Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This is the time of year when gratitude posts are appropriate. From the evolution of gluten-free Thanksgivings to recognizing the support systems in my life, I have never lacked things to be grateful about.
My relationship with gratitude has never been as simultaneously effortless and complex as it is this year.
Without hesitation, I am utterly, unequivocally grateful for my daughter. She is the greatest joy of my life, and every single day we both acknowledge how fortunate we are that she is in our lives. That she is happy, healthy, and thriving, that we made it through the pregnancy to enjoy the other side? Grateful does not begin to describe what we feel for that.
For the team of doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who managed an extremely challenging pregnancy ; the lung doctor who championed our hopes and dreams at every turn and fought for us and our baby; and access to a world-class hospital and top-notch technology literally minutes away—we literally would not have our daughter without those people and that place, and we are so appreciative.
For the relatives and friends who checked in on me diligently and visited during bed rest; made months of tests and hospital visits and relative isolation so much easier with phone calls, texts, and humor; and celebrated in our baby’s arrival and continue to support us in so many ways and share our happiness with her now—we realize how lucky we are to have each of you.
The examples above were so easy to write because so many wonderful things have transpired this year they spill onto the proverbial page.
But as is the way, tough things always seem to happen right at the cusp of great happiness and joy, and this year has been incredibly painful and challenging for loved ones in terms of health crises. For the many tears of joy I’ve shed recently, there have been many, many moments of the opposite.
Gratitude is relative. During any kind of medical emergency or acute trauma, it is basic: Please just let this person survive. That’s the only thing that matters. And when morning breaks and you realize your first wish has been met, you exhale a little bit and start to focus on units of time, small changes in status: the next hour, the first words spoken, how many days until heavy equipment is removed. Each little victory is momentous, and each blip or setback is not too crushing because it is better than the alternative you just came far too close to witnessing.
But some days I have trouble with how muddied gratitude and grief become. Of course, the relief and gratitude that the patient is alive and doing pretty well is always there. But there are many losses to process, too; many changes in how we thought life would be, in the dreams we had for the future.
Sometimes I feel like I am cheating on gratitude by indulging in grief or sadness, and the back and forth between happiness/optimism and frustration/anger is tiring.
We are so lucky because it could have been much worse, but that doesn’t mean that where we are is entirely enviable, either. It still happened. I know it doesn’t mean I am not grateful when I think that, but I still feel guilty.
But like we did in survival mode, all we can do is take it day by day. So this year on Thanksgiving I will hold my daughter close and focus on the amazing blessing that she is, and focus on the fact that so many people who love her will be with her that day. We all made it through a lot this year, and for that, I am grateful.