Notes on Gratitude
So, the post I had in mind to write for this Thanksgiving was going to be really great. I was going to tell you about my daughter's first trip to residential treatment and what a nightmare it was, how the treatment team let us down, and how they basically kicked us to the curb like a pile of garbage. I was excited to tell this story because I was going to put a positive spin on it. I was going to tell you how that unfortunate event taught me an important lesson, which is true. It did teach me an important lesson. But here's the other truth–it fucking sucked. I trusted the person who recommended this facility, but came to learn that the employees there did not place a high premium on safety or security. The reality is that I will have to live for the rest of my life with the knowledge that I put my daughter, at her absolute most vulnerable time in life, in harm's way. I will have a hard time forgiving myself for that, even though there was no way I could have known what would happen in the care of people who were supposed to be helping her.
I will tell that full story someday, and probably soon. It really is important because it's a lesson I'm eternally grateful to have learned. And if it didn't involve additional pain for my daughter, I would be beating my chest and crowing to the stars. I learned that one person can make a big difference. One person can, in what is otherwise considered the black hole of the medical "system," make a huge difference. That one person was me. Sometimes, when we're completely powerless to help the one we love, knowing that we have someplace to turn if something goes wrong can be the only silver lining in an otherwise devastating situation.
So, if this is all true, what's the problem? Why not go ahead and write that post?
Because here's what's also true: I'm having a damn hard time of it right now. I've been deliriously out of sorts for weeks now. It's not pretty, and I don't want to lie about it or cover it up or ignore it. If I want this site to be a safe place to talk about times when they're tough, I've got to put my money where my mouth is.
I've been crying a lot. I sit in front of the television and cry at images of abused children. I cry at images of abused animals. I cry at images of terrorism, and I even cry over the episode of "SVU" when Elliot's pregnant wife and Liv get in a car accident and the wife, stuck in the demolished car, goes into labor. I've seen that friggin' episode about 50 times. It's a TV show. It's fake. She's not really pregnant, she doesn't really almost die, and that's not a real baby. Maybe those are real firefighters and maybe they used a real car to cut the actors out of, but that's all that's real about that. I even cry at football. And NOT because I don't like football. I LOVE football. Football rocks my world. Way to go Broncos! And don't, just don't, get me started on witnessing Lindsay Wagner's cameo on "NCIS" last night. That might turn into its own blog post.
Recently, I've been falling down the hole of shoulds. I should be working harder. I should be making more progress. I should be feeling more gratitude (after all, I have a mountain's worth of stuff to feel grateful over, and that's no joke.) I should be getting more exercise or any for that matter, and I should be cutting myself more slack. I should be more content.
For a little while, my better thinking self "won." I put those shoulds aside. I stopped feeling guilty about watching TV–it's what I do. It's what I've always done alongside of being diligent and taking care of everyone and everything in my sphere. I tried to pay more attention to creativity. I remembered my healing work, and spoke to myself like I speak to my loved ones. I connected with a couple of friends and tried to take some naps. I scheduled doctors' appointments and actually went.
Those activities are all important. They're healthy. They're what I've strived to embrace over the last several years since Olivia's diagnosis and our journey to recovery.
Here's the other truth: I'm miserable right now, and I have no idea why. I am astounded and humbled in the face of the cyber bookclub and the depths the participants have decided to share here in these first couple of weeks. I had hoped, had hoped that we would be willing to drop our shields and to connect on this level, but I wasn't sure. It's so hard to go there in this type of forum, but we have. Thank you all so much. My daughter is doing great. Unbelievable, in fact. She faced opposition and adversity over the last several weeks that would bring an NFL linebacker to his knees, and she faced it with grace and dignity and wherewithal that I can only imagine having. She is–bar none–the most inspirational person I know. We have a roof over our head and food to eat and my husband has been killing himself at work these last couple of weeks to make sure we can continue to have these things. I am one lucky lady. And yet. . .my new go-to behaviors aren't solving the problem of why I'm crying which might be as simple as my sadness, at this time of year, over my parents' deaths and Olivia growing up: No more snow angels at Grandma's, no more milk and cookies for Santa, and no more little girl dreams.
I've resorted to calling upon a few tried and trues. I'm drinking a little too much. I'm eating a little too much. I'm isolating a little too much. These behaviors, I know, don't solve a thing. What they do is numb my mind. Sometimes a numb mind is a very nice thing, indeed. I know enough to know I numb the good along with the bad, but sometimes that's a small price to pay.
This is, I'm coming to believe, a part of the process of living a wholehearted life, of practicing mindfulness, of becoming the person I was meant to be. It doesn't happen overnight, and old habits die hard. I think that's exactly the way it's intended to be. If we want more compassion in our lives, we have to start with showering it upon ourselves. First, we have to know what it feels like not to have any, and, boy, do I know how it feels not to have any for myself. I want more compassion in my life and in this world. A little compassion goes a long, long way–I've seen the reality of this during our journey to recovery time and again. When all else fails, I remind myself the road to change is paved with compassionate thoughts. It is also paved with acceptance, and I accept that this is the place I'm in right now. Therefore, I remind myself that I'm enough. I'm doing the best I can. I'm learning, sharing, and growing. And I'm right about all of these things. Tomorrow (or a few days from now or maybe next week) this difficult time will have passed and I will have been kind to myself. I will get back on track.
I'm not sharing this for you to feel sorry for me. Quite the contrary. I'm sharing because I know I'll be just fine. I'm doing what I need to do even if I don't fully understand it right now. It took me a long time to figure out feeling bad is as important to feeling better as feeling good is. (And yes, I figured that out the hard way and before Inside Out was released. Wish I'd seen that as a kid!)
So, for this Thanksgiving, I wish you all a peaceful day. If the holidays are a tough time for you, please know that you are not alone. I wish you compassion, and I wish it to myself, too. I wish you joy-filled family time. This holiday season will remind me that the difficulties–like wrestling with feelings of insufficiency–are as much a part of the journey to authenticity as the good stuff. One does not exist without the other, and for that knowledge, I am thankful.
Oh my dear friend – we all have lots to be thankful for…and lots and lots to pretty pissed off about too.
I have been swimming in my pity pool these past few weeks as well. No matter how I try – I never seem to get over the Holiday Funk. I'll be like this through December, and then BOOM- it's 2016!
Perhaps the 'rub' to mindfulness is that you are while being mindful of the good …you are also mindful of the bad and the ugly.
Cheers to you , my friend – and to many many more mindful moments….
Thank you for this honesty. I'm so grateful for your willingness to keep it real. I needed this reminder that we will all be just fine, even when things aren't ok.
I know the feeling Tracey! With all the work we do on ourselves and the positive lessons we write about, it isn't always peaches and cream in our own lives. I frequently have to remind myself that it's ok to feel sad. It's ok to be unmotivated. It's ok to be an emotional roller coaster and not know why. We are really the hardest on ourselves and you are right.. One end doesn't exist without the other and compassion is needed in times like these. Thank you for opening up so honestly. This post reminds me of my post today on gratitude and how we must practice it in the good times and the bad. You're doing exactly what you need to be doing now. Happy Thanksgiving. Xo
I have a challenge at this time of year. Christmas is not my go-to time of year. (We've already had Thanksgiving in October, here in Canada.)
My daughter wants hubby and me to go to another province, to be with our grandkids and spend time with her, etc. Much as I love her, my granddaughter and the bonus kids and grandkids (second relationship for hubby and me), the thought of traveling that distance, by either driving for 12-14 hours on roads that can be treacherous, or flying amid the crowds of people going to their holiday destinations, does not make me smile.
Christmas is about time together with loved ones and the hopes and fears around relationships that have not always been the best throughout the years. I don't "do" Christmas well. At home, here, I have minimal signs of Christmas in and around our house. Other than a Christmas meal, we don't do much.
I've gone to be with my kid and his kids, at others times, and have regretted my choice. Yet, I feel guilty for not wishing to be with loved ones. What is that?!
In years past, I, too, have sobbed too much, eaten too much, drunk too much, isolated too much, so I relate to all that you are going through, Miss Tracey.
All that, with so much for which to be grateful, too. (And feeling guilty for being sad, when I had so much!)
Everything is "supposed to be" wonderful at this time of year. We have our loved ones close, good food, gifts, you name it. But the stress of expectations FRY me!!! It makes me want to go into the woods, find a deep cave (with all the amenities, of course), and simply HIDE!
Weep whenever weeping comes upon you, become angry when you fear stuff. Be REAL, and you will get through this.
Thanks for your honesty and your willingness to share. This helps me, more than you know.
I love you for so many reasons and have for almost 30 years. I love your honesty, your passion, your ability to cut through the crap of life and look at it for what it is. You help other women see that they are not alone in their unrealistic pursuits of perfection and feeling badly because they never quite get there.
I truly appreciate hearing that I'm not alone in the should have or should be syndrome. As my boys are getting older and more independent I am wondering what comes next for me and what I should have done differently.
I'm thankful for you, my family and for this small moment during my long ride to the in-laws for the holiday to reflect on your post. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.
It takes courage to open up to others and share your feelings. Many times, we filter our emotions to put on a good public face or persona.
I appreciate your candor and honesty. In good or bad times, we need to be honest with ourselves and be able share our feelings with friends and family.
I know you'll be fine. We are part of your support team.
Tracey, thank you. I just finished telling my husband I was angry with him – on his rare days off, while he is brining a turkey (we will have our 3rd Thanksgiving tomorrow), and doing things around the house. I feel like a big shit. Issues with his job have worn me down. Two of his partners decided they did not want to "pull call" anymore. That was a year ago. My husband does not like conflict. He believes in people. So, he has been shouldering their patients in the hospital – attending C-sections in the middle of the night, doing more than his share of circumcisions. Me, I have been stewing, resenting, feeling helpless.
My "fuse" is much shorter than it has ever been. Tears flow like a river when they used to barely trickle. I intend to stay in Step 2 of BB's book today. We will take a walk and I will stay vulnerable. Thank you for your courage to share your ups and downs. It has created some space for me to be courageous enough to do the same.
We've both been through difficult times lately. We talked in person after I'd read this post several weeks ago, but I didn't leave a comment here then. Reading this post again tonight, I'm wondering if my troubles made me a lesser friend to you in your time of need. This is the kind of thing I would normally not bring to your direct attention; I'd simply hope you'd understand. But I'm putting it out there now, because I would do all I could humanly do to help you feel better. We both know a lot of that "work" is our own responsibility, yet having friends to provide support and maybe some comic relief is important.
During Richard's latest medical crisis, I teased my dad (88 years old) that he couldn't get sick or fall, etc. because my nerves & time couldn't be stretched any thinner.
But had my dad needed something from me, I'd find the time, energy and heartfelt sympathy to be there for him. In a flash. No hesitation. So I'm telling you, Tracey, I'd be there for you, too, in a flash, no matter what. Even if you have to say, "Sue, I know you've got a lot on your plate right now, but I need your help."
So this brings up the idea of how to be a good friend when one has a crisis of her own, when the world narrows down to a single person or event that blinds you (for the most part) to seeing beyond your own troubles. Having a broad support system is a good thing. I have one and I think you do, too. I'm grateful for that.
Looking back, I realize there were so many days when I couldn't do anything to help Richard's medical condition get better, except hope for the best and uselessly worry. I numbed my mind with a lot of TV and Word Hero. That took up the down-time, when I could have used it to be a better friend. Looking back, I surely could have done better things with my time. I hope this is a lesson I'll remember.