck for our December 23rd discussion.  I am grateful to the book club and it’s members in that I never would have sought out these books were it not for my respect for Norm MacDonald (@NormMacDonald) who is also a fine writer which I learned when I started to follow @NormsStories.

This month we read the novel Wise Blood by Mary Flannery O’Connor.  I had to get the Collected Works by O’Connor since my library did not have Wise Blood in any other form, so besides reading the assigned book I also read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”, among other stories.  

I was curious to know about Flannery O’Connor’s background, perhaps more curious than the other writers since this was the first women author we had read.  She is described as an American novelist and short story writer, a Southern writer who wrote in the Southern Gothic style and examined morality, ethics and her own Roman Catholic faith.

In 1937 her father was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or the most common form of Lupus and the one that I have.  He died in 1941 when O’Connor was a teenager and she was devastated by the loss.

At 26 years old, O’Connor herself was also diagnosed with Lupus.  Expected to live only five years after receiving the diagnosis, she lived for 14 years and died at age 39 from complications of the disease in 1964.

What inspired me most about Flannery O’Connor was that it was during this time between her diagnosis and her death where she wrote all her great works, more than two dozen short stories, two novels and 100 book reviews.

It shows to me that a diagnosis of Lupus, even back in the 1950s, does not mean an immediate death sentence. Although O’Connor did have to return to her home because of the disease, she did not give up her dream of making an impact and succeeded in becoming an important voice in American literature.

As I lay here in this bed, frustrated by my exhaustion after two days of Thanksgiving Day festivities, I think “What can I accomplish in the time I have left here?”  Mary did not have a laptop and she certainly did not have the luxury of typing in her comfortable bed.  She was able to be so prolific, despite the pain and fatigue of Lupus, without little more than steroids to treat her disease back then.

Mary Flannery O’Connor not only inspires me to keep writing this blog but perhaps the novels or other ideas that I have rumbling around in my brain.

There is still time for me to make an impact in the disability/invisible illness community and there is still time for you as well to make an impact on whatever it is that you are wanting to do with your life too.  No one knows how long any of us has to live, whether or not we currently have a disease and the lesson here is that time is precious for us all, and it should not be wasted on “Maybe I will start that blog”, “Maybe I will write that book”, or “Maybe I will take that art class.”

The time to do it is now.

And do it and do it until you can do it no longer.  Mary Flannery O’Connor has inspired me to keep going, and to keep writing, perhaps until the day I die.


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About mamasick

Emily Cullen is a pen-name. I suffer from chronic illnesses and diseases which include Bipolar Disorder, Asthma, Diabetes and Fibromyalgia. I had battled Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis but there is no longer evidence of me having these diseases and my Rheumatologist has declared them to be "burnt out" of my system. I am separated from my husband, “Grant”. Our son, “Tyler” was born in September of 2006 and suffers from tics and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and is delayed in fine and gross motor skills. In my blog I seek to let sick moms know that they are not the only ones going through this, and to educate people about what can happens when one becomes catastrophically ill. I also strive to break down stereotypes of what a “Welfare Mom” is like. Anything that I have gone through due to being sick, is written on the pages of Mama Sick.
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5 Responses to Flannery O’Connor: A Woman With Lupus Who Accomplished Great Things

  1. Shannon says:

    Always enjoy your posts! I’m thrilled to hear about Norm’s book club too. I have never joined such a thing but I may give it a go.

    I too am an aspiring writer. For as long as I can remember, I have had very vivid dreams. Almost movie-like, I am the main character but I am NOT myself. Not even female necessarily. So I often think I should get this dream-movie stuff written down and then write a book about it! Just never have…

    Instead, I’ve been a ghost writer for original filler type content on blogs. There’s a lot of money in that if you do it regularly and can write a lot in a short period. Unfortunately with my recent decline in health and lack of being able to remain focused for very long, it’s been harder and harder for me to write anything at all.

    No reason to give up though, right? Just a bit more challenging. That’s all.
    Shannon´s last blog post ..Pain Medication Discussions and Fibromyalgia Frustrations

  2. Tracey says:

    Very inspiring, thank you for sharing, Emily!

  3. Caroline says:

    Wow, Emily! How inspiring!! It makes me want to read some Flannery O’Conner stuff.

    I believe in you, and I am thankful for you!!!
    Caroline´s last blog post ..Decorating My Girls’ Nursery

  4. Susan Varney says:

    I am proud of this woman. Illness is not the reason to give up on life and in fact, this is your strong point to achieve a lot of things. Even if it is really hard this woman can really have a positive outlook in life.
    Susan Varney´s last blog post ..How To Get Whiter Teeth

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