Gratitude for the Unexpected: When Trash Turns to Gold
Like most of us, I use Thanksgiving as a reminder every year to appreciate all the positive things in my life. But this year I need to shout it from the rooftops: I am most grateful for the unexpected. And I don't mean the good stuff. I mean the BS, the WTF, and the straight up trash. Let me explain. . .
My son Theo turned a year old at the beginning of August. I thought I had really made it. Ash and I threw a big party for Theo's birthday, but it was really a party for us. We had made it through our first year as parents, and relatively gracefully at that. I had powered through a full year of breastfeeding and I was still going strong. Theo was sleeping through the night. We had been through the worst and I was ready to celebrate! It was finally going to be my time to get back into my hobbies, work out consistently again, and just resume feeling like a normal person.
But right around Theo's first birthday, I started having a bunch of random health problems (the details of which I won't bore you with). The bottom line was that every day was one marked by physical discomfort and pain, and most of my "free" time away from Theo was spent going to different doctors to figure out what was going on. If you didn't know, let me be the first to tell you that raising a baby in perfect health is hard enough. . .trying to chase one around when your body's falling apart is madness.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I got some answers: I needed surgery. Ok, no big deal. I have a minor surgery, I start feeling better. Simple. But here's the thing—when you live in a city far away from your family and only have a very limited local support system, things like this can get tricky.
Now, this part of the story isn't for the faint of heart. About three weeks ago (a week before my surgery), Theo got a bout of gastroenteritis. It was sad, it was violent, it was disgusting. But fortunately, he got better quickly and we moved on. Until I got it two days later. I actually didn't know how I was going to survive. I was in the worst condition of my life, and I had to take care of Theo while Ash was at work. And, just for kicks, Ash was scheduled to have wisdom teeth surgery the next day. Very special timing.
So what did I do? It wasn't pretty. I cried. I yelled. But I just did my best to keep going. And a week later, I had my surgery. Because I'm still nursing and had to be able to drive, I didn't take any of the pain meds I was prescribed. The pain hovered at an 8/10 for a while, but the world continued to turn. So I kept going. I made it work because I had no choice.
You have to understand that a few years ago, I probably would've complained about the unfairness of it all to anyone who would listen. I would've taken some sick days. I would've been mad 24/7. But honestly I just didn't even have time to do that and I was too exhausted to talk about it too much. The few times that I did tell the whole story to someone in detail, it was so crazy that it sounded like fake news.
Anyway, a pretty tough week passed, and the pain improved. And now, looking back on everything with a much clearer head, I can honestly say that I am so happy my life was trash for these last few months! No, I haven't completely lost it (yet). It was only through this extremely rough patch that I realized how much I could handle. Some of it is motherhood; I really think moms have superpowers because they have no choice. But a lot of it is just a shift in perspective.
These last few months have been a good reminder that life is totally unpredictable. And if you just accept the things you can't control and do your best to improve your circumstances, that's all you can do. I remembered some wisdom from Eckhart Tolle about acceptance, and how the cause of stress is wishing that things were different than they are. This time around, I realized pretty quickly that there wasn't much I could do to change anything about my health or Theo's. I couldn't magically summon my family to come help me, and I couldn't hide under a blanket, as tempting as that sounded.
So I guess my point here is that while there is always something to complain about, sometimes it may feel better to welcome challenges as a gift to help reframe your thinking. Only in the most difficult times can you see what you're really capable of. And so, this Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the trash. I'm grateful for the ugly. Because I feel so, so much stronger than I ever have.
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