First and foremost, happy Veterans Day! A special shout-out to my dad, Greg Jackson, for the years he devoted to attending West Point and then serving our country. I’m truly blessed to have grown up in a GO ARMY! household with a dad who was (and is!) a living example of the values of Duty, Honor, Country. I love you, daddy!
Can you believe it’s November 11th already? I can’t. It seems like November has absolutely flown by, and my birthday is in 11 days, followed shortly by Thanksgiving, and then before you know it it’s gonna be Christmas!
Since it’s November, the month of Thanksgiving, I’ve noticed this year, like most years as of late, probably a good 60% of the people on my facebook friends list are doing the “30 days of thankfulness” facebook “challenge” (I put challenge in quotation marks because truly we all have at least 30 things to be thankful for, even if it takes a while to unearth them). I personally don’t participate in this activity–not because I don’t have an abundance of thankfulness, but because I can’t commit myself to logging on the computer every day with my neurological issues from Lyme and Co. I do post things for which I’m thankful when I feel a strong pull to do so. But if I’m being completely honest with you (always my goal), anytime I log on facebook lately, thankfulness tends to be far from my mind.
This warrants an explanation, I know, so please stick with me.
Having a chronic illness–especially a chronic illness that is debilitating and takes away your ability to do very basic life functions–isn’t exactly a tea party (read: fun, read: exciting, read: activity you enjoy because you do it with others AND because you learn to love new tea…and who doesn’t love discovering new tea?). And yes, I’m aware that statement sounds fairly whiny/complain-y, but I don’t mean it to be–it’s just a fact. Life with a debilitating chronic illness is hard.
It’s particularly difficult when you previously lived a life full of excitement, activity, social outings, and fun, and no time of year highlights this more than the holiday season which encapsulates roughly the last two months of every year. And social media makes this sudden life-upheaval even harder due to the influx of pictures posted by people we know who are doing things we used to enjoy, going places we used to go, living the life we feel we should be living.
For instance, anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I am a huge figure skating fanatic. Specifically, I am self-professed to be Michelle Kwan’s biggest fan (I celebrate her birthday every year…just saying) and going skating myself is by far my favorite activity. Obviously, since I currently can’t even walk without assistance of a cane/walker, and since we have to use my wheelchair 99% of the time I try to venture out of the house, I can’t skate right now. And as first-worldly as this problem seems, it absolutely kills my spirit. This is the time of year outdoor rinks open! Going skating is the activity I look forward the most on my birthdays! Being on the ice is the one place where my mind is completely free of anything that is stressful and I’m able to just be. Yet I can’t currently skate and have no idea when I’ll be able to again (but I will skate again someday because I can’t accept not ever skating as a possibility). The reality of all this is very painful, and is compounded each and every time I see someone on facebook posting a picture of themselves/friends at an ice rink, smiling, skating, having such a great time…and living the life I should be living.
Let me be clear, I do not wish ill on anyone, nor am I complaining that people post pictures of themselves and others having a good time at an ice rink–I am tickled pink that so many people find my favorite activity so enjoyable! I really am! And I’m happy that even though the ice rink in our local park is small, rough, and not easily maintained, it still opens every year and lets people have that taste of freedom as they glide across the ice (or the taste of ice chips as they fall–which is almost always accompanied by the laughter of the fallen skater and friends). That is awesome! But at the same time, each picture I see is a painful reminder that I’m not able to live the life I lived for years.
It’s very easy to get down in spirits when you’re at home all day, every day, (often alone because family members have to work to keep up with those things called bills, which are vital to life), and often can’t even call a friend to talk or read a book or surf the internet, due to whatever symptoms may be flaring on any given day. (And it’s very easy to get down in spirits when a disease like Lyme and Co has done so much damage to your depth perception that you manage to slice your finger while cutting through a loaf of pre-sliced bread and have to go to the ER to get 7 stitches and a tetanus shot….which was my day this past Friday!) And all of this makes it much harder, at times, to acknowledge the things for which we should thank God daily. BUT doesn’t that make it all that more important for us to do it?
The answer is yes, just in case you didn’t know. When we feel least thankful, that’s when it’s most important for us to make note of our blessings. Notice I didn’t say easiest–because often, when we don’t feel particularly thankful–coming up with a list of blessings is hard! But trust me on this, once you sit down (or lie down, or stand up, or do a handstand…okay, that last one’s not likely but you get the point) and just make yourself list 2 or 3 things you’re thankful for, I’m willing to bet those 2 or 3 will lead to 4 or 5, and then to 10, and before you know it you’ll have created a thankful list that far exceeds 30 without really trying. Because it’s that easy.
If you don’t believe me, I urge you to prove me wrong. Get out paper and pen (or pencil, or quill, or computer, or typewriter, or stamps…) and write down 3 things for which you are thankful, and then see if more don’t come to you easily after that. I’m not saying you’ll come up with all 30 in one sitting (even though that’s possible!), but I guarantee you if you write down just a few, even if you’re in the middle of the worst day you’ve had, others will pop into your mind throughout the day without you even consciously trying to list them.
Here, I’ll help you start:
1.) I’m thankful I’m able to write/read today.
2.) I’m thankful for the day outside, even if it’s dreary, because it means God has seen fit to bless me with another day of life.
3.) I’m thankful we’re able to celebrate holidays like Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any of the other holidays we celebrate.
(Unconventional thankfulness–photo from the ER on Friday after receiving the 7 stitches I mentioned. I was actually thankful for all the pain and suffering I’ve had to endure as a result of Lyme/testing for Lyme and other diagnoses because it made the stitches tolerable–any crying that happened was a result of the near-full blown anxiety attack I had on the way to the hospital and wasn’t really related to pain. A phenomenon a year ago I would have said was impossible!)
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18