The inspiration for my long overdue blog post finally arrived. At first I didn’t recognize it as such. It was delivered as news that MaryEllen Sullivan, a Chicago writer and one-time colleague of mine, had died. She was only 56.
MaryEllen was a freelance writer with an enviable portfolio and a frequent and fearless traveler of the world.
But it is her blog that best defined her. It’s been eons since I last saw her, but a mutual friend alerted me to it last year. On the Wings of a Hummingbird is a blog about joy, MaryEllen put it simply.
From her obituary by Barbara Mahany: She was a writer and traveler, a diviner of joy — joy unexpected, unlikely and against the odds. “In a time of chaos (now righted),” she wrote in March 2012, “on a day in which joy seemed eclipsed by uncertainty, I committed to writing about joy every day. I figured that if I can find joy when I’m in the mud, then maybe I have something to say about joy.”
Why do I share this with you? Because I believe all of us can be inspired by the words of MaryEllen Sullivan.
She thought big and deep and was a connoisseur of culture high and low, including poetry, literature, music, television and film. By the same measure, she appreciated what others would regard as the smallest, inconsequential things in life.
From MaryEllen’s series “Delights Great and Small:” Those of you who know me—either in person or only through the blog—know that I delight in both the large and small things in life … the everyday miracles that make life juicy, joyful and just plain fun. Dry martinis. Naps. Lazy afternoons. The angle of the sun at summer’s end. A good book. A new restaurant. An evening with old friends. These things cost little but offer a high return of joy.
When her life took a precipitous turn –- losing her partner of 18 years followed by her ovarian cancer diagnosis — she dug deeper and wrote about finding joy in the face of tragedy and grief. See, for example, “Bewigged, Bewitched and Beloved.” It’s a great story.
Over the last year I discovered a MaryEllen I never before knew. In the last two days, I realized that MaryEllen has meant more to me than I could have imagined.
Thinking about MaryEllen and her approach to life makes me want to create more, to read more, to get out more and to write better. She makes me want to live a richer and more satisfying life –- and to always be infinitely grateful for all joys, great and small.
If I could be like MaryEllen, I would not wait for inspiration. It would always be there.
Thank you to my dear friend Cindy for her help finding the right words for this post.