Why I’m Still Grateful When Life Sucks
Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday for those of us who are going through tough times. It’s hard to muster up feelings of appreciation when there doesn’t seem much to be grateful for.
My dad died in May, and a few weeks later my beloved cat Izzy was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease. We lost his brother Ollie to cancer the year before. I was devastated. How much back-to-back loss can one woman take? And yet, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Growing up I had to fend for myself most of the time. This coping strategy got me through a challenging graduate program at Princeton and some pretty gnarly jobs over the years, but it also began to take its toll on my social life. Because I thought I had to do everything myself, I became an island.
After my cat Ollie passed away in 2012, I quit a job I’d never liked and sold my house to simplify my life. When my dad died this summer, I walled myself off from the world. I was heartbroken and lost. I couldn’t let people see me this fragile. I was embarrassed. I thought I had to go it alone until I got my shit back together. That’s what strong people do, right?
I didn’t get to disappear for long, though, because shortly after losing my father my cat Izzy became very sick. I had to start administering subcutaneous fluids to keep him alive. This, my friends, is a two-person job—one to hold him down while the other brave soul inserts the needle—and I am a single woman. Izzy’s needs forced me to ask for help, something I’d hardly ever done in my life. I was used to giving, not taking. I felt very uncomfortable. In fact, I had anxiety attacks about it. But I had no choice. I would do anything for my boy.
At first I hesitatingly called close friends to assist me. I didn’t want to become a burden, so I started contacting other friends I hadn’t seen for a while too. Then I reached out to acquaintances for aid. Soon I found myself putting up a post on Facebook asking friends of friends if they could drop by my house. Although I felt exposed and vulnerable, people were kind and understanding. I was floored by their generosity.
I learned a big lesson. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it’s a sign of strength. I now accept where I am in life, honor my limits, and recognize when I need a helping hand. I don’t try to do everything myself anymore. And my cat Izzy loves all the extra attention. Every cloud has a silver lining, if you choose to see it.
After I lost Ollie, and then my father, it really sunk in: Life is precious. If I’m ever going to follow my dreams, the time to do it is now. As a friend puts it, “Make the ‘Fuck Yes’ decisions. Life is too short for anything else.”
So I’m thankful for the wake up call. Every day brings another opportunity to love, learn, and grow. Izzy’s sweet presence reminds me that even my difficulties are gifts. I’m grateful for the valleys as well as the peaks, because together they make up the landscape of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I hope you have a peaceful and loving Thanksgiving.