That’s how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend. No running around getting groceries for a big feast, no picking up my race packet for the annual turkey trot, no cooking, no seeing friends and family, no shopping, no breaking bread with those I love. None of it this year. It sounds strange, sad, maybe even a little self indulgent as if I woke up and decided to just not participate in those traditions this year. I didn’t have a choice, it was what I had to do. I was alone and my companion was a big bowl of gratitude.
I was alone for 5 days; by that I mean that I literally couldn’t be within 3 feet of another person or furry friend. No hugging, no canoodling, nothing. My husband was in the house with me at times but had to stay in another room so we texted and talked on the phone even though he was literally in the other room. We laughed and tried to make jokes but truth be told, it was strange, a very very strange holiday weekend.
This is a side effect of receiving an iodine radiation treatment for thyroid cancer. My PT scan showed some lingering cancerous cells so iodine radiation is how it’s treated and once administered, I had to adhere to a strict quarantine protocol for 1 week and now some milder restrictions for 1 month.
I was visiting with one of my dearest long time friends recently and she was talking about the concept of being alone vs. lonely. She had just come back from a business trip to Europe and for the first time, went a day early to explore the city and all it had to offer. She described how she was anxious about it at first but realized that she just happen to be traveling for business, so why not take in the sites? By no means, however, did the fact that she was traveling abroad alone mean that she was lonely. There is a big difference.
Lonely leaves you feeling like there’s no one else in the world who would want to be by your side and being alone is simply what you are doing at the moment. Lonely is a sad feeling you have when you crave companionship because you don’t have it in your life yet being alone is simply a temporary to way describe your surroundings at a given moment.
I thought of my little furry friend and if he had been home with me during this time. He would have been sitting outside my bedroom door with his little wet nose pressed up against my door and I would see a little white paw peaking under the door. I pictured it often and it made me smile and miss him even more. Then my thoughts went tp my kids and realized that they would be doing the exact same thing in their own little way; “Mom, Mom, Mommy…” … Then I let the list get longer and longer in my head… the list of all the wonderful people in my life who were “standing outside my door” waiting for me to be able to come out and play again.
I’m not lonely….not by a long shot. I had to endure a “forced time out,” but lonely is not how I would ever describe how I feel about my life. This was just my temporary description of my surroundings and with it comes a boat load of gratitude. I give thanks this holiday season for so many reasons. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to have iodine radiation therapy to kill off my remaining cancer cells. I got to leave the hospital after my treatment and go to the comfort of my home when there are so many people who are suffering and spending the holiday in the hospital. As I was receiving my treatment on the day before Thanksgiving, my thoughts went to a past neighbor who I had just learned had passed away and her funeral was going on at the very moment I was receiving my treatment. That hit me hard. I didn’t know her well, I just knew that she was close to my age, with a family, children and she didn’t have a curable type of cancer like I do. I was in that PT scan machine under a blanket for 2 hours feeling more grateful than I ever had in my entire life.
I came across this passage regarding gratitude from the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert and it’s as if she was speaking directly to me: “Gratitude is my comfort and my shelter and my ever-loyal companion. If I can remember to carry my gratitude with me everywhere I go, then I am ALWAYS at home. With gratitude in my heart, I am never in the wrong place, never with the wrong people, never disoriented, jacked-up, or confused. With gratitude, nothing is ever missing. With gratitude, everything stays cool and everything is always perfect — even when it might appear not to be. Without gratitude, nothing is EVER gonna be quite good enough. No place will ever be the right place, nothing will ever happen at the right time, no reward is ever enough, all the people around you are always the wrong people, the room is always too hot or too cold, somebody else is always having a better time than you, somebody else always has a better car than you, or a better job, or a better marriage, or better hair, or a better destiny in general..and life is basically THE SUCK.”
I could have had a lot to pout about these past 5 days and the past 3 months, but I just don’t feel that way. I’ve walked into the hospital each time with a feeling of peace and hope and so damn happy to be there and I just couldn’t put my finger on WHY I’ve felt this way. Until now.
So while the definition of gratitude IS the act of giving thanks, it may sound strange but I give thanks TO gratitude for locking elbows with me on this journey because it’s the one word answer to the question I get asked the most “How have you stayed so strong and positive?” This is it, right here.