A couple of years ago, I signed up for but never completed a reflective writing project called 10Q. The idea is to answer ten questions that prompt me to look back at the year that’s past, look ahead at the year to come, and take stock. This time next year the answers will be sent to me, so I can reflect my reflections. This year I got the notification again, and thought it might be a useful blogging project. So, here’s question number one:
Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
I’ve never been one of those insufferable people who say smugly, irritatingly, that they’ve never had a sick day in their life. As if that is a reward for their innate goodness and general wonderfulness, that it means they are better than us in so many ways (beyond just in health terms). My mother-in-law is one of those people. No, I’ve always come down with colds, and suffered with them. It takes me a week to recover from a cold, my husband on the other hand will sneeze one day, be ill for one day, and he rises again on the third. (It’s those irritating genes he has). But I’ve never really suffered from anything serious. Yes, I’ve had dengue fever, and for the record, it’s no picnic. But I survived and came out of it fitter (as I began going to the gym as part of my recovery). Likewise I’ve had ectopic pregnancies, survived, and come out of those … well … different, wiser, more compassionate. But – aside from the fact I can’t have children as a result – I’ve come out of those just as healthy as when I went in.
But I’m getting older. As the birthday with a zero approaches, my health suddenly comes more into focus. And as you know, in March, I became ill. But I came out of that, healed, and I’m back working out at the gym, determined to be physically fit, if not athletically slim (sigh, that’s not in my future). I’m getting another reminder this week. Another neuralgia attack, so far managed with drugs, but disturbingly soon after the March attack. As a result, I have been left both a little more fearful of my body, a little less confident that I can rely it to do what I want when I want (aside from the whole getting-pregnant-thing). I know that stress can bring on an attack, and so feel now more tentative about opportunities that might be exciting, but stressful. My time feels limited now, and that is scary. Not in mortality terms (though with the big birthday ending in a zero looming, that too), but in terms of a carefree life, of being able to go out and do what I want to do.
But it has also made me a little more grateful too. Grateful for what I have achieved and done and places I’ve been and people I’ve met, and friends and family. Grateful that I can still go out and do some of the things I want to do now, before it’s too late. Grateful that I actually recognise how lucky I have been. How awful to go through life being smug about your health, but not really understanding, or appreciating, what a wonderful gift that is. How awful to go through the motions of life, not being able to stop and enjoy the sign of budding leaves on the acorn tree, or unfurling fronds on the neighbour’s fern, or simply the joy of being able to walk free of pain. And I know I still have it really good, especially if I can push that fear back to a dark corner of my brain. I have friends and family who don’t have it so easy. I feel I owe it to them to appreciate the little things, as well as the big things. To be grateful for what I have.
And what use is gratefulness if I just sit back and pat myself on the back for being lucky? So it has made me feel inspired too. I need to get some things done, things I’ve been talking about for a while, before something happens one day and I can’t. So I’m grateful for feeling some new motivation too.
The Buddhists and their whole mindfulness kick – the washing the dishes to wash the dishes – really have got it right. I need to remember that.