Nov 27, 2011

Things To Be Thankful For

As I sit here achy and slightly feverish with a sore throat, nostrils I can't breathe out of, and eyes that feel like sandpaper, I figured why not reflect on a few of the positives in my life. Sure I am a little late for Thanksgiving (precisely when I contracted this superbug from my germ-carrying little cousins), but better late than never, right? Practicing an attitude of gratitude is supposed to have health benefits. Here is my top ten list of things I am thankful for this season. It's a mixed bag my friends. And spoiler-alert: I'm about to get pretty darn self-disclosive here.

1) My mom. Without her I would certainly cease to exist. She has loved me and taken care of me for 26 years, as a single parent for the last 20. I know raising me hasn't been easy on her financially or emotionally yet she still did a darn good job as a parent. Growing up she made sure I had every opportunity at my disposal. This has been a particularly tough year for me not just physically having to adapt to the new EDS diagnosis, but also emotionally from uncovering my foreign father's shady past. I corresponded with he and my grandmother earlier this year and the more I learn about them the more thankful I am that my mom and her side of the family raised me here in the great US of A. I have always been slightly curious about my father but now I know the truth. As far as I'm concerned he is a heartless, pathetic excuse for a human being. I am so glad my mom protected me from him all these years. I have come to the conclusion that it is healthier to never let him interrupt my life again, never speak to him again. But on the bright side, at least I can stop wondering about him and start appreciating the great family I do have in my life, my mom especially.

2) Answers. By answers I am primarily talking about my EDS diagnosis. Sure, it is crappy news. Very crappy news. I may be plagued with chronic pain for the rest of my life and may never be able to have biological children, but at least I won't be left in the dark to wonder why. Things are less scary when we have labels to put on them. I like to feel that I have some semblance of order and control over my health, so having a name to put on my constellation of symptoms should at least help inform my doctors and help me to not inadvertently hyperextend my joints anymore.

3) Friends. This goes for my in-person friends who have stuck around (even though I am not much fun anymore!) as well as my online family. I have met so many wonderful young women online whose stories and symptoms are all too similar to my own. It is so refreshing and comforting to have a 'family' who completely understands and empathizes with the things I am going through. Conversely, I love being able to lend an ear, some advice or just plain friendship to such amazing individuals. One thing I know to be true: POTS and EDS patients are good people. Some of the best in the world in my humble opinion. I am not sure where exactly I would be without the friendship and support of my online family. They have come to my rescue many times! I swear, they are all smarter than my doctors too.

4) Food. This may seem a bit silly to some of you, but I am thankful that I am able to eat (most) of the foods I love with minimal complications. After being on a liquid/mushy diet so much because of TMJ, being able to chew real food brings me great pleasure. Especially red velvet cupcakes, homemade fajitas, pizza without red sauce and double fudge cookie dough blizzards to name a few of my favorites. I also like a few healthy foods too but tend not to get as enthused about eating them.

5) Television. My window to the outside world beyond my bedroom. Television has been a constant in my life ever since I was a small child. I have fond memories of watching 'The Nanny,' 'The Cosby Show' and 'Full House' with my great grandmother nearly every night for as long as I can remember. Out sitcom ritual was always comforting to me, and even now I find myself revisiting those memories regularly. Just me, Big Grandma and my mom watching TGIF together. That is my idea of perfect family time. It should come as no surprise to any of my relatives that I chose to make a career out of TV, even if it was short-lived. Even now, television is often what bonds my friends and family together. Except now sitcoms are replaced with the crazy reality TV show of the day for our daily fodder. Pop culture in the background creates the soundtrack to my life.

6) Work. I feel very fortunate to have finally found a stable, flexible, part-time, work-from-home position that utilizes many of my previous skills from the TV and PR worlds. It doesn't quite pay the bills but I feel valued and productive again all while telecommuting. Most importantly, this job has afforded me the opportunity to feel a part of something again. The fact that I am contributing my skills to a non-profit I believe in makes it even better.

7) Relatives. Certain ones in particular. My grandparents have always been very involved in my life and genuinely interested in how I am doing and what I'm doing. It is nice to know I have kind grandparents like them who I can count on for anything. My cousin Michael has also been very helpful during this time. He is one of the only relatives I can think of who asks how I am doing and recalls the specific details of POTS/my life in general. I remember the day when he was born and can hardly believe he will be done with high school soon. I am proud to call him my cousin.

8) Music. Although I am longing to get back in the front row at concerts again, it is nice to still have music in my life via or my old-school ipod nano. Sometimes it is nice to tune out the world around me and escape into a song. You can take the girl out of ballet but you can't take the ballet out of the girl. I sometimes like to mentally choreograph a song in my head. I find that envisioning choreography to music makes exercise like recumbent biking much less tedious.

9) Technology. I'll admit, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with technology, but it has made my life easier overall. Without social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, it would be much harder to stay connected to everyone in my life. That said, I am also thankful for my cellphone with cheap, unlimited minutes!

10) Home. With the high cost of living right now, I am very fortunate and thankful to have a roof over my head, once again thanks to my wonderful mother. Having a hand in decorating our home also makes me very happy. I often wonder if interior design is a career I should have/could still go into someday. It distracts me from my immediate health concerns and reminds me how important cultivating a sense of place really is. Especially for those of us who spend a disproportionate amount of time at home. Being comfortable and surrounded by beautiful colors and objects I love has become more of a priority for me in recent years.

Something else you can do in the safety and comfort of your own home is the gratitude dance. I highly recommend it. If you're able, start doing the gratitude dance at home each morning just for kicks. If you're seated or laying down, just do the arms or legs, whichever is most comfortable. Do it in public if you dare. It really gets the endorphins flowing!


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  2. Hiya.

    I agree, we must focus on the things that we can do and the things that we do have no matter how infinitesimal they may seem in comparison to what we used to be able to do. Some days I am just in all my glory to have hot water and a bathtub.

    Also, you may have seen the video of Matt Harding and his happy dance travels? If not, I really think you'll dig it. It brings up two different things for me:

    1. It very much expresses the commonality among people, no matter the nationality, ethnicity, etc. We are all human beings who love and grieve and dance in some fashion. This video just really makes that so clear in such a simple way. I realize it's Pollyanna to think peace could be so easy, but when you focus on what we all have in common it can seem to simple sometimes. This video highlights that simplicity.

    2. I grieve because as a filmmaker, I know I will never be able to achieve such a vast piece of work. This is precisely the type of human interest, cultural, social construct piece I would have loved to have been part of. However, I know that I will never be able to travel on and on like this, as my body will not allow me to do even near this amount of go go go. However, I do have hope that I will be able to make a difference through my works on a much smaller scale.

    ANyway, if you haven't seen this, I think you'll enjoy it and please excuse my disjointed grammar. My brain is working with little visibility today.


  3. Yep sometimes you have to step back and find the things to be thankful for. Especially when you are ill it can be easy to get caught up in all the bad so you can't see anything else. But if you actively seek you can find a wide range of things that bring light into your life.

    PS I'm thankful for your friendship. You can meet some amazing people online.

  4. Jenji I just checked out 'Where the Hell is Matt!' Can't believe I hadn't seen that before, it was awesome!

    That is quite a vast piece of work, simply because of the travel, however it doesn't mean you can't still create a meaningful equally impactful human interest piece (minus the travel of course). Do something on chronic or invisible illness (pretty, pretty please?)

    I often long to be able to travel again but it's daunting to even consider a trip to the grocery store on most days let alone traveling abroad.

    Michelle you've sure got that right. I have been a Debbie Downer the past while here and it's important to continually remind ourselves of the good things! I cannot tell you how much your friendship means to me! You have the most delightful sense of humor and style and I know I can count on you to always bring a smile to my face. :)