Gratitude…

Gratitude. From the Latin word gratia. Gratia also means grace and graciousness.

As I sit here in my room reading, and now writing, I am moved by the word gratitude and its’ multiple meanings. I have spent the last four and a half days focusing on being more grateful, more positive and more kind. More gracious. Being gracious doesn’t mean you let people take advantage of you, at least it doesn’t to me. It means you show kindness and compassion and understanding. It shows that you see the world around you with a more positive set of eyes. I am very grateful that someone that loves me enough to say the hard things I needed to hear wasn’t afraid to speak up. She showed me the book she was reading and now I am reading the same one. “Attitudes of Gratitude” by M.J. Ryan. A beautifully written missive on the importance of living with a spirit of gratitude, even when things are bleak, hard and seemingly impossible to surmount.

My husband and I have been married 38+ years and have experienced so many highs and lows, like any other couple has. We had our first date in June of 1977. We went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then to see Star Wars, the first release, and we had such a good time. By this time we were both in high school, but we met in elementary school. 6th grade. Mrs. Sallen’s art class. I didn’t like him much then, or any other boy for that matter. Our date was sweet, and when we got fortune cookies after dinner, his said, “Stop searching, happiness is just next to you.” Those same words were in the fortune cookie of the author M.J. Ryan when she went to lunch with a friend after completing her book!!! Happiness… Happiness has been next to me for the 44 of the 57+ years I’ve neen alive in the form of my beloved and I am very grateful for him. Gratitude is not difficult to come by if you practice finding it, so practice frequently!

We can get lost in our lives so easily. Sucked down into the depths of stress, grief, angst and a myriad of other vampiric emotions. It seems that these type of emotions are more likely to be present in today’s noisy, fast-paced and tumultuous world. Slowing down in today’s world is pretty much frowned upon, or misunderstood, but it’s necessary. We get one life. One. That’s all. No matter the circumstances of your particular life, isn’t there a little room for an attitude of gratitude? Start small. Restart small. I woke up this morning. I’m grateful. My beloved husband is doing as well as he can since his catastrophic stroke. I am grateful. I am grateful that I saw him in person yesterday, albeit from 6 feet away, with no touching, but I’m still grateful. Looking for the moments that we can be grateful for becomes easier as the time goes on. It takes personal effort to look within and find those moments, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean things won’t be difficult, or that you are self-centered, it just means that you choose the positive, no matter how small. You matter. I matter. Human beings matter and when we lose sight of just how much we matter to ourselves, it’s very difficult to believe that we matter to anyone else.

How is it possible that something as simple as having an attitude of gratitude seems so unreachable? What stands in your way? I’ve stood in my own way for much of the past 8 months, and the only person putting up road blocks and barriers to my personal peace is me. Other people have hurt me, sure. But those hurts are on them, not me. I’ve been struggling with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for many months now on my husband’s behalf, and I’ve been damining them at every turn on one hand, and grateful for them on the other. I’ve decided to try and be more patient, though I’m not exactly known for being patient. The federal government of the United States is a behemoth, its far reaching tentacles invade most of the lives of those of us that call America home, but that invasion is no reason for me to be ungrateful. I am beyond grateful for the care my husband has received, and continues to receive. Yes, he earned his benefits, but those benefits come with milies upon miles of red-tape, and that’s where the damning comes into play. The red tape just is… it’s not a reason to be defeated or ugly tempered. I’m tying hard to remember this.

Close your eyes for a minute when you’re done reading this blog entry and just breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly. Be grateful for the ability to do so. Listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Do you smell anything on the air? Are you surrounded by man made noise? Is your environment a pleasant one? What can you do to change your environment if it’s not a pleasant and peaceful place to be? At this precise moment I can close my eyes and hear the floor fan blowing in the background. I hear my dog snoring under the bed, his favorite place to be. I hear my Echo playing music I love. I smell the body lotion I out on after my shower. I feel the softness of my favorite t-shirt against my skin. I can see the light from my desk lamp through my eyelids. All small things to be grateful for. When you seek gratitude, I can guarantee you’ll find it, don’t give up!

I’m going to stop here as I am hoping to get some surprise house work done for my sister today. Something else I am grateful for the chance to do. I live in her home now, and I am hoping to show her that I am grateful for her opening her home to me. People say I love you in a million different ways… I do things to make her life easier because I love her. She loves me, too. I am grateful…

Photo by Barb Enos

Rambles…

Hey All,

It’s been a really tough three days for me, this week has not been at all what I hoped it would be. I did accomplish something on Saturday past by getting my beloved Boston Terrier back from his foster mom after almost 6 months without him. I had been so focused on getting him back for so long that I truly had no idea what it would do to my emotional state. I feel elated and defeated all at once. Elated to have my constant companion with me, but defeated because I have nothing left to look forward to right now. Monday was so hard, I cried my way through the day suffocating in my loneliness and despair over missing my husband. I hate not being allowed in to the hospital to see him and feel so left out of his life every day. I know I am no different than millions of others not allowed to visit their loved one in a hospital, but that knowledge provides little comfort. Logically I understand, emotionally, well, the heart wants what it wants. I know I can’t be with him, but that doesn’t make me feel like I shouldn’t be there to support him. My heart breaks for the thousands upon thousands of people who are having to say a permanent goodbye to their family members who are dying alone. It’s so sad, more sad than anyone should ever have to be. I know that death is not something that any of us escape, but having to die alone because of this damn virus seems unusually cruel. I pray daily for the world to begin healing, and also that we be a kinder, more compassionate and loving society when all of this is over.

Having something to look forward is paramount to maintaining our sanity, no matter what is going on in the world around us. I have decided to take solitary road trips in my car to different areas of Virginia where my husband may possibly be moved to for further rehabilitation. I can’t sit within the 700 sq. feet of space I call home and only take my dog out. Or watch TV. Or cry. I may not be able to go inside the facilities, but I can at least get some idea of the surrounding areas, learn my way to and from, and get out of the apartment that all of a sudden seems too small for me and my dog. It’s not, it’s fine, but I guess I just need to expand my horizons as much as I am able right now. Life is so hard when it’s “normal” (normal is nothing but a cycle on the washing machine) I feel like I am making my own life harder by not only living in this apartment, but by living in my head… A dangerous place for any one of us to dwell too long. It’s time for me to push back against the noise in my own head and do something that needs doing. Get up, get going, and push forward.

Since my husband’s stroke I can’t remember being this down. I’ve cried and raged and prayed and begged for so many things, none of them for myself. I had been so solely focused on him and his needs that I pretty much put myself up on a shelf and shoved me into the shadows. The past three days of self imposed darkness have been the hardest days I’ve experienced in such a long time, especially since they seem to be so self induced. Sure, the circumstances surrounding the separation between my husband and me are completely warranted, totally understandable, and necessary, but even knowing this doesn’t help all the time. People tell me to be strong, I’m trying. Even the strongest among us have breaking points, I think I reached one of those breaking points on Monday. Now I start the daunting climb to reach a place of light, and I know that it won’t be easy, but it is doable. A little determination, a lot of faith and a ton of tenacity is all it should take. I possess all of these traits and more. I decide what determines my course, and I just need to re-focus, re-group and look to the light. Where I am now reminds me of the darkest days after losing my oldest child because she decided I wasn’t to be a part of her life anymore. Those first months were horrible. I survived. Losing my grandson is still so damned painful, but I manage it. Our child’s cruelty does not get to define us, no one does. I miss our grandson, our step granddaughter and our son-in-love, but I’ll be okay. My husband needs me to be okay. I need me to be okay. I’ve survived and carved out a decent life for myself since May of 2018, in spite of all the loss and heartache experienced, and I can’t let a few dark days erase the years of progress. I won’t let that happen.

When you find yourself sliding down that steep slope into the dark pits of your mind, I hope that you can recognize the decline and put the brakes on. I pray that you can stop the fall and find your way back up to a happier place. To peace. It’s hard, and every single one of us does it differently. That doesn’t matter. Do whatever it takes to find peace and happiness. It’s beyond difficult, the struggle can be excruciating. What works for me may not work for anyone else, so keep trying until you find your way. People are not meant to be unhappy all the time, and learning to make yourself happy, without depending on someone else, is really tough. It’s also really rewarding. When I sit and write this blog, I am making myself happy. If what I write makes just one other person happy, or shows someone that they can live through the darkest of times and smile afterwards, that’s more than enough for me. I am not a materialistic person, and the longer I live the more this serves me well. So much has happened in the past 29 months of my life that I look back and see where the lessons learned got me to where I am tonight. Many of those same lessons have helped others. Where would I be if I hadn’t shown myself some grace and given our marriage another chance? Loving my husband is the easy part of this chapter in our life together, but it’s also beyond painful. Not being able to touch his face, hold his hand or laugh with him is troublesome, but I still have the opportunity to do so. I think of my sister-in-love every day and how heartbroken she is since losing the love of her life. She will never get to see her beloved again, or hear his voice, nor feel his touch. I ache for her, and she knows this. Knowing that others feel like this doesn’t take away the sting of death, though I hope knowing does bring her comfort. Life just isn’t fair… We can seek fairness in most any situation, but it’s just not easily found.

In closing, I ask that anyone who has taken the time to read this knows that I appreciate it very much. I don’t claim to be an expert in any area of life, I just share my heart. It’s hard to admit to a world full of so much negativity that I feel defeated by the same world, but it’s also important to me to share what helps me get beyond the negativity and find hope. Without hope we have nothing, and without hope what’s the point of being here? I continue to remind myself to seek joy, and I just wish I had reminded myself of this on Monday instead of letting the noise and darkness take over. Another lesson learned… I hope.

Morgan
photo by Barb Enos

In the Most Unexpected Ways…

Good Evening,

Today was a day of most unexpected joy. In the most unexpected way, my husband said I love you to me without saying the words themselves. It would be considered a small and almost insignificant thing to most, but after 37 years of marriage, the loss of a child and the separation we experienced almost two years ago, I have come to recognize the small gestures I would have let slip by in the past as the most precious of gifts. I was amazed today by the words of affirmation he spoke to me and if I were able to convey through words how I felt at that precise moment, I would. My husband is a man of few words, and today when his heart was wide open for the world to see, I caught a glimpse of just how loved I am by him. If I could grant wishes to the world at large, I would give everyone the feeling I have enjoyed today. I know my husband loves me, I love him, but to have him recognize giftings in me that I don’t recognize in myself? It’s left me almost speechless. Almost…

What makes a perfect marriage? Nothing. Nothing is perfect, but you can seek excellence in your marriage. You can plant the seeds of love and tend to them with care so they grow into a long and happy life. Who am I to even think I can speak about marriage? I am the wife of a man that has struggled his whole life to make me feel loved. I am the product of a broken home. I am a mother who has experienced untenable losses these past 14 months. My husband has also experienced the same losses, though his feelings in relation to the losses seem to be much more manageable than mine are. My husband is a man’s man, and he’s a man of few words, so the words spoken today in the presence of a small group of people were not only surprising, they were appreciated and valued and taken to heart. We are not created to do life alone, and I believe that we love who we love, and I am blessed to love this man. I am ever grateful that we made the effort to rebuild and reconnect, and even more grateful that after almost 4 decades of marriage, that we are living our happily ever after.

Does living that happily ever after mean we don’t have issues? I wish!!! Issues are inherent in a long term relationship, any long term relationship, and inherent when human beings interact. When two people have lived together as long as we have, there are bound to be issues, but the issues hopefully become smaller and less significant over time. Not always how things go, but some days are all blue skies, sunshine, and perfect temperature. Today was such a day for me. I plan to relish this feeling of complete love for as long as I can. We don’t have any kind of magic wand to wave over our lives to make them better, we work hard at it. We hold the hands of each other, we speak positivity to one another and we love each other through the pains, trials and tribulations life throws at us.

Don’t give up on love if you’re struggling to understand the ins and outs of it all. No one will ever understand it all. We learn over time to accept that people will hurt us, that people will abandon us and that people will let us down. Our husbands and wives being particularly prone to do so. Not because they want to, or need to, but because they make mistakes. WE ALL DO! Say you’re sorry. Hug your husband tighter tonight than last night. kiss your wife’s forehead while she sleeps. Write a love note and tape it to your spouse’s steering wheel so they see it on their way to wherever they’re going. Plant the seeds of tenderness, watch them grow. Plant new seeds for each season of life that you’ll go through, watch them grow. Remember that you are together with your mate because you WANTED to be. Hopefully remembering that helps you see the light in the dark times. I could have never made it through these past months without this man beside me, holding my hand. I can only hope that he knows how much he means to me and that no matter what has happened in the past, we are meant to be. He’s my person…

Life’s moments happen in the most unexpected ways, whether they be good, bad, happy or sad moments. The unexpectedness of such moments is a gift to be treasured. Tuck them away in your heart and mind. Take those unexpected moments out of safekeeping when the dark times come. And they will come. If you have a vault of precious unexpected moments to look back on, you’ll be able to move forward. The loss of our child has left us irrevocably broken, the unexpected moments of joy and peace are helping us heal. And helping us move forward. I look back over these past months and realize that the life we had is gone. The one we are building now is different, much different. We are determined to be happy, to seek joy and to grace each other’s life with unexpected moments of joy. And love. Love one another, it’s a gift worth giving.

In closing, I want to say thank you to my husband for all you have done for me. Everything. I appreciate you, I love you and I am honored to be yours.

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