I haven’t been in the mood to blog much over this past week. This morning I was trying to figure out why because it has become a cathartic and much-needed outlet. It certainly isn’t because I don’t have anything to say because, well let’s face it; if you know me at all you know that I always have SOMETHING to say. The conclusion I came to was that I feel as if I’ve been doing a lot of complaining lately and I hate that. I don’t want to be “that sick person” who is a mental and emotional drain on everyone around them. I realize I can’t always help that. Often that is just the nature of chronic illness. However, today I really want to talk about gratitude. I know, I know… when you don’t feel good or when you are hurting emotionally and mentally it can be really difficult to hear the same tired expressions about how having gratitude is the key to all of your troubles. I get it, but bear with me.
We all have those vital people in our lives without whom life itself would seem to fall apart. You know who I speak of, the friends that are tried and true; the ones that never leave your side no matter how ugly things get. The friends that no matter how much time has passed since you spoke last it is as if you were just together yesterday. Friends that come back for more time and time again even after you’re life has imploded and they got caught in the mix. I even have friends who have stuck by me when I refused to let them and then, after years of forced separation on my part, welcome me back with open hearts and loving arms.
Today’s post is my tribute of gratitude for the wonderful support system of friends and family that I rely on everyday to navigate this current nightmare. I won’t say “I have the best family and friends”, although I sincerely believe that is true, everyone says that. Instead I’ll share what they do for me and how they help me cope, because when you are sick, ALL OF THE TIME, there is nothing like a great support system to get you through the quagmire.
I won’t mention specific names as most of them prefer anonymity. (See why I love them all so much? Completely selfless in every way…) All of these individuals have me pegged too. They realize that I won’t ask for help on my own. Understanding that I’m too prideful for my own good, they opt to step in and help me anyway. I realize that this isn’t always easy. For my part, I worry that if I just step in and help that I’ll somehow offend someone or seem too pushy. The irony? When someone does this for me I’m so relieved and grateful that all I can do is shake my head in wonder at their ability to know just what I need. When you know someone is suffering, sometimes you just need to take matters into your own hands and find a way to help great or small. Often it is the smallest gestures that help me the most.
Here are some of the ways that my support system is there for me. I hope that you read this and think of the people in your life who carry a heavy load and realize that there are things you can do for them that will bear them up and make their lives a little easier. Chronic illness is dreadful on its best day and those of us stuck in it rarely know how to ask or feel comfortable asking for the help that we really need.
I have a darling friend who decided that my windows needed washing. Now, I realize that you might think that my windows are the least of my worries. Au contraire! A few months ago she wanted to help and of course I stumbled and mumbled my way through the conversation afraid to actually impose upon her kindness. Since my friends are much too intelligent to buy my brush offs, she took matters into her own hands, chose an act of service and gave me no choice but to accept. BLESS HER! After she left me with shiny, happy windows I sat in my house and wept. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me that she would understand me well enough to know that what I really needed was for someone to simply do… Do something, anything that would improve my day. The service doesn’t stop there either. All she has to do is say hello to me and my entire day brightens and lifts. She has grocery shopped for me, taken my kids and kept them for hours while I rest or go to the Dr. There are countless ways in which she blesses my life.
Anyone who knows me well knows that, when I get going, I can talk… and talk… and talk… There is usually no lull in a conversation with me, at least on my end. Heaven help the poor soul stuck listening to me. I’m probably missing some important social cue and if you’ve been caught in the wake of one of my lonelier days, well I apologize for keeping you trapped in my chattering web. That said, a friend of mine will often stop by to drop off clothes for my boys, or call with a specific purpose and an hour or two later she is still stuck there listening to me natter on about this or that. She probably has no idea how very much I love her for this. It helps me feel normal; it helps me feel wanted and valued. I’m not sure why but it fills a place deep within to be listened to and heard. I’m telling you that it really is the small, unassuming things that most often provide the greatest relief. The other day she invited me to lunch and I jumped for joy! Most people assume that, because of my health, I’m either incapable or wouldn’t care to join them and so when she called I was ecstatic! I know she doesn’t realize how much that meant to me because to her it was a natural and easy thing to do, but that day she gave me a sense of normalcy that often escapes me.
Surprisingly I have friends who’ve stuck around since high school. I know… I don’t get it either especially because there was a period in my life when I pushed all such individuals away. Being sick all of the time has a funny way of putting things into perspective and I realized a few years ago how much I was missing out by not allowing them in. I often get together with these faithful friends and feel loved and appreciated in ways that only come from long-standing friendships. These people have seen me at my best, my worst, and everywhere in between and through it all they love me. I’m still humbled and amazed at that thought! The advice they give is priceless because they’ve known me for so long that it has deep and poignant meaning. One of them helped me see the wisdom in accepting my situation for what it was instead of always looking for the next “fix it” opportunity. Always kind and thoughtful, when she buys me gifts, she also includes my family. We often argue over who will pay the bill at dinner and, much to my chagrin, she wins out more times than not arguing that my medical and family expenses take priority. My heart is full even as I describe this to you because she’s right and the fact that she thinks of these things means more to me than she will ever know.
Another of my high school besties, with a beautiful family of her own, welcomes my family and me into her home where we laugh and play together. She probably has no idea at how thrilled I am to see my kids playing with hers. Each time we’re invited, Greg and I leave feeling buoyed up and emotionally nurtured. This friend has always touched my soul in the deep, dark, hurting places that I usually hold back. Somehow she finds them, uncovers them and then helps the hurt subside. What a priceless service and yet she probably has no clue that this is what she does for me, all because she is just… herself. I think we forget that we can help those around us by simply being.
A couple of months ago I was sitting in the carpool lane waiting for my eldest to get out of school. This is the hardest part of my day, by about one o’clock I’m exhausted and so when 3:30 rolls around I’m absolutely done for. Sitting in that carpool lane probably doesn’t seem like such a big deal to most of you, but to me, it is torture. I’m hurting, tired, and trying to put on a happy face for the kids as I attempt to make it through the rest of the day. As I was wallowing in this misery a dear friend hopped out of her car and sat in my passenger seat for a chat. She offered to pick Sean up from school everyday and I about fell out of my seat with relief. Such a small thing for her, but for me? I probably seem like a big cry baby but I sat there with tears in my eyes. I truly cannot express how much this helps me, how much this small act of kindness means to me.
There are countless other ways in which my family, friends, and neighbors all help me cope. There are times when I’ve been staring at my kitchen thinking, “how in the world am I going to manage dinner tonight?” when someone shows up at my door with food for my family. Neighbors who stop by and help me carry my laundry up and down the stairs are a precious gift. The loving friends who bring me lunch and then stay to clean my house… what do you say after that? My fellow “flute tooters” who, each week at rehearsal, let me moan and complain and then put my music stand or chair away. To them it probably seems so small but to me, as I watch them perform these seemingly small acts, I say a prayer of thanks for these magnificent women. While I’ve only known these ladies a short time, they have a depth of character and love for others that I’m privileged to have showered upon me.
Last, but certainly not least, my family. Where would I be without their continued prayers and support? The grocery shopping, taking care of my kids, listening to me gripe and complain. I should probably write a separate post dedicated to my family both immediate and extended. In fact, I think that is just what I will do since my little post isn’t so little anymore.
Sometimes the best way to help someone who is suffering is to do just that… help, no matter how many times they refuse, no matter how small or simple the deed, just act. It really is easier than you think, often times the service that has meant the most stems from the fact that a friend is simply being who they are. Quite often all you really need to do is be yourself!
Finally, to all those past and present who’ve touched my life and helped me slog through the swamp, thank you doesn’t suffice. It doesn’t even come close. What do you say to those who have been stuck in the worst parts of life with you and end up covered in your muck? The words “sorry about that” and “thanks for everything” just don’t hack it, you know? So instead I’ll say… may someone touch each and every one of you the way you have touched me for that is the best gift that I can think of, to have your deeds of kindness and love repaid to you tenfold!