Sometimes I’m just so grateful to be alive. Since I was a kid, I’ve had those moments where I just think I’m so glad to be here. I’m so glad I am here in this world where I might be able to make a difference. I grow so overwhelmingly thankful that I can see, and hear, and walk, and talk—all those abilities that most people take for granted.
Most people give thanks for emotional blessings—friends, family, etc. Or financial aspects—a good job, a house. And while I’m definitely grateful for those, I start with the very basic: I’m alive. I don’t know why I think like that, but I always have. Because I’m alive, I can make a difference in this world. I can support a great cause or raise awareness or help some person I happen to meet. I can listen and be a friend and offer advice.
Not only am I alive, but I can walk. From the start, I’ve had an interesting relationship with walking. I didn’t walk until I was 18 months old; in fact, I never crawled—I only scooted, but I was quite good at scooting. (That’s my credo—get good at what you can do. And ignore what you can’t.) When I was 19, I developed severe pain that spread across my back and down my leg. I was misdiagnosed several times and dealt with the pain for about 6 months before I was sent to get an MRI. For a claustrophobic person, an MRI is pretty close to torture. But I closed my eyes and prayed my way through the washing machine-style clanging and banging. (Have you ever tried to be completely still for 45 minutes? It’s a lot harder than you think! Especially when your ears are telling you you’re on the spin cycle.)
In any case, the docs discovered that I had two bulging discs. I named the whole disc mess Julio. (Can you blame me? It needed to have a name so I could alternate between yelling at it and coaxing it to behave.) I was referred to a neurosurgeon. At 19, I faced the possibility of back surgery. Talk about a situation that will change your perspective!
At the time, synthetic discs were only approved to replace one disc and since I had two screwy discs, the doc didn’t think surgery would be an option for me. So he recommended physical therapy. It’s funny to think that having two messed up discs instead of one may have spared me from surgery. But hey, I’ve been thankful for weirder things!
To wrap up this long story, I spent a summer going to physical therapy 1-2 times a week, doing exercises on the rather gross carpet of my room at the retreat center where I worked. Over time, the pain lessened and retreated up my leg; and at the end of the summer, when I was 20, I was formally discharged, pain free.
Now, six years later, I’m still free of that intense pain. Sure, some days I’m a little sore, but it’s nothing compared to what it was. I still do exercises to keep my back strong and I have to maintain a healthy weight, but my back is now relatively normal. I cannot explain how grateful I am for that, how thankful I am to be able to get up in the morning (or afternoon—what can I say, I stay up late) without gasping in pain. To most people in the world, walking and living without chronic pain aren’t even acknowledged as something to be thankful for.
I’m not one of those people.
I’m alive. And I can walk. And talk. And write. And I’m beyond grateful for all of it.
What is it that speaks to your soul and overwhelms you with gratitude?