The space of gratitude

Last week was a tough one. My bright, beautiful ten year old girl got very sick. After two days and nights of relentless pain and no sleep, it was finally determined to be her appendix. We waited five hours in the emergency room before her surgery and then we endured another two hour wait while she was operated on. The surgery was a little complicated due to some scar tissue from a surgery after her birth. It was a lot for a mother to take. By the time she was in recovery, I was needing some recovery myself. An operation to remove an appendix is relatively common, even in children, but when it is your child, the experience is anything but common-it is a big friggin’ deal. Watching your child in that much pain is hard enough, but factor in the uncertainty of the diagnosis, the frightening trip(s) to the emergency room, the strangers poking and prodding, blood tests, IV’s and ultrasounds and you’ve got some hard times, no matter what the prognosis.

This is when you need other people. This is when you find out whom you can count on.

A few nights after we came home, I woke in the middle of the night, unable to fall back to sleep. My mind, most probably fueled by residual adrenaline, started to focus on the few friends that didn’t contact me during our ordeal. They stood out because I consider all three of them to be good friends. My hurt and anger grew as I focused on what I considered, at that moment, to be the reality of the situation: Wow, none of these people could pull themselves away from their lives for the 30 seconds it takes to type “how r u?” into their cell phone.  It shocked me. It made me sad.

I tossed and turned, getting more and more upset. How am I going to react when I see these people? Can I just act like nothing happened? My child had SURGERY. She was under ANESTHESIA. She was in the hospital for 3 days and you didn’t wonder how we were doing??!! Well, I will tell you what, I am not going to ask her to go out again!

I was getting really worked up and then….by the grace of the angels, it happened: The figurative 2×4 hit me aside the head. 

What about all the people that were there for me? What about the friend who rearranged her whole family’s schedule just to take my boys? Or the neighbor who brought flowers and books and comfort? Or the friend who cooked all my kids dinner and cleaned my filthy house? Or the one who made a special trip to the bookstore in the pouring rain after a full day of work just to get my girl her own copy of “Madeline”? Or the one who did all my laundry? Or the six friends who bought and cooked and delivered food for our whole family? Or the one who was standing by ready to board a plane if I said the word? Or the one who made sure my favorite beer was in my fridge?

It made me laugh out loud. I was being ridiculous! I realized I was creating my own misery. It was my choice; I could chose to feel bad about the few friends who couldn’t look up from their lives or I could chose to bask in the love of all the friends who did. It was so simple! This is a lesson I preach to my kids all the time: life is gonna happen, how you respond is all up to you. I needed to shift my thinking on this one.

It was such a relief to let it go. I didn’t have to be mad. It was optional. And now I had the added bonus of knowing without a doubt whom I could count on. I knew who had my back, and it was a lot of wonderful, thoughtful people. It was surprisingly easy to let the anger and hurt slip away. I just had to want to. I could still to have all of my friends in my life, with no uncomfortable feelings. I just needed to understand that we all have different capacities to give and it is not my place to judge.

I immediately felt lighter.

We were beautifully held and taken care of during our crisis. My family didn’t need any more help than what we received. It was all perfect. It was time for me to shift back into the wonderful land of gratitude. In this beautiful place I immediately felt comfort, and finally, the blissful gift of some much needed sleep.


home from hospital

My strong, amazing, sparkle of a girl