I have a pretty blessed life. At least I felt like I did until a few weeks ago. First we got John’s diagnosis and all of the changes, decisions, and worry that cancer has brought back into our lives. On that same day, a close family friend was, at 34 years old, diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. Then my dad was hospitalized, the inevitability of putting him into an assisted living home became urgent, and supporting my mom through that took priority as well.
The following weekend, three kids from our high school where killed in a car accident and my youngest Eli (a sophomore there) was struggling to deal with that. Then Sam (my oldest and just home from college) got sick with what we thought was strep throat and just found out is Mono. In the midst of this, my personal business and my role in my partnership business all must go on. This week that meant attending the Direct Selling Association’s National Convention in Orlando, Florida. Needless to say, the timing wasn’t great for me to leave home for an entire week.
So last Friday, as I drove up the Columbia River Gorge to Portland to catch my flight after a crazy, stressful day of getting everyone situated while I was gone, I was feeling like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and with every mile that passed, it got heavier and my anxiety level seemed to grow. I knew I had to make a shift in my thinking or it was going to be a long, painful week. So I started focusing on everything for which I’m grateful. I took out my phone and recorded a stream of consciousness voice memo, continually repeating the words “I’m grateful for…” and waiting to receive the answer. It was tearful at times, but went on for an amazing 8 minutes or so. And when I was done, I had a beautiful, impressive list and the pity party was pretty much over.
Here’s what I came up with:
I’m grateful for my amazing husband who is always supportive & positive and makes me feel like there is nothing really wrong and like he will and truly can fix everything.
I’m grateful for my two happy, funny, inspiring boys Sam & Eli, for hugs when I need them and knowing when to give me space when that’s more appropriate, and for understanding when I’m in a bad mood that it has nothing to do with them.
I’m grateful for my step daughter Chelsey who is one of the strongest young women I know, for reaching out and asking me never to sugar-coat anything or protect her, to keep her in the loop, and reminding me that she’s a grown woman who can take care of herself and wants to take care of us.
I’m grateful for a family who gathers around me and offers love and support. For my sister, with whom I haven’t always had the greatest relationship but who always seems to be there for me when the chips are down and who has, once again, proven that history doesn’t matter and family is everything.
I’m grateful for my mom, one of the strongest women I know, who, even at 81, carries what often seems like a huge burden with grace and love, for all that she’s always been to me and the constant love that she gives to me.
I’m grateful for a growing network of friends, both old and new, local and far-flung, who are there for me, reaching out for me, supporting me, & lifting me up at the times when I feel like I need it the most. I’m especially grateful to the beautiful women who stepped up without hesitation and fed John healthy meals this week while I had to be away.
I’m grateful for my business partner (who is so much more than that) Nancy for being my friend through the best and worst times in my life and who, as she herself told me a few weeks ago, always has my back. I cannot imagine running my business through this without her help and strength.
And for my beautiful, amazing friend, yoga teacher, and spiritual advisor Mattie, for all of the insight she’s offered me about my body, my soul, and my spirit. I am a person who is much more capable of dealing with all that I have on my plate today because of the work we’ve done together and I’m grateful every day for her calm, loving, insightful support of me.
I’m grateful for exercise & my new trainer Alyssa because she’s kicking my butt, making me sweat, & helping me feel strong even on days when I’m weak.
I’m grateful for time, even when it feels like I don’t have enough, and for the heightened realization of the priceless value of every single day, hour, moment, and experience.
I’m grateful for music because it allows me to escape my problems, express myself, and feel the sheer joy of lifting my voice in song, both alone and with others. I’m beyond grateful for the amazing family of other beautiful women with whom I sing in the Pride of Portland Chorus, and to our sweet, talented, truly incredible director Ryan, whom I’m also blessed to call my friend. They have wrapped their collective arms around me, given me a place where I completely feel I belong, and made me feel supported and loved.
I’m grateful for Facebook because it’s connected me to literally thousands of people, most of whom I’ve never met, but with whom I feel a sense of community. These inspiring “friends” have embraced me with virtual arms and let me know that they are there for me, praying for me, and holding my husband, my family, and me up in prayer. We feel the positive energy and rest in the knowledge that literally thousands of people are praying for us and for John’s healing every day.
At the end of the day, as the incredibly resilient Lena Horne once said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Being the one who loves someone with cancer may be harder than having it yourself. I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been diagnosed, but I’ve loved three very important people in my life through it and it sucks. It’s scary and hard and all-encompassing. If I’m totally honest, most days what I really want to do the minute I wake up to the reality that the beautiful, perfect-for-me man lying next to me in bed has terminal cancer, is pull the sheets up over my head and go back to sleep so it all goes away.
The reality of my life is that lots of people rely on me and I can’t afford to give in (or give up).
So every day I’m choosing to carry what feels like a very heavy load with gratitude and grace and as much strength as I can draw from all of the incredible blessings in my life. It’s a daily choice, and one I’m making today.
Things may change tomorrow, but for today, I choose gratitude.