Attitude of gratitude?

I remain incredibly grateful for all your good feelings and prayers on my behalf, for the meals you cook, the driving you do, the fun emails and FB posts. All of it is uplifting and I know that I am incredibly lucky to be feeling so great.

When I am completely down and out, I am automatically grateful for every little thing: the feel of sunshine on my skin, a kind word, a drink of water. There is a piece of me that feels so open to grace that I want to keep that feeling without also experiencing some catastrophic event.

When I feel good, though, I become more critical of myself and others and have to consciously generate gratitude. For example, I took an extra week off chemo and on Saturday, I felt really good. We even had friends coming for dinner – something we used to love doing but a rare event in the past many years. I don’t have the energy to throw a dinner party, so we offered to take them to a restaurant.

On Saturday morning, my husband told me, “They said they would go anywhere we wanted. Where can we go where you can eat something too?”

I became really excited. I am not just vegan, but I also avoid sugars of all types (including fruits), vinegars, fried foods, processed foods, carbohydrates….basically, I eat vegetables and beans.

That said, many restaurants in our area fit the bill. Plus, I know that these friends are game to try anything and have even been juicing vegetarians in the past, so I took them at their word and rattled off three vegetarian restaurants.

My husband paused for a moment before asking, “What will the rest of us eat?”

Now, I know he has good intentions. He wants to be a considerate host and make sure that there is plenty of food that everyone will enjoy. But did my grateful heart focus on that? No. My critical, ungrateful side focused on counting the times I have gone to fancy restaurants and ordered a lettuce salad with olive oil and lemon. I don’t mind, honestly. I primarily go to dinner to enjoy the company of friends. But in this moment, I focused on a very selfish and manipulative angle, and it wasn’t pretty.

I snapped, “What do you mean? Everyone can eat vegetables. Why do I have to always be the one to make do?”

As soon as I said it, it didn’t feel good, but I’m not good at turning on a dime. So I walked away.

What was it exactly that was bothering me? My husband was only trying to consider everyone involved, including me. And once I turned it around and saw it that way, and was simply grateful that he was taking everyone’s preferences into account, I felt better.

I know from experience that being bitter, sad or selfish increases the pain in my body. I feel physically better when I focus on the good and keep my sense of humor and perspective. It took a tumor to teach that to me, and apparently, I am still learning.

Thank you for being in my life, and for giving me so many opportunities to practice gratitude.


Setting goals

We set life goals, tangible and intangible, such as achieving a level of professional success or creating a certain style of life. We also set near-term goals. For example, when I used to run, I would decide to run three miles, then along the way, set mini-goals of running faster until the next lamp post. These smaller goals helped me in reaching the larger goal.

Since my diagnosis, the tone of my goals has changed to sound more like, “How long can I live?”  I set out for 20 years and the mini-goals, so far, look like this:

– See our older son make his First Communion and be able to host family
– Attend his fourth grade poetry reading and listen with my whole heart
– Help our younger son transition to his “real” school (from preschool)
– Celebrate another wedding anniversary with my husband (I reset this one every year)
– Prepare for and attend the First Communion of our younger son

I feel so lucky to have attained the first four, and I have the fifth one in my sights.

In the meantime, as other goals pop into my head, they get added.

For example, last week, I was loving my 10-year-old car. Yes, it has given me problems here and there, but lately, it felt reliable and like it would go on forever.

Goal: I would love to outlive my car.

Immediate gut response: Careful what you ask for.

The next day, I started the car in our garage and slowly backed out. The engine felt sluggish, but I attributed that to our crazy-cold weather. As I backed up further, the ABS and BRAKE warning lights flashed orange on my dash. Then the BRAKE light turned to red.

I checked the handbrake. I’ve driven with that on before, but it was not set. Halfway out of the garage, I thought, maybe I just needed to restart the car?

I turned off the ignition. Instantly, I realized my mistake, but the deed was done. I could not start it again. It wouldn’t even turn over. Not a click.

I looked over my left shoulder and saw the side of the garage door right next to me. I tried to open it, but there was not enough room for me to get out. I was effectively locked in the car. Sigh.

What were other options? The backseat doors were clear of the garage! I climbed over the seat. Not so easy to do with a colostomy bag, sore abs, and generally under-used muscles, but I did it! Once out, I felt thrilled with my little physical manipulations. One problem solved. Now to worry about getting the car started.

Just then I realized – it was FREEZING cold outside and the garage door could not close with my car in the way. We would be heating the outside for hours through an opening the size of a garage door!

Call to hubby, my salvation in all things that I cannot handle on my own.

Yes, I see some parallels to my body. Sometimes it feels a bit unreliable, but I can go for such long stretches of feeling good that I feel like the problems are gone. And then suddenly, they crop up again. I can feel trapped, but I luckily have been able to climb out. Maybe a little awkwardly and with some effort, but it works. And much of the time, I look at my situation and realize that I need help. Fortunately, help arrives.

My husband came home, pushed the car out of the garage, and charged it. He charged the battery, but it wouldn’t hold a charge. Because this is the fourth battery in 10 years, and we had countless mechanics say they can’t find a problem, it feels more like some obscure electrical problem.

It became clear that, as much as I loved this car, it was time to move onto another one.

So, check that goal off my list. Next!