Daily gratitude. It is something I have practised since forever. Along with my twisted sense of humour and superhero sarcastic ability, gratitude is one of the best coping mechanisms I possess. Given the many challenges I have faced in my life as well as the ones I continue to face on a daily basis, practising gratitude is what keeps me grounded. It keeps me focused on all the positive aspects in my life. But, perhaps, most importantly, practising daily gratitude keeps my mind from running away into that deep dark place called depression that would love nothing more than keeping me locked in negativity and bitterness for the rest of my life.
Not long ago, when I still had the store, I had partnered with a local community organization to mentor a troubled teen who needed to gain some valuable work experience as well as some much needed confidence. This girl had been through some incredibly rough times both in her early childhood and during her teen years. One day she asked me how I could maintain such a positive attitude given all the challenges I had faced, specifically, my MS and my depression. This is what I told her: “There is not one negative experience in my life that I cannot turn into a positive. Sometimes I have to look very hard to find it, but, when I put the effort in, I can always find something to be grateful for.”
When YC was six years old, he was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. It broke my heart knowing what lay ahead for him yet I knew that it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. I decided right then and there that I had to do everything within my power to ensure that he was properly cared for, properly educated about how to manage his disease so that he could live his life to the fullest, and I also knew that how I approached this incurable disease would affect how he viewed it. If I was negative, then he would be too. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I put on my big girl underwear, cried behind closed doors, and faced it the best possible way I could.
Every year on the anniversary of his diagnosis (May 3rd), I pulled out our special red plate that we only used when someone in the family had something special to celebrate (like passing a hard test, celebrating a birthday, receiving some good news, etc., and I served their favourite meal on that plate). Then, we would celebrate the good things there was about having diabetes. Now, I know how ridiculous this sounds. How could there possibly be anything good about having a life threatening condition? But, you see, if you look hard enough, there actually is.
We celebrated the people we met whom we otherwise would never have met had he not been diagnosed with diabetes. We celebrated how, with proper planning, he ran his first ever cross country race and the relief I felt when he crossed the finish line. We celebrated the fact that we were helping educate others about a disease they knew little about which in turn helped others understand the many complexities and seriousness of it. We rejoiced that he got ‘special treats’ that his brothers did not. We celebrated each and every year how we had made it through the previous year relatively unscathed. And when his brother (MC) was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes on January 1st at fifteen years of age, we celebrated the fact that, by that time, we were so well educated in diabetes management, we only had to spend one afternoon at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario instead of the full week we had to when YC was diagnosed.
When I was diagnosed with MS (yes, we are definitely an autoimmune dysfunctional family; I also have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease) almost fourteen years ago, there was very little left for me to do but practise what I had preached. There was no point getting all down in the dumps about it so, again, I pulled on my now really big and much wider girl underwear and applied the same principles to my disease as I had done with theirs. The gratitude I have felt since being diagnosed also extends to meeting the people I would never have met had I not been diagnosed, developing a most beautiful and deep friendship with my twisted non-biological sister, helping to educate others about this challenging disease, learning to let go of perfectionism, accepting that it is okay to ask for and accept help, learning what is truly important and what is not (the little things and how those flippin’ damn dust bunnies can kiss my butt until I have enough energy to deal with them) and so much more.
And, so today, on this beautiful Thanksgiving Sunday here in Canada, I am grateful for so many things.
I am grateful for my Sauerkraut and how his love, patience and understanding sustains me which is really fancy speak for I am truly grateful he puts with me.
You see, finding and expressing gratitude does not have to be a difficult or painful exercise. It can be easily found in the little things like just getting up in the morning after a sleepless night. It lies in a plate of spaghetti made by someone just for you, a loyal friend, shoes that fit, a smile from a stranger, a hug when you need it most, a green light, not tripping over your own feet in front of a crowd, your favourite ice cream, clean sheets, a good cry, an uplifting song, a child’s first word, refraining from punching someone in the throat, a card in the mail, the feeling you get from helping someone out, a sore stomach from laughing too hard, and you, dear sweet lovable you!
There. Is. Just. So. Much. We. Can. Be. Truly. Grateful. For. The possibilities are endless!
Now don’t be thinking that I have inhaled so much fresh country air that I have lost touch with reality. I know that life is not all butterflies and rainbows every single moment of every single day; life can indeed suck the big onion and you can easily find yourself knee deep in elephant poop like I have been these past few weeks but, if you truly and honestly take one moment out of every single day to find that one thing to be grateful for, it will make such a huge difference in your life. Trust me on this one, okay? If I can do it, anyone can.
So, please, do tell me, what are you grateful for right now, right this very minute? Is it the rain hitting the tin roof, not swearing at the jerk who cut you off, a cold clearing up, your baby sleeping through the night, your husband picking the wet towel off the bathroom floor (miracles can happen), a favourite cereal being on sale, you finally beating that level on Candy Crush Saga that you’ve been stuck on for weeks???
And to all my fellow Canuckleheads have a wonderful and truly joyous Thanksgiving. We have so much to be grateful for living in this great big beautiful country of ours, eh?