This season of my life has been one of the hardest and one of the most beautiful. The physical and emotional pain of losing part of my body, part of myself hits me in waves. But during each ebb, I am overcome with gratitude. I am alive and healing. My people have surrounded and supported me through this trial. I have never felt more loved.
During this Thanksgiving holiday I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my family and friends' generosity. Curt took two weeks off from work, but it certainly wasn't a vacation for him. He spent his days being the most amazing dad to Asher and Annabelle. Not only did he see to all of their basic needs, but he also built forts, read so many stories, led adventures to the park and library, and even dared to get messy with the art supplies. All the while he took such good care of me, making sure I had the time (and the quiet!) necessary to heal.
I am also incredibly thankful for my parents who welcomed my children into their home and made it such a fun experience that Asher and Annabelle are begging to go back (every single day). I cannot think of a greater gift than having people who love my kids like their own. And while my kids were having The Most Fun Ever with Grandma, my dad stayed with Curt in the waiting room. It meant so much to me to know that Curt wasn't alone during the surgeries. In the weeks since then, they've frequently called and visited. My mom has also gone with Annabelle to parent and me preschool and driven me to appointments. Even though I'm all (well, mostly) grown up, my parents are still taking care of me--and now my family too.
From sweet texts to check in on me to much-needed visits to so many delicious meals, my friends have also lifted me through this struggle. During a time in my life when I could have easily become disconnected and depressed, they made sure I knew they were there. My colleagues have also been amazing--sending kind messages, taking care of my students, making sure I knew that I could take as long as I needed to recover before returning to the classroom.
The last month has shown me that I am surrounded by generous, thoughtful, and kind people. And while I've known that I'm beyond fortunate to live in this place with these individuals, going through one of the most difficult challenges of my life has driven home this truth. I am so lucky.
As life returns to normal, I do not want to take my relationships and community for granted. And I want to truly focus on my people and not all of the stuff (material and otherwise) that too often steals my attention. It is really easy to get swept up by the promises of products--thinking life would be so much better if I just bought that new outfit, remodeled my kitchen, or got a nicer car. But when I woke up from surgery all I wanted was to see Curt and hold my kids. And during those two weeks I was mostly housebound, I didn't think once about my ugly countertops or scratched floors. All I cared about was gathering enough energy to make my way downstairs to spend time with my family and visit with friends who stopped by. I want to keep my attention on the people in my life.
In an effort to do this, my focus for this new season of my life is gratitude. My planner has a space where I can write down three celebrations at the end of each day. I think the practice of daily reflecting on the people and experiences I am grateful for will help me hold on to this feeling of thankfulness. I would also like to incorporate more gratitude rituals into my family's daily routine. Asher and Annabelle are developing their understanding of gratitude, so I think it would be nice for us each to share what we are thankful for during dinner. I also want to do a better job not just noticing these important moments but also responding to them. As I have begun to write thank you notes to all of the people who have supported me and my family during these weeks of recovery, I keep thinking about how it shouldn't require sending flowers or making meals for me to communicate how much I appreciate my family and friends.
I am hesitant to share this post because each time I re-read it, the writing feels more and more lacking. My words are entirely insufficient to express my deep gratitude and love. I will do my best to give thanks not just with my words but with my life. For the moment, though, I will offer these words and share some of Mary Oliver's . . .
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.