April 2018

Thursday, March 14, 2013

An Attitude of Gratitude

Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday. (Yes, I am now officially into my 50th year.) As I enter the second half of my century, I am so grateful to have so much joy in my life.

My partner Ann loves me in a way that I never imagined I’d be loved. My family of birth and my nephews and nieces love me and amuse me. Friends visit and help me travel across the city and across the borders. Neighbors cheer me and inspire me. Classmates and teachers help me learn together with them. Yoga teachers help me learn new ways to be and breathe. Allopathic doctors discovered my tumors and healed me. Naturopathic doctors heal me from food allergies and help me manage fatigue.

The list goes on. Crocuses bloom in the grey season. A gas fire stays in the fireplace where it belongs to warm me and cheer me. Whipped cream exists, and so does ice-cream.

I am so grateful that I can get downright sappy.

This gratitude characterizes each person whom I’ve interviewed about their experiences with life-changing health conditions. We are a grateful group. Maybe we’re so grateful because like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock, we have seen the eternal Footman hold our coats, and though—unlike Prufrock—we are not afraid, we are delighted to be living this life.

Saturday, my friend Ellen took me to a couple of presentations at Seattle University’s Bookfest. We started the morning at a talk by Mary Oak, who wrote Heart’s Oratoria: One Woman’s Journey through Love, Death, and Modern Medicine. Mary Oak survived a cardiac arrest and writes about her survival, in spirit as well as breath, in mythical terms. She said, “Shiva [a great Hindu god who is both pure and destructive] dances in the human heart.”

Mary Oak sees grace in her condition and in her survival like I do. She named one chapter “Wounding’s Grace” and wrote, “We move forward in the wonder of each breath.” She is a spiritual peep.

Another writer and survivor, this time of an aneurism, Judith Marcus introduced herself to me at the end of the presentation. Another spiritual peep.

Both Mary and Judith volunteered to be interviewed for my book of interviews with people with life-changing health conditions, and I look forward to connecting with them again.

Ellen and my other Jewish friends sing Dayenu at Passover: It would have been enough. The song expresses gratitude to God for so many gifts. Just one of these gifts, the song says, would have been enough. Just the Torah. Just Shabbat. Just being taken out of slavery. The song’s sense is of gratitude for such abundance.

For me, if it had just been my life. If it had just been loving Ann. If I had just survived my brain tumors. If the crocuses just bloomed in Seattle’s grey: Dayenu. It would have been enough.

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