In what is probably the most uncertain time in our generation, it is sometimes very difficult to stop and think about what we are grateful for in our lives. Whether you are dealing with a health crisis, a financial crisis, or just general anxiety over the state of affairs that we are facing right now, feeling grateful is sometimes at the bottom of the list. For your own well-being, however, it should be at the top of your list. Now you could say “you don’t know how bad it’s been these last four months”, but I would venture to guess that someone out there has had it worse than you have. The key to finding joy during these difficult times is gratitude.
One of the more pleasant symptoms of Parkinson’s is chronic insomnia, so despite the handful of drugs I take at night to get me to sleep, I usually get to sleep around midnight and am up by 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I used to sit there feeling sorry for myself and asking God “why me”. About eight weeks ago I decided that a paradigm shift was in order and instead of focusing on the things that I have lost, I would focus on what I had. It has been one of the best mental exercises I have ever ventured to take.
For those of you that don’t know my story, I will share a bit of what I have been through. Over the last thirty years I have had eighteen surgeries; twelve of those over the last eight years. I have been diagnosed with Type 1.5 Diabetes and have to wear an insulin pump, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease, May-Thurner Syndrome and Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Just two weeks ago I was in the hospital for eight days with staph pneumonia and staph in my bloodstream. Two years ago, I had to go on disability because I was in so much pain I was unable to work anymore. I probably spend an average of $20,000 a year on medical expenses. That’s just a cursory overview. I could write pages on everything that I have to deal with on a daily basis but that is for a different day.
You might say I have every right to be bitter, but I am not. I decided that I was going to be grateful for what I did have. We are given so much in this life that we take for granted and one of the best things we can do for ourselves, mentally and emotionally, is to have a heart of gratitude. Now, every morning, I contemplate on the blessings I have in my life; my family, my friends, my life. You might even try and find the little things in life that you can be grateful for like the companionship of a pet, a hot cup of coffee in the morning, a beautiful blue sky. When you really look for things, even the small things, you can find things to be grateful for. You might think you have nothing to be grateful for but if you really put some thought into it, you will find that you do. Contemplate on those things instead of the negative things and before long, you will have a new outlook on life. It will be one of the best things that you will ever do.
Whether you believe in a personal God or not, and I do, I believe going through the difficult times in life builds character. I have a friend of mine that was just diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her tumor is inoperable so chemotherapy seems to be the only course of treatment. Now you might ask how could someone like that be grateful but her faith and attitude are inspiring. I watched my dad die due to complications of Parkinson’s so I know the miserable fate that awaits me. What gets me from one day to the next is my faith in God and an attitude of gratefulness of the blessings that I have. If this is something that you have never done, trust me, it will change your perspective on life even during these trying times.