Finding Gratitude in Spite of Myself

I have never been a positive person by nature. Those of you who know me are very familiar with this and take my rantings with a grain of salt (I hope!). My life hasn’t exactly been conducive to being a Pollyanna. It has been a constant struggle for me- whether it is my non-existent relationship with my father and sister, dealing with the joys of ADD, addiction issues…the list could go on and on. I remember when I was fifteen and a counselor tried to teach me to focus on positive aspects of my life. Total waste of time because at that point in my life, I was just not there yet.

Fast forward a few years to my first year of sobriety in 1993. After a lovely phone call complaining to my sponsor about how much my life sucked, she told me to write a gratitude list, call her back and she hung up on me. When I got over the initial sting of someone not putting up with my crap, I sat down at my wobbly kitchen table in my little apartment. I had nothing to lose. Taking some paper, I wrote the date at the top and stared at the blank paper. What was I grateful for? I looked around the apartment. Well, I’m grateful I have food in the fridge. I’m grateful I have clean clothes. I’m grateful for my coffeemaker. Eventually I made it to I’m grateful I am sober and not in pain. I’m grateful people aren’t avoiding me. I’m grateful I don’t feel sick. I’m grateful for my family, for my friends who have stood by me. When I put the pen down I felt much better and called her back. Did I tell her she was right? Of course not! I didn’t tell her that until 15 years later.

This month of November I have seen people post their gratitude lists daily as their status. When I realized that is what it was, the month was already half over so I have enjoyed reading others and thinking about my own. This is when I get a minute to think to myself, which doesn’t happen until 11:30 at night much to the chagrin of my husband who is waiting for me upstairs.

Isabelle had her bi-monthly cardiology clinic appointment yesterday. She is doing amazingly well besides the weight/growth issue. We are on track for the Glenn in February and her cath will be in early January. To say I am grateful for a non-eventful appointment is an understatement. We had our appointment, and got to go home. Right now, I know a family who will be spending Thanksgiving at Children’s. I know another family who is waiting for a new heart for their son and spending the holiday at his side in the hospital. I know others who would give anything to have one more minute with their son or daughter.

When I think of them, I hold Isabelle close to me and feel her heart beating against my chest. I breathe her in, close my eyes and thank God for the moment I have her in my arms. With my eyes closed I take in how she feels against me, the warmth of her little hands, her face. The sound of her breathing. The faint smell of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and the softness of her hair on my cheek. I want my arms to remember how she feels against them. I want to be able to take in every second of all that she is.

I have done this with both my other girls, Elizabeth being the first. I remember when we lived in Vermont looking out of the window in our apartment at the snow and just holding her. I hoped that she could feel my love emanating through my body. Because she was my first child, I had no idea I could love a little person like this and wanted to remember everything. With Adeline, I rocked her and gazed into her sleeping face. I would hold her close after she nursed for as long as I could, knowing that she would not be like this for long.

As I would hold them, I whispered my gratitude to God for blessing me with them. With Isabelle, it has been a little different. When I found out that she had HLHS it was impossible for me to be grateful to God for anything. I would see posts of other people who were expecting around the same time and was jealous that I couldn’t enjoy my last pregnancy the way I wanted to. It wasn’t until she surprised everyone with her amazing recovery that I was able to be open-minded about God again. I was able to be grateful for the first time in months.

Today, my gratitude continues to grow as I turn my focus on what we do have instead of what we don’t. Our miracle is still with us, our other daughters are in good health and we have our own home to celebrate the holidays in. I have a great network of other heart moms who have given me support when I need it most, and a workplace that respects me. Do I have my days when I can’t read someone’s brag post about their baby?Sure I do. It does pass and eventually I do read them. I just can’t comment yet.

One thought on “Finding Gratitude in Spite of Myself

  1. Barbara Reilly says:

    You are such a great writer…I can hear your voice throughout this entire message. I know that it has been hard to be positive and am thrilled that you are beginning to feel some of the “cup half full” feelings. You are becoming more of a woman than I could have imagined and even though I am just a cousin, I am so incredibly proud of who you have become. I love you, Lis.
    Barb

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