Struggling With Comparisons

I have always struggled with comparisons.

Am I as smart as person X? What about the house I live in, is it okay? What about the life I have, the job I have? On and on and on.
Not a charming habit at all. I could blame a childhood living on the wrong side of the tracks (literally) or anything else I can think of. But, in fact, it is long past time that I learn to be grateful. Just that. And, I think I am learning, at least some rudiments of it.
Today I go for a PET scan and tomorrow I consult a specialist in liver ailments for the side effects of chemo treatment, not so fun. And I am not at all a sunshiny person. Well, I like humor, sort of semi dark humor, but that’s not sunshiny. Anyway, what can I think of? Well, I can be glad that the cancer seems to be tamped down, my oncolosit’s words. So, the PET scan should I hope, I hope, provide no negative surprises. Also, I am constantly amazed at the hopes of women on the advanced breast cancer sites. They are not whiners!

But I still come back to this, what I am really grateful for, not just what am I supposed to be grateful for?

Hmmm. I feel profound gratitude for my family, for Ken, for the children and their families, for my extended family. I threaten to go off to a Buddhist nunnery and their days I do feel that, but I am so grateful for the love. All that love that I did nothing to deserve. People can’t deserve the love they receive anymore than they deserve the grief they receive. We like to think so. We like to think that fair is fair, justice is rewarded. Well, it can seem like that, but truthfully I think it’s way more complicated. Karma is complex and who am I to say, “I deserve that these people should love me, after all, I took them to Zingerman’s?”
I am grateful for friends, friends who call, who come to visit, who send cards, who just extend themselves. I am grateful for neighborhood. I actually know people in my neighborhood and I am certain they would help me if needed.
But it gets so complicated. Today’s New York Times (support your papers!) has a photo of a young fifteen year old girl being led to marry a man more than twice her age. Her face is one of grief and fatalism. So, stay with me on this. What does it mean? Am I grateful that did not happen to me? That it won’t happen to my grandchildren? Of course. Of course. But such gratitude leaves me feeling squeamish. Like I am setting myself apart. Maybe gratitude is something that we are supposed to do something with? That makes sense to me. We can’t hoard it. We have to do something with it. What that is, is individual.
OK. So I will try to be grateful for the PET scan and the specialist. Even though I am still a person who would eat roots if that would help rather than go into a machine and stay there for a half hour.
I will practice gratitude for the moment, for friends, for the finches at the feeder, for Netflix, Facetime, the movies (Hidden Figures, Lion, United Kingdom, Fences…)
I am pretty certain I will forget and obsess again. Will I be around awhile? That’s the question, and just having that question (normal, I know) obliterates the moments in time that I do have.

Weeks Later: It’s been a looong eight to ten weeks.

The liver enzymes went up and we decided to watch and see. It became unnerving. I still don’t know the full story until Tuesday, but this past Tuesday, I began yet another treatment. I AM grateful for another treatment and it’s not going badly. Some extra fatigue, a fussiness about what I eat, but hey, what’s really to not be grateful for? On the worst of the days of the long wait, I had a bone scan, a Cat Scan, blood draws then had to go back to get another scan for the bones. (The radiologist was being super careful, so blessings on that radiologist!) But that day I found myself saying, “This isn’t living.” Not a remark to make Ken feel any better. That was the worst day.
But then there was the day we had our youngest son’s wife’s baby girl shower at the TEA HAUS on Fourth street in Ann Arbor. It was completely wonderful. Family came from all over. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania. At the end of the party, big brother Sean burst in on the scene and I was struck with what I do have in life, awash in gratitude. So, here’s to family and caregivers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, and the stranger on the street who calls out, “I think you dropped your glove.” I am, at least for this time, grateful for all of you.
PS Liver markers better. So that’s easy to be grateful for! Also check out the children and their children. Another easy-to-be-grateful gift!

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