Friday, November 27, 2009


When Mom and I discussed Thanksgiving 'plans' for this year, we both felt that what we really needed and wanted was a quiet, low-key day. I had doctor's appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, so I was hoping to rest and have enough energy for some good food.

We had a lovely meal of local-free range roast chicken, a mixture of mashed sweet and white potatoes, fresh asparagus, spinach salad, cranberry relish and pumpkin pie! Mom was supposed to be low-key about the cooking this year, but as you can see she spent the day in the kitchen. Most exciting was the pumpkin pie--which she found a way to make dairy-free and gluten-free. Oh how I've missed pumpkin pie all of these years! I definitely broke all of the rules yesterday when it came to keeping the sugar and carb intake lower while on antibiotics.

In recent years the holidays have often been difficult for me. I feel lonely or left out. I think about things I wish I could be doing or people I wish I could be with. I think about the life I wish I had. I think a lot about marriage or family or children.

This year, none of those feelings crept into my mindset. Perhaps it was a blissfully restful night's sleep that changed my perspective? Or just the slight break from the relentless symptoms I've been having? As far as days go lately, and remember things are all relative here, Thanksgiving day was a 'good' day.

Instead of feelings of sadness, I spent the day filled with a peaceful spirit, a quiet mind, and a grateful heart.

In my eyes, our Thanksgiving was perfect. I let go of a lot of expectations to feel that way. I slept in. I wore a new pair of pajamas from a friend who sent them in honor of The Year of the Pajama. I had homemade hummus for lunch. After lunch I was able to listen to the Thanksgiving music on NPR while doing a little knitting--something I rarely feel up to doing these days. I called Dad. I took a nap. We had our lovely dinner, which also included a sip of champagne (Whoa Alcohol!). Then we crawled into my bed and watched two episodes of our favorite comedy, The Big Bang Theory.

During dinner Mom and I discussed the abundance of things for which we are grateful--from our home, to our cozy beds, to good food, to good doctors and medical care, to Mr. Fuzzmadoodle. Even in the midst of this treatment, I continue to have gratitude because I know that I am very fortunate to be able to try this treatment, to have access to the care I need, to have the support I need, etc. The list of things to be grateful for felt endless yesterday.

While I do believe in always maintaining a sense of gratitude, I also believe in being realistic.
Some days grief, sadness, loss, anger or frustration cannot be warded off with a sense of gratitude. Just because I am grateful, doesn't mean I don't feel these other feelings. Some days this illness and everything that goes along with it just plain sucks (excuse my language). I am always grateful, but some days I may need to be grateful in a different way: for the tears, for the ability to feel sadness, or for God's grace even when I'm angry.

For a very long time I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to always feel grateful. When I get sad, I quickly wipe the tears away and tell myself how much worse it could be, tell myself how fortunate I am to be getting this treatment, tell myself how loved and taken care of I am. Talking my way out of feeling what I'm really feeling in that moment hasn't proven healthy. I'm just stuffing too many emotions, always trying to be the 'good little sick girl.' How is it realistic or congruent to think that I can wake up every day and be the 'happy sick person'? I'm worn out trying to be that person.

This Thanksgiving was remarkably filled with gratitude in an unforced, genuine way. What I need to learn now is to be grateful for the whole spectrum of emotions I feel. Grief and gratitude can coexist, and indeed need each other to exist.

I'm grateful for the beautiful, peaceful, and quiet day I had in mind, spirit and body. I'm also accepting of the fact that many days, no matter how grateful I am, are an emotional struggle right now. No amount of gratitude erases the senses of loss or grief I feel. I'd like to be the queen of mindfulness, but I'm not quite there yet. I 'show up' every day and some days are better than others.

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving filled with love and gratitude. For those of you whose holiday was touched by grief, loss, or sadness may you feel peacefulness of spirit in the coming days.



Photos: Me in my new super cute PJs (and yes, that's a new haircut). I went in hoping to look like Natalie Teeger from Monk but came out with this haircut. It wasn't what I wanted, but I'm getting used to it. I was so sick trying to sit there long enough to get my haircut, but I also knew that I had to chop it off because bathing is so difficult right now. So, it will do just fine for what I need now. It's practical.

Mom's awesome gluten-free dairy-free pumpkin pie, made with coconut milk.

Letting Asher give me kisses.


Skinner Family said...

I love the jammies and the haircut. The pie sounds yummy. I think I should start trying to find stuff that is dairy free so I don't have to worry about lactose pills. (My pumpkin cheesecake was good....)

Katherine said...

Hi Emily--that is a beautiful piece of writing. I could imagine it published somewhere--perhaps "This I Believe" on NPR.

When one is living fully and honestly, yes, grief and gratitude find a way to co-exist. It's a lot of work to be there.

Love you, Katherine

Kristen said...

"Grief and gratitude can coexist, and indeed need each other to exist."

Wow - what a beautiful writing! You hit the nail on the head for me. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

A very honest, moving and beautifully written commentary on your Thanksgiving Holiday....lots to think about as we move through each day of the year not just a one day devoted to thanksgiving
The pie maker:)

alia said...

Your haircut is adorable, and I speak as someone who had to cut it all off after the baby. (Hormone changes are hard on hair, and mine was falling out in great big locks)

I also hope that it is possible to be both endlessly grateful and also able to see where there could be improvement, for yourself or others. One is as real as the other.

Are you able to read books or are they too heavy to deal with?