Gratitude: the Anchor in the Storm of Suffering
November 10, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic Life
I’ve struggled with this piece. With what words to put on a page. The thing is-I don’t want to hurt you. And it’s such a fine line in my mind, between choosing gratitude and invalidating someone’s pain. I never want to invalidate your pain. Whether it was caused by chronic illness or the loss of a relationship, a devastating career blow you never saw coming or a dream never fulfilled. I never want to be the person who says, “Suck it up, other people have it worse.”However, the knowledge of how much of what I have, the rest of the world lacks is far from lost on me. Click To Tweet And to be quite honest with you, it anchors me. There are times when I go to a doctor’s appointment, or I speak with an acquaintance, and I catch the slightest tinge of anger in their voice. Maybe they say I’ve “been through too much for someone my age,” or “if anyone deserves a break it’s me, this is too much suffering for one lifetime.” And while I am so deeply moved that others would care enough about me and my plight to allow themselves to feel angry or slighted on my behalf, I can’t help but think, “What in the world are they actually talking about?”
You see I don’t actually know anything about suffering. I live in America, and I always have. I turn on a faucet, and clean water comes out. I open my fridge and select food of my liking. In fact, if nothing can be found which suits my fancy in the first fridge I actually have a second fridge to select from in my garage. I have two air-conditioned vehicles sitting in front of my home right now. I am typing this on a computer that I own, which is connected to the Internet, unfiltered by my government. I’ve been unhappy with many things this election season and I’ve had every freedom to express them. When I had my children, I gave birth inside a clean hospital where I received appropriate medical care. I live in a home filled with people who love me.
But so much of the world aches for these things. I know this for a fact. Not long ago I finished reading a book. Much of it was written from the slums of Kibera. About a young man, trying not to starve to death or be beaten to death by corrupt authorities or by a stepfather who hates him. Eventually, (spoiler alert) he determines to be an agent of change, right where he is. In the midst of his suffering, not before it goes away, he begins to change the world for others.I think it is easy in the midst of our pain to focus on all that we cannot do. Click To Tweet (And that list is often very long) But it takes a purposeful shift to focus on the things we can do. One of the things my husband and I always wanted to do was adopt. My health issues have made that an impossibility and I spent several years feeling a tremendous amount of shame because of that as if I was somehow failing the orphans of the world by being sick. I’m not sure why it took so long for me to shift to a more productive thinking, but it did. It took time for me to stop thinking about my own pain and my own failing into thinking about what I could do.
And isn’t it powerful what taking our eyes off our own pain can do, even momentarily? For now, what I can do for orphans and adoptive families is be a voice, talk about important issues, help raise funds, etc. I like being on this what I can do side of things in my thinking.
Yes, I still grieve some days. My losses are still losses and should be grieved. But I grieve them in light of all that is still right and good and worthy of celebration. And friends, there is so much on that list.
If today you need to grieve the losses, I grieve alongside you. If today you look around and you find yourself blown away by all that is still right and good and worthy of celebration, I celebrate with you. But let’s not miss this chance to think about all that we can still do, and then do it.
Meeting someone else in their misery and leading them out? It’s powerful stuff friends, and it has a way of making our pain just a little bit less painful and a whole lot more meaningful.
So let’s ask ourselves, what can we still do?