Friday, November 11, 2011

On Gratitude

Two years ago, I wrote about being grateful for the knowledge that comes with a celiac diagnosis, and more than that, for the simple gift of being present at Thanksgiving, instead of being in the hospital.

Last year, I wrote about being grateful for the amazing blessing of my newborn baby girl, and for all the dedicated health care professionals, advanced technology, and support that allowed both of us to make it. I also wrote about how complicated an emotion gratitude can be when to comes to serious illness.

Here we are, twelve months later.

Motherhood. In the best way possible, it throws all the pieces of you up in the air and when they settle back down to the ground, they are forever rearranged. Family illness, work, writing a Book, (and yes, that’s a capital “B” in my head)—in ways less luminous and more wearying, they also throw up the pieces of me, the pieces that make up us, and reconfigure them all.

And here I am, a year since my last gratitude post, a year removed from the immediacy of birth and the physicality of newborn-hood. A year removed from the decision to re-structure the whole book, and now some 85,000 words in a new direction. A year and six classes and multiple committees removed from the end of maternity leave. A year of negotiations and boundaries and compromises that accompany being a mother and a daughter, a patient and a caregiver.

Amid so many changes, I am at extremes (as usual).

I find myself grateful for the smaller details, noticing them in more vivid technicolor than the pale backdrop of daily life: a chuckle over the monitor; an unsolicited hug. An unexpectedly light commute that means I am home earlier to play; unseasonably warm weather that means one more day at the playground. Putting on my headphones and squeezing in some revision hours; finishing the very last paper of a deluge. Making time to try a new recipe; eating dinner in the dining room together because that makes a Wednesday night something better than. The magic of a Thursday night, when the meat of the week is behind me. Coffee with a friend. A clean house.

And the much bigger stuff: To witness my husband take a risk and follow his dream, so that when he tells our daughter to do that some day, it will not ring hollow. To able to work on a book that explores questions I didn’t know the answers to, because really what more can a nonfiction writer ask for?

And the biggest thing of all, the thing that is immeasurable, the thing that still makes me catch my breath in the grocery store aisle and smile to myself when I think of a certain smile: grateful to be somebody’s mother, grateful to be her mother.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

On Inspiration

Aviva at Sick Momma is hosting the next edition of Patients For a Moment. In her prompt, she asks,

“So what do you do to get yourself out of the doldrums when you fall into a funk? What (or who) inspires you and gives you hope? Where have you found inspiration when you weren't even looking for it? How do you keep on keeping on when your pain is high and your fatigue is even higher?”

When I try to think of the big picture concepts here, I get a little bogged down. There are so many things I could say, and I end up staring at a blank screen, precious moments of time slipping away. More just write, already and less perseverating, shall we?

Honestly, I’m just not in the right zone to write specifically about illness right now. I’m in a tunnel of baby-deadlines-more deadlines-caffeine and focused on getting through the day, and getting enough done that I can get to sleep. Like it or not, good for me or not, there isn’t a lot of mental space left to think about or process anything related to illness, even when its immediacy and urgency wakes me up at 3am.

So, I thought about the stories and thoughts that have inspired me this week, the things that make me stop and pause as a writer, a professor, a mother, a citizen, and, yes, a patient, too. I’m not in the doldrums of illness, but I am definitely in a place where a few good reminders about perspective, trust, curiosity, and discovery are nourishing.

--Have you read the eulogy for Steve Jobs written by his sister? It’s a rich, personable portrait of a man whose vision is a force in many our lives, and it’s also a beautiful look at love, creativity, and passion. His last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” Pretty powerful.

--As the owner of two rescue dogs with sad pasts, I am always moved by stories of redemption and hope. I cam across this emotional article about abuse, trauma, trust, and resiliency for both a dog and her owner. While the animal’s abuse haunts me, the way both have been able to re-build their lives and trust unconditionally are truly inspirational to me. Living in the moment and letting go of pain, frustration, anger, and doubt are never easy, but this really brings to light what is possible when we do.

--I have always felt pretty fortunate to teach the classes I do (writing in the health sciences). My students have been and are passionate about their future careers as health care providers, are they are intellectually curious and engaged, and as a professor and a patient, they me feel just that much more hopeful about the future. Patients would be lucky to have some of these students as their doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and PTs. Every semester, reading their research papers and seeing the inspired issues they delve into makes me appreciate this more.

--Watching this little girl of mine grow from a baby into a walking-talking-signing-laughing-teasing-bike-riding toddler is, quite simply, amazing. No matter what else is going on in my day, in my body, in the world in general, watching her develop, experience new things, and approach life with an independent, open spirit is the essence of inspiring. Every day is a new opportunity to learn, to grow, and to build on what was already there, and that’s a lesson that helps everyone, I think.
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