Monday, February 9, 2009

first, be thankful for what you have


I think about my almost seventeen year old son who has driven me to shrieks and tears lately with his off and on unreasonableness and it's all about me attitude. I consider the sense of entitlement that he carries like a birthright, and I think about fact that I'm regarded mostly as a combination of a short order cook and an ATM, with a generous dash of chauffeur thrown in.


But then...


I think about his friend, the first friend he made when we moved here, the friend whose parents I'm still close to, who decided last week to drop out of 11th grade, making the choice to hang out with his friends and get high instead. He's gone through his entire savings account in six months. This is the kid who had sex at thirteen, wrecked a car at sixteen, has been caught by more than one mom hiding a cigarette behind his back. Arrest me, he told his parents. Do what you need to do, because I'm not going back.


I think about the horrendous stack of bills I paid today, and the beyond horrendous mortgage payment that is due next week. I think about the "extra" check I got with three pay Fridays in January that I hoped to sock away for a rainy day, but instead watched go up into the ozone. I think about the roof that still needs replacing and the foundation that needs some tweaking and the fact that it may be years before I can sell this house in the current economy. I think about the fact that the FX dropped in tonight to have a discussion about money that did nothing positive for my blood pressure.


But then...


I think about other people I know who aren't lying in bed waiting for the ax to fall - they're already under it. It's down. Husband and wife out of a job in the same day. People who have jobs that have all of a sudden become superfluous - massage therapists, waitresses, graphic designers, fundraisers. People who had a great retirement and a really lovely life planned out...until this year. I see it at work constantly. Families with no health insurance and no options. Mothers with small children living in cars in below zero weather. Students with severe mental health issues who cannot afford to take the meds that allow them to function. Society going to hell in a handbasket, with the ER workers in a ringside seat to watch it happen.


I think about my headache and the fact that my head has been about to split open since yesterday afternoon. (Not coincidentally, after I had just spent $300 on groceries). I consider how sick to my stomach I feel, but don't want to call in sick because god forbid they realize they don't really need me after all. I flirt with feeling sorry for myself that I worked on my feet for six weeks with a broken ankle and absolutely no change in my work requirements, hobbling to and fro to take care of patients who had nothing more wrong with them than a severe case of I Need Some Narcs.


But then...


I think of a coworker who is fighting breast cancer, who comes to work in between treatments, and is covered with the most god-awful radiation burns I've ever seen, burns that prevent sleep and cause unending pain. A coworker who still has the smile and attitude of an angel. I think of my friend Maggie who has been fighting ovarian cancer for over a year and a half now, and has been through hell. I mean hell. She's a realist, and she's a fighter and she's human. She gets down and she gets scared, but her head is always up and she's always ready to tackle the next battle straight on. My awe at her grace grows by the day, and reminds me that my piss-ant complaints are, indeed, piss-ant complaints.


Perspective is an amazing thing. So is gratitude. To look at your life and give thanks - even if to no one other than yourself - is an incredible, empowering thing. I'm a firm believer that you can't appreciate anything until you fully accept how much you really have, and how many things you have to be thankful for. Every night before I go to sleep, I run through my gratitude list in my head. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me away from my own tendency to play the It's all about me game.


But, as the feelings of panic all around continue to grow, as the outside news gets worse on a daily basis, as more and more people find themselves in positions they never ever expected to be in, it gets harder to keep that sense of perspective. This isn't a dream and it won't be gone when we wake up tomorrow morning. This is something we'll be grappling with for a long time to come. And that can be almost impossible to fully grasp.


Maybe I should be grateful for that.

16 comments:

Maggie May said...

Your post was very good for me to read just now. Thank you for writing it. I guess I have a lot to be thankful for in spite of my overwhelming upsets in the kitchen!
I guess people both sides of the pond are having the same problems with finance right now.

Anonymous said...

Here here, well said. Here in Australia we have floods in one part of the country whilst people have been dying in bush fires in another part of the country. I am too embarrassed to mention what I was complaining about. Thank you for the reality check. Best wishes from sistawho down under who cant seem to log on by anything but anonymous

Rose said...

Thanks for the reminder we all need; and beautifully written too.

Potty Mummy said...

You said it RC. Onwards and upwards.

Indigo said...

The hardest thing to do is be grateful in the midst of the chaos. I try to remember that for every sorrow there is an equal measure of joy. It helps me understand life won't always have those rainy days full of frightening storms brewing.

Wonderful post dear friend! (Hugs)Indigo

Rudee said...

I'm thankful for normal cardiac workups. I'm even thankful for primary care physicians who panic in the face of a young patient who isn't feeling well (and someone who never complains about that). I'm thankful for modern medicine. I'm thankful I'll be employed for the next 6 weeks. I may even be thankful for a few weeks of unemployment before I jump back into the trenches. I'm thankful I'm highly employable-even if my current position is threatened. I can work in ICU, Research, ER, Med Surg (blech), or a yarn store.

So tell me again why my stomach is so upset?

Devon said...

Ahh... what a very well put reminder of how we should live! I have so much.. security, family, friends, large yarn stash... Why would I ever choose to focus on the little bumps when my road is so smooth!

Daryl said...

You are right, we all need to show a little gratitude because 'for the grace of whoever...'.

Its a recurring blog theme lately to read about job loss and financial strain.

So many two income families down to one or none .. I think of how I laughed as a kid when my dad told stories of all the ways his mother could make potatoes because that was all there was ...

Akelamalu said...

Thanks for reminding me there's always someone else a lot worse off. I'll remind myself of all the things I am grateful for. x

Katy said...

So very true. I have been reminding myself lately that even though I didn't get a bonus or a raise this year, I did get to keep my job.

ExpatKat said...

Thanks for writing this. My husband has had one day off work in 6 weeks. I have stuck a note on my fridge that reads: "Be Grateful For Your Job" and another by my PC that says: "Cultivate A Thankful Heart!" When I feel alone trying to deal with our 3 kids and make financial decisions without him, they remind me that at least he has a job.

sharon said...

Yes the current financial situation around the world does make us stop and think. These days if you can manage to keep what you NEED, the WANTS you don't have seem so insignificant by comparison. All we can do is keep on keeping on and give a helping hand wherever possible. Things will get better - eventually :-)

Anna Lea said...

After watching my sister battle for the last two years with sarcoma and still keep her head up high, and have the grace, and pose like no one I know I know that in the end she was right when she told me it would all be ok. It will. It's all going to be ok, someday some how. You just have to live every single day to it's fullest, otherwise there isn't much point in getting up every day.

Tawny said...

Wow, just wow. Reading that puts my little whinges into perspective.

Thank you

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

I am a chronic psychiatric patient who daily takes 5 kinds of medicines to get by and I am doing well. I live on welfare and I am doing well. Every week I do 3 kinds of therapy and I am doing well. My point is, I could be doing a lot worse, but I am doing well and I am ever so grateful for that and I never forget that. Thank you for reminding me how good my life is.

MarmiteToasty said...

Its sounds as bad there as it is here, with people losing there jobs daily and their homes....

fanks for this post, it does make one grateful for so many things....

life and death often hang by a thread.... and often with no control.... the fires and illness's.... we all need to be grateful for those small things....

x