The Act of Being Grateful

Journal Entry January 10, 2013

It has been a long day.  I’m tired of being in groups.  Groups that change and reform for each new session we do.  It’s hard to make connections with people, but I guess we are not here to make life-long friends.  In fact, the whole place reeks of detachment.  It drips from the ceiling and is blown out through the hot air vents.  It’s interwoven into the fabric of the chairs we sit on.  It leaks out of the coffee urns that are placed in strategic, low traffic areas around the rooms so there will not be a general place for patients to gather in.  Even the nurses and counsellors are cloaked in it.  They only seem obliging when THEY approach you, and not the other way around.  Everyone’s agenda seems to be to glean whatever information they can from the resources around them, and then hightail it out of here.  And I am looking to meet people I can talk to.  People who have travelled a road similar to mine, who are willing to share and to listen.  But as I think of it, who would want to talk to me, or relive any of the nightmare they have experienced through a friendly chat?  Again, I am on my own.  The Purple Sheep Syndrome.

I should be grateful for this opportunity.  I should be thanking Dr. F profusely for hooking me up with this agency.  I should be reverently gobbling up whatever self-help information there is that is thrown my way.  Digesting it carefully in the evenings as I revisit the day’s events.  Regurgitating it mindfully during the nights when sleep won’t come.  But I don’t feel grateful.  Instead I feel angry that I need to be in this hospital.  Angry that I am in dire need of the lessons that are being taught here, because without them I will slide down further into a pit where there is no escape.  Where the one exit stretches into an unknown eternity of which there is no return.  Angry that after all these years, after all these battles I have fought to feed my soul and save my sanity, I remain an unknown and broken soldier in my own life.  Who am I, and why do I continue to fight?  What do I have to be thankful for in a life peppered with failure?  Where each new attempt to succeed is buried under a mountain of criticism and cryptic laughter.  Where my own existence is a cruel joke played on me.

Gratitude…what is it anyway?  I have forgotten.

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December 26, 2016

The act of being grateful is a skill that must be honed.  I don’t think I was born with a ‘grateful’ gene.  Gratitude is developed as I learn to appreciate what I have; to be thankful for the world around me and my place in it.  I believe it is an entity that grows throughout my life when I cultivate it.  When left unattended, it drys up and crumbles into unrecognizable pieces.

I just celebrated Christmas with my wonderful family.  It was a time filled with laughter and joy; of giving and receiving.  We sang, and we ate, and we drank, and we played!  My young niece F exclaimed with great fervour, “This is the best Christmas EVER!”  Which is a sentiment that was felt by all.

On my early Christmas morning drive to my sister L and her partner’s home, I drove by the hospital from above where I have been an inpatient many times over.  A memory played before my eyes that I had long since thought about.  It was Christmas time, 1995.  I had been admitted into the hospital in November for major surgery.  Four days later I was operated on again because a blockage had occurred.  That surgery was very long, and it went horribly wrong, not due to the brilliant surgeons who were working on me.  I became very ill and my stay in the hospital lasted several months.  I had a PIC line in my heart, which was attached to several feeding bogs on a pole, and a thick tube that ran through my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach.  I had a catheter and a steady Demerol drip, also hanging from the pole.

When it became apparent that I would be spending Christmas in the hospital, my mom got to work transforming my private and sterile room into a winter wonderland. I took a red marker and made a round circle on the bandaid holding the tube in place in my nose so I resembled Rudolph.  Finally, we decorated my TPN pole with tinsel and a star because I wasn’t able to have a Christmas tree in my room.  I wanted the spirit of Christmas to be with me wherever my bed was rolled in the hospital!

On Christmas morning, Doctor L, the head surgeon, came into my room.  He said they had decided they would grant my wish to go home for 1 1/2 hours so I could enjoy Christmas with my family and see our Christmas tree!  I was absolutely thrilled!  When I had made the initial wish to Dr. L, he had kindly and gently let me know that this was impossible.  Now to have my wish granted was my dream come true!

My favourite nurse came into my room and gave me a special sponge bath so I was clean and ready to go for my visit.  She even put a little perfume in the water so I would not carry the antiseptic smell of the hospital with me.  The nurses gathered up all of my tubes and lines and detached what they could.  They transferred me from the bed to a wheelchair and rolled me out to be met by B.  We were both excited!  He carried me to his car and then we were off.

When we got home, B carried me into the house where a chair had been prepared for me.  It was decorated with green, red, silver, and gold bows and ribbons.  It sat right in front of our Christmas tree!  Mom and L were there and I thought I was going to faint I was so beside myself with excitement!  I got to cuddle with my doggy and my kitty, and I drank in the homey Christmas atmosphere like a workhorse quenching its thirst at the end of a long day working in the fields.  Suddenly it was time to go back to the hospital.  I wasn’t sad because I had spent Christmas with my family in front of our Christmas tree.  B carried me back out to his car, and then back into the hospital.  By the time I was situated back in my bed, I was exhausted and in considerable pain.  But it didn’t matter.  I had got my wish.

For the remainder of the day, I was in and out of consciousness, sleeping fitfully.  Later in the evening I heard an unexpected sound.  Three exuberant voices came ringing out singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”  At first I was alarmed and confused.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  I was awakened by a raucous noise that grew increasingly louder.  I started to panic in my disoriented state, and then L, B, and C came barrelling down the hallway that led into my room, which was right off of the nurses station.  When I saw them I smiled gleefully!  They were bedecked in Christmas sweaters, toques, and scarves.  They wore enormous smiles and their cheeks were red from excitement and the frigid temperature outside.  They were so boisterous and full of joy!  L carried small beautifully wrapped gifts, B had a bunch of festive Christmas balloons, and C carried a plate of both Mom’s homemade shortbread cookies and toffee cookies, even though I couldn’t take anything by mouth.  What a jolly time we had!  We all giggled and laughed as I tried to open the goofy gifts L had brought in.  There were funny fridge magnets I could attach to my pole, and silly toys that they dispersed around my room.  I began to fade rather quickly after the gift opening was completed.  The nurses then came in and kindly asked the three to go.  They had stayed well over half an hour, which was way longer than any of the other visitors I had had.  L gave the shortbread and toffee cookies to the nurses.  Instead of taking them to their station, the nurses decided to leave them in my room, so they could have a treat every time they came in for a scheduled, or unscheduled visit.

As I lay in bed thinking after they had vacated my room, I realized L, B, and C had left our marvellous family dinner to come and visit me on Christmas night.  What an amazing day and night!  Undoubtably my best Christmas EVER because of the simple fact it was all about love.  Family love.  And my real Christmas presents?  They were left under the tree for me to open months later when I was finally discharged from the hospital.  But that didn’t matter.  I don’t even remember thinking about gifts at all.  My joy came from the most pure source.  My heart was full and bursting with love for the family that was so good to me.  It was a Christmas we will always remember.  And the gratitude I feel for all of that and a lifetimes more, is one I intend on cultivating for the rest of my life.

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2 thoughts on “The Act of Being Grateful

  1. I think we can feel so down about ourselves that we let our mood or attitude colour how we perceive what we see.
    Your posts, though still heart wrenching, don’t as dark as the earlier ones I have read here. Does that show progress?
    What wonderful memories you have to help you get through the tough times and what a caring family you have…such support when you really need them.

    Like

    1. Happy New Year, PR!
      Thanks for your insightful comments! I have to laugh as I just posted my first January commentary, and your second comment…well I think you will laugh, too when you read my post!
      Wishing you the best New Year ever!

      Like

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