Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, a time of hope, and gratitude I am going to add to everyone's posts this time of year and state what I am thankful for. It is small and simple, but it has made such an impact on me that I just can't contain the amount of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

I have come to notice that I am very ungrateful. I have no problem expressing gratitude and thanks when someone does something for me. But I didn't realize it until just recently that I am very bad at expressing gratitude. For example, when people are depressed it is recommended that they start a grateful journal. I was first recommended this out in the mission field by the LDS Counselor. Now, I tried hard to do the suggestions that the Counselor recommended, and others in South Carolina advised me to do the same. But I never did do that. 

After coming home off the mission my mom proposed we start a gratitude journal as a family and she gave each of us a note book. That night I felt angry. It just brought back memories of the mission and how I had failed out there (this was back when even the slightest reminder of my mission set me off), and I told myself there was no way I was going to find something to be grateful for, when I was desiring nothing except to be back in the SCCM with my name tag on and a companion at my side.

Then after things took a turn for the worst and I began seeing a family therapist who had helped other Lyme patients, he suggested the gratitude journal. I gave in and tried downloading an app, where you record 3 things each day that you are grateful for. I did it one day. The app is still on my phone. But I haven't opened it since.

So then November hits, and people start posting something they are grateful for everyday, and I found myself annoyed. I said, "well that's great that you are grateful for that, go tell Heavenly Father, not the rest of the world because we don't care!" I was annoyed, and frustrated.

 All I have been thinking about is what I was doing last thanksgiving back in South Carolina, and comparing my life then to what it is now. Or I was seeing all these other missionaries that were so blessed to finish their missions, return home, and I was ashamed to even place myself in the category of a returned missionary with them. Because I came home early, and I thought how could I be grateful, when I don't deserve to even be home right now. I guess I still think I could have done something more to stay out. 

Then on Monday, November 24th, I had something happen that changed how I looked at gratitude. And it was perfect timing for Thanksgiving.

I have been having more and more of a hard time with focusing and forgetting then ever before. And Monday night I struggled even more. I was getting CPR certified for work, and the Paramedic guy that was certifying us was telling stories, and doing a great job teaching us. And then he handed us a comprehensive test and I couldn't answer a single question. The questions were nothing. I couldn't comprehend, it was just letters on paper and I would read and read and read and it wasn't processing in my brain. I stared at one question for 5 minutes trying to understand, I started to tear up. I couldn't break down in the middle of being certified, I knew that, but I was on the verge of losing it. I took about 15 extra minutes to complete a 20 question test. I was embarrassed but above all frustrated.

I cried the whole way home, and ran into our library. I pulled a book that I got for my birthday a couple years ago about Area 51, I just opened it up and tried to read. I couldn't get through a paragraph. I threw it back on the shelf and grabbed Harry Potter 7, a book I had read 8 times; once nearly every summer. I lasted about 3 pages before my eyes were wandering off the page and I had lost track of the story and was trying to relocate where I was on the page. In anger and rage I threw that book on the ground and pulled a picture book off the lower shelf. I read half of it and even though I was trying so hard, my mind wandered, the words turned into nothing and all I saw was a jumbled alphabet. I cried angry tears feeling stupid, and upset. I put the book back on the shelf and went to my room to go to bed.

This is how I feel...and now it is gone.
How could a tiny bug the size of a poppy seed carry this deadly disease that would take away one of my favorite past times, and one of my escapes from the world? I was defeated.

As I went to my room I pulled out my phone. And began to read my nightly General Conference talk that I read every night before bed, sometimes I do more searching than reading... Searching for answers, for help, for peace.

I opened my Gospel Library app I came across the talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf called "Grateful in Any Circumstances" from April 2014 conference. As I read the tears fell harder and faster as I realized that I have been so ungrateful of late. I felt guilt and shame for my negativity towards being grateful. And it wasn't until I was halfway done, and had highlighted half of the talk that I realized I was reading, and comprehending! I opened my scriptures next to my bed and looked up scriptures under "Gratitude" in the topical guide. I read my scriptures and that talk for an hour more! And when I found myself losing concentration, or the words started to become just letters, I could close my eyes, take a big breath and focus right back in! I was reading with so much joy and happiness I was giggling to myself like an idiot! It astounded me in that moment that I was being very ungrateful! One thing that stuck out to me so strongly in that talk was this quote:


And he also says: "We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is..." I don't know of my thought process was before all this, something like: I'll be grateful after I'm better, and after my time of serving would have passed, and after I get to move on and go back to school, and after I don't have to feel obligated to go to anymore homecomings of real finishing missionaries, I don't know why I avoided being grateful. Maybe because I felt like I deserved to feel miserable. Maybe I still think that way a little. I really don't know. Maybe I'm just an ungrateful person who also happens to have a chronic illness. Either way it doesn't matter. 

I have come to realize that it only took a couple of really intense moments to basically break me... and it is taking so much more time than a mere moment to get me back to where I was. And this breaking point of recognizing how ungrateful I have been is just a small step to putting my shattered self back together. I now wonder, how many more pieces I have to pick up before I can even start putting the shambles back together?

It is amazing how you truly don't know how good you have it until you lose it. And I may not record in a journal, or express on Facebook one thing I'm grateful for everyday, but I do know I am grateful for something that I have never thought a mere second on until I realized that I had all but lost it. That is why this Thanksgiving I am grateful for my ability to read, even if it is only scriptures and talks, at this point, I will take whatever I can get and be grateful.


-The Lyme Warrior