Choosing Gratitude

maple leaves

Dear Readers,

My Facebook newsfeed is full of Thanksgiving and gratitude posts and quotes—for which I am thankful. It’s a nice change to see positive messages. It has buoyed my spirits and reaffirmed my own desire to practice gratitude on a daily basis.

A confession? Even though I have so, so much to be grateful for, gratitude is not always an easy attitude for me to maintain. It takes energy. Persistence. And, for those of us that have been life-long pessimists (or are just plain exhausted), it requires a deliberate change in thinking. In short, gratitude requires work.

Why am I writing this? Because as important as gratitude is, I also think it’s equally important to admit that we’re all human. We’re not perfect. Sometimes, we have bad days, and get upset by anything and everything that doesn’t go our way. It’s in these moments that we have a choice to make: to allow ourselves to be overtaken by negativity or to refocus—and recommit—to a life of gratitude.

For me, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to look on the bright side. Seth will be cooking our Thanksgiving Day meal—which means it’s going to taste amazing (for those of you who don’t know, he’s a gifted cook). I expect to have a full belly and delicious left-overs for days. We’ll also decorate for Christmas; a holiday that never fails to fill me with hope and light.

It’s easier to be grateful with good food and the love of your life nearby.

So, the next time I struggle with gratitude, I’ll replay the sights and the smells of the holiday season in my mind. I’ll remind myself to cling to good memories instead of worrying about the uncertainty of the future (which is often what impinges my ability to be grateful).

I would like to thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me through the rollercoaster ride that has been 2017. Your support has meant everything to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,
Laura

Advertisements

Gratitude & Homesickness Hold Hands

 

I slept through most of Blizzard Stella. As the storm’s fluffy snowflakes began to drift earthward, I let the pre-medications and chemotherapy take me away. I burrowed underneath my hospital blankets while my significant other stretched out in the recliner beside my bed. I closed my eyes, falling asleep to the sound of his breathing.

I’ve missed the sound of him sleeping.

Maybe that’s a strange thing to say or to miss…but I do. I miss the comfort of each inhalation and exhalation. I miss walking into our apartment living room, to find him sprawled out on the couch, mouth wide open, reddish hair sticking up in every possible direction.

I am homesick this morning, Dear Readers—for all of the little things that make our life beautiful. I miss the sound of Wallace the Wonderful and Alderaan charging through the living room on the way to their food dishes. I miss the squeal of the tea kettle and the giant mug in the cupboard that reads, “I Freaking Love You”. I miss the scent of our laundry detergent. I miss the taste of chocolate chia pudding (with a dash of cayenne and cinnamon in it).

I miss my clothes.

I miss feeling comfortable in my own my body—the body that didn’t have a 24/7 accessed chest port or an off-centered unicorn horn sticking out of her head.

I miss my life.

Most days, I try not to think about home. I try not to think about the future at all. Yet, here I am, pinning for the comfort of a thick sweater and the orange glow of the Himalayan Salt Lamp in our bedroom. I find myself wondering if my immune system will allow us to fill our screened-in porch with flowers again or if I’ll even be able to sit outside in the sun, sans mask, to write.

It’s the little things that make a life wonderful…and it’s all the little things that I am missing today.

If I am being honest, Dear Readers, I know why this is happening. We received good news yesterday—the tumor is shrinking! Treatment is working! My oncologist is reaching back out to his colleagues in Boston (where I will eventually be transferred) and additional plans for my ongoing treatment will be made. And, while I am beyond relieved and grateful for these positive developments, it makes my status as a hospital inpatient a bit more difficult to bear. It makes the clock’s hands tick louder. It makes each infusion and injection feel a bit more important…because I want each subsequent treatment to work just as well as the preceding ones. I feel as though there is pressure building, an impatience for this cancer to be gone, because I want to be home. I want to be healthy. I want this chapter of my life to finally close and be behind me once and for all.

I don’t mean to sound like an ingrate. I know that this is the privilege of good medicine and responsive genes allowing me the luxury of homesickness. I know, that even in this sadness and discomfort, that I am profoundly blessed.

And, maybe that’s the lesson of this day: that gratitude and homesickness can hold hands. That having something to be grateful for, having hopes and dreams for the future wouldn’t be as sweet if not tempered by the prospect of loss. That, even amid our uglier emotions, there is an opportunity to cultivate still more gratitude and grace.

I hope this week has been kind to you, Dear Readers. I hope, that if you find yourself in a situation of mixed emotions, that you give yourself permission to feel or at least acknowledge the existence of both. Because we’re human, because we’re beautifully complex, because our emotions are a part of our experience here.

As always, thank you for your continued prayers, warm wishes and good thoughts. They are working! I can’t do this without you.

With So Much Love to You, Laura

Prescription for Gratitude

february-flowers-2-1635

A sleepy hush seemed to fall over the apartment as I sat down to write this post. The tea in my cup was warm, soothing. Both of my fur babies were curled up together on the end of the couch. Another weekend had come to a close and although I was tired, although I was still in a tremendous amount of pain, I couldn’t help but feel grateful.

Grateful for a weekend spent celebrating birthdays with loved ones.

Grateful for the sights and sounds of beautiful Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Grateful that I have this life at all.

This kind of gratitude—in the face of physical pain—is not something that comes easily to me. I struggle with it, every hour of every day, but it’s something that I feel compelled to write about. To share. To maybe shore up my resolve in the pursuit of it.

I couldn’t tell you when or why I first made the decision to actively cultivate gratitude. Its roots have been forgotten, as lost as that first gratitude journal, but the practice itself has survived. Every night before I turn out the bedside lamp, I write down three things that I am grateful for. The things I list could be the names of family members or friends. Other days, I might record happy events that occurred during the day. Some days, I write down what I eat because, some days, that’s all I can find to be grateful for.

The magic of a gratitude journal is not what you write down, but that you write something down at all. Sometimes it’s the really, really minute things that soften your heart and help you realize just how fortunate you are.

With this in mind—and the fact that constant physical pain is accompanied by the temptation to be a Negative Nelly—I decided to turn my mind even more toward gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal at night has, on many occasions, shifted my perspective.

So what would happen, I wondered, if I started my day by listing three things that I’m grateful for?

Or, if I paused in the middle of the day to recall three additional blessings, would that have an effect on me?

And, if I faithfully turned to my gratitude journal each night to record three more things, would I finally be able to both see and believe that my blessings outweigh the pain in my back and my legs?

The experiment is young still, Dear Readers, but I am finding that that this self-prescribed regimen of gratitude three times a day has given me something to smile about. It’s something I look forward to. And, it reminds me, that even amid physical discomfort, there is always something to be grateful for.

With Love

bw-outdoor-christmas-lights-2015

Dear Readers,

I decided that, this week, I would take a break from my usual blog posts. Why? Because I would like to share these words with you: thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to read my work.

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

Thank you for being you.

In many ways, this adventure is still at its beginning, and while there is much work to be done, I have the best of companions to travel with—each of you. Please know that your comments and your “Likes” are always noticed, always appreciated. You give me the courage to keep moving forward. On this journey, you are a compass and, yes, I would be lost without your continued support and readership.

May the week ahead be kind to you. May it be filled with love and laughter. And, may we meet here, at Of Pieridae & Perras, again next week.

With Love,

Laura

The Wallflower Co-Hosts a Dinner Party

wallflower-post-1203

The clock on my laptop tells me that it’s six-thirty-six in the morning. The world outside the apartment windows is still cloaked in darkness, still relatively sleepy and quiet. Inside, too, the night lingers. The living room, in fact, is illuminated only by the light of my computer screen and the glow of our miniature Christmas tree. There’s a steaming cup of coffee beside me and the knowledge that some thirty minutes away, my mother is doing the same thing—drinking coffee and memorizing the patterns of light and shadow that the Christmas tree casts on all of the walls.

This, for me, is the magic of the holidays: quiet moments when life is suddenly more than a busy work schedule and a multitude of adult responsibilities. It’s the first snowflake falling to the ground. It’s a cup of hot cocoa at the end of a long day. It’s a candle flickering in a frosty window.

I was more than a little surprised, then, when I experienced that same sense of magic not in a moment of stillness, but in a moment of laughter among good friends and family.

For the last 29 years, I have been a wallflower. Invitations—to weddings, birthdays, house parties—usually cause me a great deal of anxiety. What will I wear? Will I know anyone there? Am I going to have to talk? When asked to socialize, I usually claim the seat farthest from the action. I prefer listening to others’ stories instead of telling my own. I enjoy soaking in the light of my family’s smiles and the melody of my friends’ laughter.

So what happens when a wallflower co-hosts a dinner party?

Well, there was anxiety involved. Who would I invite? Would anyone even want to come? And, what about all of those family members and friends that I couldn’t invite due to space limitations? How would they feel?

There was also a tremendous amount of cleaning involved. Not-so fun fact: writers are not great housekeepers unless there is a deadline looming.

Yet, despite all the worries and work, when the doorbell rang announcing the arrival of the first guest, there was magic. I felt it glowing in the porch lights, caught in the planters filled with freshly cut evergreen boughs. I could taste it in the delicious food that my partner was serving. I could hear it in the conversation and the laughter warming our apartment. By the end of the evening, my eyes stung with gratitude for the small group surrounding me, for the bright memory we were making, and for the opportunity to step into a role that I could have never had without any of them.

Can I tell you a secret, Dear Reader?

Occasionally, wallflowers dream about having the courage to host a party. They imagine decorating their space. They imagine welcoming friends and family into their homes, taking their coats, and making sure that their guests are well-supplied with food and drink. They imagine having a day, an evening, when not everything they say is a potential mistake. Wallflowers, sometimes, dream of participating, of being fully present and not just an indistinct figure in the background of a faded photograph.

This, then, is the magic and the gift of a dinner party: it coaxes the wallflower to bloom, at least temporarily, and only in the presence of those she holds dear.

Heart-Openers

heart-opener-post-1748

As much as I love yoga, I often find myself avoiding it. I tell myself that I don’t have the time to unroll my mat, to transition through sun salutations, or to find balance in what I consider to be more challenging asanas. I do the same thing whenever I think about writing fiction, except the excuses are a bit craftier (i.e. “I write my best material in the morning and its now 11:59 a.m.”, or, “Oh no, I think I have Writer’s Block”).

Why would I avoid the things I love?

The answer, if I am being truthful, is that in addition to being hard work, both yoga and writing force you to look inward. Yes, the outcomes are, to some extent, measurable—increased flexibility, a fledgling manuscript—but at the center of both practices is a challenge to sit with your own heart, listening to its sorrows, its joys.

And that—the ability to listen—is where all the magic is.

When I unrolled my yoga mat recently—for the first time in what feels like weeks—Wallace the Wonderful woke up from his cat-nap. He rubbed against my legs while I stood in Mountain Pose. He darted underneath me as I tried to hold Plank. His joy for the mat, for the practice, was contagious. Even as I lifted up into Wheel—a pose commonly known in the yoga community as a “heart-opener”—and all of my back muscles resisted the stretch, I knew something had shifted, something was about to change.

A week later, when I inexplicably began editing my novel (again) for the first time in over a year, Wallace had a similar reaction. He followed the L-shape of the couch until he was at my side. Once there, he curled up in a ball, purring happily. The seams of my heart began to pull.

When I read all of your comments following last week’s blog post—I didn’t need Wallace to translate what I was feeling. I knew, all on my own, that my heart was done for, bursting open with gratitude, with love.

The beautiful things in this life—the things that we are called to do, the bonds we form with others—crack open our hearts. Of course, yoga/writing/relationships/whatever it is that inspires you—involve hard work. Of course, it hurts at times. And, of course, it is 100% worth it.

This Thanksgiving holiday—perhaps more so than any other Thanksgiving I have ever experienced—I find myself grateful. I am grateful for the hands that help, that are constantly and consistently trying to make this world a better place. I am grateful for the voices of reason and of kindness that refuse to be silenced by the cacophony of anger and hate. And, I am grateful for the love that each of you shows me every Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers.