Thank You.

Thank You

Thank You (Photo credit: mandiberg)

I intended to post this days ago, but there were technical problems and regrettably, I did not know how to fix them. I hope that they are now.

“Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” ~Alice Walker

This is the season of Thanksgiving, and I intended to publish this post before Thanksgiving Day. Obviously, that did not happen. The hustle and bustle of preparing for the day and finally cooking a big meal, overwhelmed me. If it weren’t for my dear Mom, I am not sure what I would have done. Thank you Mom!!

During the holiday season, the words grateful and gratitude are bandied about by scores of us. The  Oxford dictionary defines ‘gratitude’ as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I think that many of us routinely practice the first part of the definition. It is commonplace for us to express gratitude for the many things in our lives by listing them regularly in our journals, notebooks or on our computers. In fact, studies have shown it therapeutic to do so.

Although I’ve always been aware of the things in my life for which I am grateful, it was the book “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” Sarah Ban Breathnach that gave a voice to those blessings that I’d routinely overlooked. The book gave me pause as it caused me to consider the seemingly insignificant little blessings that grace my life. As she noted, “[w]hen we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize that we are very rich indeed.” It was this book that encouraged me to formalize my gratitude practice.

“Practicing gratitude involves being thankful for the little things, seeing all that happens in your life as a “miracle”, and always being aware of the abundance in your life. By redirecting the focus of your thoughts from what you don’t have to what you do have, powerful vibrations are sent out to the universe, increasing the things in your life for which you are thankful.” (Read more here.)

Those things for which we may experience gratitude can range from the feel of our bare foot on a cool floor on a hot day, and a relaxing, hot bubble bath with no time limitations or frantic knocks on the door, when it is cold outside and you are frazzled from the holidays. It could be for the hot water with which you make that first cup of  tea or coffee every morning, the sound of that hot water as it flows into your mug, and even for the certainty of a meal on the table. Gratitudes come in all shapes and sizes, and while we treasure each, usually, there is nothing to do beyond noting it. Some, however, demand more.

The ‘more ‘ that I am speaking of is a simple thank you. That’s right, the words “thank you,” though seemingly innocuous, hold great appreciation, power and promise. The words ‘thank you’ can forgive the worse transgressions, as well as display appreciation for a kindness received. In fact, the words also apply to those things in our lives that are blessings in disguise, but at the time, we are unable to recognize that fact. As we write down the things for which we are grateful, we sometimes overlook the other part of the equation, that is, verbally expressing our gratitude or thanks. Failing to express some act of kindness is akin to being deeply in love and never expressing your feelings to your loved one.

At this time of thanksgiving, I want to verbally express my thanks for some of those things in my heart for which I am most grateful. As an initial matter, I have to say that there is no way that I can possibly express my deepest appreciation for all the people and things who deserve it. If I overlook you in this post, please know that I do not do so in my heart. Please forgive me in advance and know that my heart is filled with the kindnesses that you shower upon me and the gratitude that I feel. In many cases, there are real people to thank, but in some instances, my gratitude is to my God. With that said, I realize that many of us espouse different beliefs. Whether yours is the Source, Universe, Allah, Mother Earth, or others, I urge you to look to those to express the blessings in your heart.

  • Recently, my father died. He abandoned me when I was five and our relationship never overcame that, so we were estranged. Still, I’d like to thank John for being my father. The reality is that without him, I would not exist or be the woman who i am today. I am beginning to accept that perhaps that is all that he was meant to contribute to my life.
  • I thank my beautiful, wonderful Mom who, when left with three, later four children, did not despair. She set about to care for us on her own. She worked two to four jobs at a time to put food on the table, clothes on our backs, and to give us a proper education and the basic necessities.
  • I thank my two sisters. Although we have a complicated relationship, having lost my little brother when in died in 1997, they are even more precious and important to me.
  • I thank God for the gifts of my children and grandchildren who have enriched my life in countless ways. By having three children by 21 years of age, I have to admit that in many ways, we grew up together. Ours was a give and take relationship and I’ve learned many lessons about being a mother and a role model from them. They gave me the opportunity to give them unconditional love and those things that I felt that I lacked as a child. My grandchildren are so precious to me and they offer me incentive to make this world a better place, as well as a do-over for the inevitable mistakes that I made with their parents.
  • I thank my incredible husband of 13 years. When we married, neither of us envisioned the twists and turns that life would bring. Like everyone else, there have been a litany of ups and downs, but through love, determination and mutual respect, we continue to conquer them — together.
  • I thank my dear friends, both old and new. They offer me support, honesty, compassion, a shoulder to cry on and unconditional love. They remind me of who I am, during those times when I forget. There is nothing like picking up the phone and hearing the voice of a friend with whom I haven’t spoken in ages and the conversation picks up as though we’d spoken just yesterday. I also relish the close friendships that I have with my daughters. They are two of my BFF’s, and I thank them for being.
  • I thank all of those special people who routinely practice random acts of goodness and kindness. They bring serendipity and wonder to a world that, at times, is harsh and uncaring. They remind us of the true meaning of selflessness, love and kindness.
  • I thank God for the breeze on a hot summer’s day, the melodic song of wind chimes as wind flows by, the smile from a stranger, the gift of forgiveness, those fleeting moments of perfection when everything is right with the world, the sweet music of a child’s laughter, nature in all its’ wonder and grandeur, a sunrise, a beautiful multi-hued sunset, the company of family and friends, calm in the midst of a storm, unexpected blessings, little miracles, the journey, love, hope, faith, joy, happiness, the strength to overcome the hard times, my life, the darkened nighttime sky with stars that sparkle like the finest diamonds, and so much more.

These are my prayers of gratitude and thank you. What are yours?

Blessings, Lydia

Pain, Pain Go Away

20130409-211753.jpg

At this very moment my thoughts are hazy. Try as I might to fill my mind with positive thoughts, they return, again and again, to the pain coursing through my body. It is burning, searing and throbbing its’ way over my entire body. Like an invisible thief, it comes, demanding my attention — much like an insistent child seeking to be recognized by its’ mother. I am the mother and fibromyalgia is the child, in this case, unwanted and unloved.

Fibromyalgia is an unannounced visitor — one who refuses to leave. Much like childbirth, the pain of fibromyalgia is often indescribable. It is difficult to communicate pain that overwhelms your mind and body to such an extent that you’d do anything, give anything, for a mere five-minute reprieve. Yet, all the prayers, hopes and pleas go unanswered.

For the uninitiated, the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association states that fibromyalgia “produces widespread pain, disturbed sleep, and exhaustion from head to toe. [] Fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons—the soft fibrous tissues of the body. Although the muscles hurt everywhere, they are not the only cause of the pain. Instead, the diffuse, body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain.”

Symptoms vary from one person to another, and in many cases, it can take years for patients to receive a correct diagnosis. Although I can discuss my symptoms ad nauseam, the pain is the most prominent and has had a far greater impact on my life than any other.

When I began my journey with fibro (the shortened version of fibromyalgia), I worked, traveled, gathered with friends, entertained and generally lived my life as normally as possible. I am an attorney, and at the time, I was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas. In that capacity, I defended the state and its’ employees against primarily, claims of civil rights violations. Mine was a busy and active practice, and I loved my job.

Even then, however, pain was a given. I largely controlled it with pain medications and yoga–day in and day out. Everything that I did in my role as a litigation attorney, I managed to do under the weight of fibromyalgia pain. I believed that as long as I was performing my job at my usual high standard, I could continue to do the job that I loved.

As time passed, my pain level grew to the point that I had to take more and more pain medication just to survive from day-to-day. The medications were the only thing that allowed me to do my job. With them, I traveled extensively, met with clients, interviewed witnesses, took depositions, appeared at hearings, and most importantly, managed my case load.

Unfortunately, there came a time when the pain became too great, and the work, that I loved, suffered. The pain consumed my thoughts. I’d lie on my office floor praying for it to end. I’d say to myself, “Take it five minutes at a time,” but before long, I was thinking in one minute increments. Still, the pain overwhelmed me.

I remember the last case that I tried before I resigned. It was a jury trial in a Dallas federal court. Although the specifics of the case are a blur, I clearly remember the pain. In the midst of questioning witnesses or even conferring with the judge, I was gripped with pain. Repeatedly, I lost my train of thought, and frantically worked to get it back. During court recesses, I would lie down on a bench in the back of the courtroom, hoping to allay the pain. Stubbornly, it remained.

I loved being a trial attorney and for 14 years, I was successful at it. I rarely lost a case and I adored my clients. The pain changed all that. My work suffered, and although few people noticed any difference, but i did. Soon, I was forced to admit the cold hard truth. I could not deny it any longer. I was unable to adequately do my job and this was unacceptable to me. After conferring with my doctors, I took a leave of absence. The plan was that we’d use the time to regain control over the pain. I never returned, and haven’t practiced since.

And, so it goes, the pain remains. The intensity ebbs and flows, but it is never far away. Sometimes, it is a faint whisper that lulls me into thinking that I am once again in control. All too often, however, it is a roaring tsunami, pulling me under, and overtaking everything in its’ path. It is during those times that all I can do is hold on, resting in the knowledge that like everything else, this too shall pass.