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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’


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The start of a new year always brings an opportunity to look back on the past year and possibly beyond. A new year is filled with expectations that things will be better than the year before, particularly when the previous one was difficult. The reality of life is that it has its ups and downs, it’s joys and sorrows, and there is no timetable for any of it.

So what can we do to take a more realistic look at life?

I really believe the most important thing we can do to help fortify us against challenges, is to stop and count our blessings. Even in the worst of times, there is good to be found. Take for example, the many tragedies that have been suffered in this world. Haven’t they always brought out the best in people? From one man stepping up to feed thousands of people in Puerto Rico after the hurricane, to the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center, to the outpouring of funds from individuals for any of the natural disasters that have struck our shores and beyond. Then of course, are those personal challenges where many of us have experienced the pure outpouring of support from others.

I speak from personal experience.

While suffering unspeakable pain, isolation and fear, I was visited by people I would never have expected to see. A work colleague with whom I had differences at times, came to offer me a facial and manicure. Another visitor, someone I knew somewhat peripherally in HS, came to see me while i was in a NYC hospital. A cousin, with whom we had limited contact as children, came several times. Another, traveled in from NJ.

And then those who I counted on, traveled from far away places to see me – my sister, cousin and son. And my dear husband, who was with me every day while in the hospital in CT, came every other day from CT to NY, spending 4 hours a day traveling, while maintaining our home, our pets and a job.

If that’s not something to be grateful for, I don’t know what would be.

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This term is most commonly said to military service people. But don’t many others serve us too? Now that the holiday season is here, I wrote my list of those who serve me throughout the year, many silently and behind the scenes. I got busy baking and allocating some cash to recognize and thank them.

The Postman

The FedEx driver

The UPS driver

The newspaper delivery person

The medical supply driver

My hairdresser

My nail technician

My cleaning team

The young man who does yard work for us

Public works, who pick up our trash every week

The medical supply company who went through many hoops to allow me to travel

The delight of the recipients of my gratitude only made me even more grateful. How special is that?

 

 

 

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BRAVADO: Real or pretend?

It hit me today, like a ton of bricks. What was it going to take to get me to feel fear? Real fear.

I left the doctor’s office today, aware of the long wait ahead. News about the test he had performed and the ultimate decision it would require. On top of the news I am waiting for about a genetic test that could also change my life, as well as that of my children.

Sure, I tell everyone, “I don’t worry until I know there is a good reason to worry.” And I largely convince myself of it, until today. I am driving home when something akin to panic sets in. I cannot cry, so it is more like a grip on my gut.

I realize I have fooled and pleased the doctor with my bravado performance, and I get complimented for it. It hits me – my pattern. In order not to deal with pain, worry, anxiety, I pretend to be strong. I am strong, for sure, but is it right to always be strong when unsure of your future? I have always sought to please people. A habit I intellectually disdain and think I have overcome, but I suddenly realize it is in the very fabric of my being, and is still very much my modus operandi.

I question why I need to be so independent and strong all the time. It’s not even natural. I know that we are all driven to be liked, and who likes a needy person anyway? But my emotions are on a roller coaster today.

I struggle to even share my feelings with my husband, who has given me no reason to doubt his loyalty. I go to the doctor alone, when all three people I interact with ask me if someone has accompanied me. I find this to be a strange question. I always go to the doctor alone. Oh, I realize now. This is a cancer center. Most people come anticipating potentially bad news, instructions, things they need another set of ears to hear. Me? I’ve been through so much already, I can handle it. I can ask the questions, take notes and put things in my phone calendar by myself. Besides, I think the exam is over precautionary – my doctor is so conservative. But this new doctor says he never has an inappropriate referral from my doctor.

So each piece comes together to paint a picture that tells me maybe I should worry – at least a little. Perhaps this is another false alarm – this is what I have been telling myself. And I will be truly grateful if that is the case. But for now, I think I should allow the feelings that sometimes overwhelm me, rendering me incapable of thinking straight, their proper place.

That would make me more normal, wouldn’t it?

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Fair warning . . . . especially to family. The feelings expressed in this poem reveal deep, personal pain in the context of the family rift. If you feel it may negatively influence you about the family, please read no further.

These past six months have been difficult. While much of my life has been lived without the support of my mother, her decision to cut herself off from two of her three children is unfathomable to me. I understand some of the logistical and survival reasons for her choice. Yet I cannot imagine, for any reason, EVER, being estranged from my sons, therefore can’t understand how she can do it. Never mind the pain it might cause her (if it indeed does), but her lack of consideration about her children’s feelings – I just can’t wrap my head around it.

I’ve considered reaching out – many times – but I already know the score. I’ve been there so may times, each time emerging with freshly opened wounds, so I decided to stop hurting myself any more. Only a fool keeps doing the same thing, expecting different results.

So, when I pause to think about things, I become angry, in self defense. Writing is cathartic – so emerged the first poem I have written since I was a teenager. Here it it.

You Told Me I Couldn’t

Act like a child,

even when I was one

I had to be the adult you couldn’t be

Develop my academic talent

When I qualified to skip a year of school,

you held me back

Go to religious school when I wanted to learn who our people were

because you wouldn’t join the temple that offered you

a scholarship you viewed as “charity”

Take music or dance lessons

because you didn’t have the money

yet your poorer friends found a way to send their children

Go to a prestigious public school

because you didn’t want me to ride the subway

You thought your fears should be mine

Claim my spot in a desirable college

because I couldn’t go to that school

So I dropped out of a different college, already defeated in my belief I

that I could accomplish anything great

Go to art school

because I would be a starving artist

even though my teacher saw promise and helped me create a portfolio

Do the right thing

because when I stopped to help an injured child along my way,

you punished me for losing the money I was given to bring home dinner

Go to college unless I could find the money to pay for it

because you didn’t think my education was important enough

Or maybe you didn’t want to see me succeed

Your actions and words broke me in places no doctor could fix

But years of reflection, therapy and depression, provided some glue to hold me together

while I built my own foundations of strength

I made my life meaningful in spite of you

In the face of loss of

my childhood,

my innocence,

my health

jobs,

old friends,

my home,

two husbands,

and others I loved,

I built a life of worth, and still find it possible to be grateful for every bit it

A devoted husband

Two beautiful sons

A good education

Health

Friends

Meaningful work

And the privilege of finally, finally, being all those things you said I couldn’t be.

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This vacation went faster than usual. Maybe it was because lots of non-vacation-like things happened, such as: (1) mother-in-law went to the hospital. This necessitated a minimum of 3, and up to 6 calls, each of the 4 days she was there. (2) brother-in-law got sick with worry because his mom got sick and called twice daily (with texting in between) to report his bathroom trials. (3) our dog of 10 years, who loved vacationing with us at the lake, went home with my son and passed away.

Doesn’t this make you feel like you would now need a vacation? It does me.

To be fair, some good things happened too. I took 3 art classes and taught one. A sculpture classmate fell in love with one of my pieces and purchased it. I am elated that it spoke to her so strongly and that it will have a lovely home in her Maine garden. I taught a class, which I love doing. The wonder and thrill of the first time people make felt is a privilege to witness.

My son and two of his good friends spent a week with us. I love those boys like family and enjoy having them in Maine, along with my son.

We had friends visit for an all too short weekend. It deepened our friendship and I did the most relaxing during the time they were with us.

Although it would be nice to have a few more days, I am looking forward to returning to a job I really like, and to catching up with friends neglected during my studies. Life is good – and always interesting.

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The power of friendship cannot be underestimated. Particularly among women. I am always humbled by the great gift I have had in these friendships. Each person, or group with its own dynamics, has the restorative power of an antidepressant.

I have been hanging out with a group of ladies (you know who you are) over the past years: with husbands, without husbands, with families, without the kids. We were blessed that all configurations enjoyed each other at different times and for different occasions. We have shared our children’s stories, helped each other when the times got rough and celebrated the happy occasions together.

We used to get together regularly, for birthdays, or just because. Our husbands saw the value in this and began doing this with each other. Slowly our get togethers dwindled: some went to work, some to school, some were just not up to it. Whatever the reason, I have missed those regular get togethers. They were rejuvenating and precious.

We got together last week at someone’s home to celebrate 3 birthdays. We talked about everything from Brazilian waxes to road rage to camel toe (look that one up). But mostly, we let loose, laughing hard and loudly until tears ran down our faces. For the next few days, fueled by the kinship and love we share, I have been calm and content. It’s the medicine we need as human beings – to connect with others we trust and to be able to be yourself. Laughter has its own reward, with healthy physiological changes demonstrated in many studies.

Before we left we put another date on our calendars – while we were all there and basking in the glow of our friendships. I am looking forward to my monthly “medicine” to cure the ills of daily stress and isolation. I love you all and thank you for blessing me with your friendship.

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