As I sat down at my desk to write today, I went through some of the files in my blog folder and the title of this file stood out to me, “Morning Thoughts.” I thought it might be one of the files I use to do a mind dump in the morning, to clear out all the busy-ness of my mind and let it settle into focus for writing a blog. When I opened the file this is what I found.
"The day is new, becoming lighter little bit by little bit. Each moment new things are defined and outlined outside my window. The ghostly light from my laptop screen on the keyboard is gradually enhanced and brightened by the rising sun filtering through the eucalyptus trees, and I am more and more aware of what a privilege it is to be able to sit here and write.
The thought is new, becoming more clearly defined little bit by little bit. Each moment I become more fully aware that with the upcoming surgery and recovery time, I will not be able to sit comfortably for long periods, or think clearly through the pain and medications. That picture of post-surgery recovery sparks in me a gratitude, that deepens with each moment, for the simple ability to sit upright and type right now."
I went back and saw the file date was from early February of this year. Well, here I am in September, on the other side of surgery, six months into recovery. I can now sit at my desk for about an hour a couple of times a day, I’m able to walk for up to half hour at a time, I’ve been in physical therapy for two months, and I’m nearly medication-free.
Right after surgery I remember feeling gratitude almost non-stop. I was so grateful for the freedom from pain, for the pain itself, for the drugs that relieved the pain, for the ability to move, for my doctors and caregivers, for my family, and for my friends. Everything was better, even if it hurt sometimes, and I just felt thankful for knowing I would be able to walk, swim, and enjoy a life without constantly dealing with some level of pain.
As my health has improved, it’s funny how that gratitude has become conditional. I feel grateful for any morning that I wake up without pain. I’m grateful when I pass a new milestone, like walking for a half hour without muscle spasms in my hip. I’m grateful at odd moments, when I realize how good the day has been, and how I schedule three different tasks all in one day, knowing I will have the stamina and energy to do them.
But there is another side to all of this. I’m well enough to be irritated at small things. When I have a really uncomfortable day, I find it hard to be grateful for anything. I’m not grateful to be alive or for a new day when it’s pain that wakes me up. I’m not grateful for being able to walk without a brace when I hurt too much to get up and take a half hour walk outside. I’m not grateful that I call it “uncomfortable” instead of “pain.” Some weeks I’m home too much and I get irritated with the inactivity, with my living arrangement, with the lack of good books to read or shows to watch. When I have outside-the-house activities every single, day, of the week, I get irritated that I don’t have a moment to myself and no time to rest. I realize I’m not being rational when I’m irritated at these things, and that on any other day I would be giving thanks for each one of them. And that realization irritates me more!
It occurs to me now, after reading what I wrote back in Februay, that my irritation is a luxury that only improved health can provide. It also occurs to me that I’m not proud of owning this luxury. Is it human nature? Sure. Do I want to practice the habit of feeling irritated instead of practicing gratitude? Not on your life. My own words have humbled me and reminded me of what this blog, and what my book, are all about. For truly, the main meal of life is discovered in gratitude. It is gratitude for every, single, moment, of the day and of the week that lays the feast out before me and delivers the deliciousness of living to my entire being.