“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie
There are plenty of things better left behind in childhood but there are some things we should hold on to. The capacity to get genuinely amazed at the smallest things is one of them.
Do you remember as kids how we used to be astonished by the smallest things? When we said “Oh my God! This is really happening!” whether with our words or with our eyes and body language, we really meant it! The first time you catch your reflection in the mirror. Oh my God! A new barbie doll. Oh my God! New school clothes. Oh my God! Ice cream. Oh my God! Blue ice cream. Oh my God! (That was me the first time I had Curacao ice cream with my mom…and loooooooong before I found out I was lactose intolerant Hahahaha)
As we get older, however, we lose that ability to marvel at the beauty that life is and “Oh my God!” is used on an almost daily basis as something to say when your vocabulary fails you. Just a phrase to fill up space, basically. It means so little most of the time that we don’t even spell it anymore. Those who use it more sporadically reserve it to very rare occasions when something absolutely mind-blowing occurs, like the New England Patriots coming back from a 25-point deficit in the 4th quarter of Superbowl 51 and you know there is a good chance you will never see anything like this ever again. It might be time for me to pick my jaw off the floor, right? It’s been months and I still can’t believe it. But I digress…
Moving to Toronto eight years ago was my first big Oh my God moment in a very long time. It had been a dream come true for me and still is. I was coming home. Before that, I don’t remember the last time I had experienced something so good that I felt it in my entire body. I had appreciated a lot of things but probably not to their fullest extent and I had also taken a lot of them for granted as though they did not really matter or as though they would happen again and/or often. This move gave me an opportunity to start living with my eyes wide open and all my senses fully awake and I think I was doing a pretty good job overall. I finally loved my life and everything in it. I even started keeping a daily gratitude journal in which, every single day, without fail, I wrote the five things that I was grateful for and the one thing that had made me the happiest that day. I was already dealing with chronic pain by then but overall my life was going very well, and when things are going well, being grateful is not that difficult if you pay attention.
Then, my health went downhill, and literally, overnight, I went from living in the fast lane to a complete stop. Life went on, however. Not just outside of the walls of my home but inside my home as well. It had to go on and the way I chose to keep it going was by paying attention and living a mindful existence. As improbable as it might sound to someone who has never been through it, it is possible to enjoy life while very ill and disabled. It is not easy, far from it, but possible and life-saving. You might wonder what happened to the gratitude journal during those days. What can one possibly be grateful for in times like these? A lot, actually. I faithfully wrote in it every day, even when my hands could barely hold the pen and even when I could barely hold my own head. Gratitude got me through this. One day at a time.
When the list of things you don’t have and things you cannot do gets longer than your arm, everything you can do, big or small, becomes a big deal. Everything you still have means so much more.
After more than four years spent confined to my home, save for the regular visits to the hospital, clinic and doctor’s office, and rare walks around the neighborhood, these past 16 months have been filled with real and heartfelt Oh my God moments for me:
-January 2016: I am walking in my neighborhood without my cane for the first time. Oh my god!
-February 2016: I am riding the subway for the first time to go to the clinic for my weekly treatment and I am cheesing hard like I am going to Disneyworld! Oh my God!
-March 2017: I am taking the stairs and not the elevator. Oh my God!
-April 2016: I am going back to the gym. My body has no muscle memory but I am here. Oh my God!
-May 2016: I am VIP at Beyoncé’s concert. Ooooh my Gooood!
-June 2016: I am officially off Prednisone. Oh my God!
-July 2016: I have a passport! Also, I am officially off Baclofen and Bisoprolol. Oh my God!
-August 2016: I am officially off Gabapentin and Hydromorph Contin (aka Dilaudid). Oh my God!
-September 2016: I am officially off Quetiapine. Oh my God!
-October 2016: I am celebrating my birthday again, and actually going to a club. And I am wearing heels. A couple of weeks later, I am in Buffalo watching my first football game live. First ever! My patriots win. Oh my God!
-November 2016: I am medically cleared to travel to Europe. Oh my God!
-December 2016: I am in France spending the holidays with my family and friends. OH MY GOD!!!
-January 2017: I am at Gillette Stadium home of my New England Patriots and they/we win the AFC Championship game. They/we are going to the Superbowl! Oooooooooh myyyyyyyy Goooooood!!!
-February 2017: My Pats won the Superbowl. I am in Boston, at the Championship Parade. Oh my God!
Saying “Oh my God!” out loud was not the point. I don’t actually really remember saying it at all but I certainly felt every second of those milestones. In between, there were countless daily moments that made me feel just as good about how far I had come in my recovery, things like going grocery shopping on a regular basis again, picking up the mail myself, talking in an audible voice and without coughing, going for coffee/tea, lunch or dinner with friends, not having to count the pills throughout the day, being able to cook a meal, reading a book without immediately getting a terrible headache, wearing closed footwear, doing my hair, breathing without obstruction, waking up every morning…
It is unrealistic to expect the big Oh my God moments every single day of our lives but this should never stop us from fully appreciating the small wonders life places on our path day in and day out, that is if we take the time to look for them.
I feel like a kid again and I don’t want it to end. And why should it?