On my birthday post, I talked about having gratitude in the face of all the stuff – little and big, good and bad – that makes up life. I really do believe that, but sometimes it can be really hard.
Okay, I’m just going to be really honest here: I’ve had a super crappy time lately.
I hurt my back in the summer which is still affecting my daily life – can’t sit / stand / drive for long periods of time. I’m not working outside of the house at all, and I’m not working as a writer as much as I’d like. This is in part due to the whole sitting thing, in part because I cannot concentrate on pain meds, and in part because there have been some rather black days. I miss my friends. I miss my mom, dad, and the rest of my American family – I can’t travel. I missed out on a very fun car event in France weekend before last where my husband and loads of our friends met up and drank champagne and hung out without me. And I’m camping out in the spare room because the bed in there is better me right now. It’s isolating, and – even on days when it’s low grade –consistent, continual pain really sucks. A good portion of your brain is focused on that, so nothing else gets your full attention.
Also, last month I lost a friend. It was horrible. He had been sick for a year, it wasn’t a surprise like his diagnosis had been and we knew when he went into hospice care that it wouldn’t be long; yet, when the day came, knowing didn’t matter at all. It staggered me. I wept on the phone with another friend as we talked and grieved together. She knew the moment I called why I was calling and just broke down. We cried for our loss, for his wife’s and their children’s loss, for his other friends’ and family’s loss, for the loss to the world. I hadn’t lived in the same city as him for several years and hadn’t seen him or his family in a few years. It didn’t matter. I was so very shocked and saddened by the whole thing. It still gets me now. When such a bright light goes out, you can’t help but notice. I couldn’t travel to see him before he passed, and I couldn’t travel to support his family at his memorial due to the whole back thing.
Then I caught a cold. It sounds silly now that this would feel like a breaking point, but it was. It came on so very hard and fast and immediately went into my chest. I couldn’t lie flat because I would cough so much, wasn’t sleeping, but was producing a ridiculous amount of used tissues. I even took a picture of the sheer volume in the trash can and sent to my family so they could commiserate with me. I know, gross, right? But they understand me – kind of. The coughing caused my back to worsen in new and interesting ways. My specialist, physical therapist, and sports masseuse all shook their heads at me: “This isn’t helping,” they each said. Great. There wasn’t much I could do about it.
So, one morning I just stopped and started listing things that I was grateful for – things that were good in my life. I mean, if I didn’t, I was going to disappear down a swirling everything-actually-sucks-forever-and-always vortex and maybe not surface for weeks. It’s happened before, and I know from experience that you can’t always “pull yourself out of it,” but in that moment, I just needed to remember a few things that were good. From the big-ticket items like my husband, family (including new sister!), and the beauty of the NHS to “small” things like getting a task done, having a friend call, or even my cats being especially sweet one day – there were (and are) still things to feel good about in my life.
There is still beauty. I am still mobile, have good days, and am definitely getting better. I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I have support. I have reasons to and people who make me laugh. I can still look outside of myself and my situation. I have love in my life. And even though there is no “good side” to losing my friend, I know for certain that my life is richer for having known him.
I’m holding onto the good, and as I said, am getting better. My specialist even says that I am healing quickly – just maybe not as quickly as I’d like. I just need to remind myself to be grateful every once in a while. It’s necessary.