January Gratitude

In the spirit of keeping some positivity in what could otherwise be a fairly gloomy blog, this year I want to commit to finishing each month with a post on things I am grateful for that month. I’m going to push myself to list ten things per month and to look for the silver lining even in the bad things.

Not every bad thing will have a silver lining, and some months will have far more good than bad, but I like being happy and I am trying to wire my brain to go to a happy place more than a sad place.

Before I begin, I want to note that I do not want the fact that I or other chronically ill bloggers do this as a stick to bludgeon those who don’t. Depression and anxiety can’t be cured simply by “choosing happiness,” and the realities of chronic illness are that happiness can be hard to find. It is not the duty of the ill to be positive.

This sickly sausage, however, is going to try. Without further ado, this is what I’m grateful for in January:

1) Three weeks of holiday

As readers will know, last year I made a very quick and terrifying decision to leave my old job and go into a different role. Between leaving the old and starting the new, I had about three weeks without work. This let me relax properly, let go of the tension that I had built up during the year, get on top of some outstanding domestic tasks, and really focus on my health. I was able to use the time to run, swim, sleep, play computer games, take mornings slowly. I was able to build some good habits around fitness, getting 5,000 steps a day and doing some form of exercise daily, even just walking the dog (who was delighted to have me home).

2) Beach time

After not having gone to the beach in ages, in January I got to go twice. I love being at the sea, swimming, diving, smelling the salt air and hunting for tiny fish to watch. My husband reintroduced me to boogie boarding, which I hadn’t done since I was a little girl. I’d forgotten how fun it is!

Image description: a man holding a lead with a corgi jumping on the end. They are at the beach, in the surf. This is my little corgi Pearl finding out that waves are wet and splashy, and bigger than her.

We also discovered that our dog hates the ocean, possibly because she is so stumpy.

3) My new job

Nice as my break was, paid employment is a privilege. Even more important than my income, however, is that my new job is interesting and challenging – I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m actually really enjoying it. Equally important is that my colleagues are truly lovely. I do miss my old work besties, but we still chat regularly on facebook and in the meantime, I’m building relationships with (mostly) women I already admire and respect.

4) My catio

One of my Christmas presents from my parents was some money to put towards an outdoor enclosure for my beautiful, noisy, pest of a cat. This 1.8m enclosure lets him feel the wind in his whiskers whilst staying safe from the various perils of cars, dogs, and other cats. It also stops him from terrorising the local wildlife. His favourite outdoor activity is eating the grass.

Image description: a ginger cat looking at the camera. He is lying on the top platform of a grey, multi-tiered cat tower. He is inside a large cage made of netting covered in a green shade cloth. There is a litter tray, a kennel and a pink chair in the cage, which is placed in the corner of two brick walls and floored half in grass, half in pebble-dash path. This is Max enjoying his outdoor time while I do some garden chores so we can hang our together outside.

I think its super cool and I can’t wait to deck it out with more stuff for him.

5) Thunderstorms

My dog may be scared of storms, but I love them. I love watching the horizon glow with sheet lightning, or see bolts flash and crackle across the sky. Summer thunderstorms here are brief but generally very impressive.

6) New Pathways

Some news that I haven’t yet shared on this blog is that I was recently given a tentative additional diagnosis of adenomyosis. I’ll blog more later on what that is and how it affects the sufferer, but for now I am focussing on this: my ongoing post-surgery pain has a possible explanation, and therefore a possible treatment pathway. I’m not just a weirdo and my surgery wasn’t a waste of money.

7) My parents’ lovely Czech neighbour

He gave them a whole bunch of plums from his garden, which is an act of sweet neighbourliness that I just love, and I profited because my parents passed some on to me.

8) My new diaries

I’ve talked previously about my cool new diary set from Leaders in Heels. I’ve really loved how they’ve worked for me throughout January to keep me motivated and organised, whilst still giving me space to doodle and journal.

Image description: four books in a stack; a black one with white writing, a pink one, a lilac one and a dark navy one. A ginger cat is lying behind them and his tail is flopped over them. The books and cat are on a blue checked bedspread with a red wall in the background. Max keeping me company on a flare day and looking after my diaries for me.

9) Fun hair

I bought a bunch of wigs recently. Some were purchased last year during my horrible experience with tramadol. Some were purchased in January when I realised I love wigs.

Image description: a head-and-shoulders shot of a twenty-something white woman against a cream wall. She has long grey hair in a half-up style and sparkly blue lipstick. She is wearing a blue cold-shoulder dress with white nautical symbols on it. I love this grey wig from Wig Is Fashion. My real hair will never be this long, and I’ve always loved the way grey hair looks but didn’t want to bleach my hair or commit to dying it. This wig finally let me have it and I feel like a witchy mermaid. It’s great.

It’s too hot at the moment to take advantage of them, but this year I’ll be able to change my hair up easily and without having to commit to a different style or colour. Exciting stuff.

10) How privileged this list is

The fact that I can celebrate these small, trivial things like wigs and plums is because I was born into and continue to live a white, middle-class life in a developed nation. When I turn a tap, I take it for granted that I will immediately see clean water. When I open the pantry, it might not have as much chocolate as I’d like, but it will certainly have food (usually 16 million tins of diced tomatoes, for reasons I don’t fully understand). I am highly educated, I have a stable job, and I am not persecuted for my gender, religion or anything else. My government may change PM more often than I change jackets, but we are unlikely to see coups or major bouts of civil unrest. I am safe.

What are you grateful for this month? Do you keep a gratitude diary or something similar?

A Day of Gratitude

It’s the first day of spring!  My mood has been slowly creeping towards the positive with the fresh smell in the air and the gradual increase in temperature, and now spring is finally here!  I’m celebrating it by making resolutions I probably won’t keep, but also by following on from last month and starting September in a positive way, with a gratitude post!  I want to kick this month off with a list of ten things that I am grateful for.  I challenge you to do the same thing, whether in your diary, here in the comments or on your own blog or facebook page.

Without any further ado, today I am grateful for:

1) Spring!

Yes, I know I kind of said this already, but I love spring.  It fills me with hope and a yearning to be outdoors.  In my mind it’s all flowers and lazy bees and warm days that aren’t too hot yet.

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Look at these happy little bees buzzing around in my rosemary.  

2) Work

I may not get there every day and it can be stressful as all heck, but I adore my colleagues and the work I do can be really fulfilling.  It can also be silly and trivial and you wonder why some people think that they need a lawyer to sort it out, but the feeling when a terrified women walks out of court with a piece of legal protection she didn’t have before, or a confused man who had no understanding of what he could do suddenly has a clear pathway to follow, and you gave it to them?  That’s pretty good.  It’s those moments that really make it for me, when people are staring at this confusing, tangled legal pathway and you can just go, “Here’s what you do,” and they suddenly have a clear path to follow.

3) Dr Edi-Osagi

I mentioned last week that I had an appointment with the good doctor via Skype.  More recently I received his reporting letter about the appointment, and I nearly cried.  He included every detail I told him about my pain, laid out a clear treatment plan, and noted that my quality of life is low.  I’ve never had a doctor do that for me before in such detail, or draw such a conclusion.  I didn’t even tell him I thought I had a low quality of life; he examined what I told him and drew that conclusion for himself.  It was the most validating experience and I have never felt so listened to or supported by a medical professional before, even if it turns out down the track that he won’t be able to assist me.

4) My animals

They are such a constant source of joy for me.  Every morning when Pearl comes out of her bedroom (the laundry) she does a little butt-wiggling stretch and then shoves her head into my chest for a cuddle.  When we get home from work, she dances around us with her silly little corgi paws all over the place, doing that thing dogs do where they really want cuddles but are too excited to stand still for them.

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Basking in the sunshine. 10/10 good dog.

Every day Max jumps up on the sofa to sit with me or on me and looks at me with that perfect ginger face, and purrs like a little steam train.  Each morning when I get up he throws himself dramatically down at my feet and rolls around on his back for tummy scratches.  He’s impossibly cute and I love him.

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As a lawyer, can confirm: it would be illegal not to kiss that little face.

5) My mum

Pretty much as soon as she got back from her overseas trip she was right back into the swing of supporting and helping me in every way she could.  From walking me and the dog to bringing me my microwave (which had been living with her) and just straight up emotional support, she is pretty much the bestest.

6) My husband

He works so hard and still finds the emotional energy to support and help me and the physical energy to walk the dog, do the bulk of the housework and keep fit and healthy.  He’s superman.  I don’t know how he does it.  He also makes the most amazing meals.

7) Small luxuries

This morning I had fresh berries on my cereal.  Tomorrow night I’m going to have a long relaxing bath with a face mask.  Yesterday I burnt my coconut Dusk candle and basked in its tropical smell as I made a really cool calendar page for September in my bullet journal.  This morning my dress has this little bit of tulle just at the base of the skirt and it feels so fancy.

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My fancy dress (Review’s Alouette Dress) as modelled on the Iconic by this stunning lady

8) Snails having baths

Just google it.  It’s adorable.  It made my heart sing this morning.

9) The Llandor Trilogy

My sister and I read this series of books about fifteen years ago, but over time we forgot what they were called.  We couldn’t even really remember the plot, just random elements; a boy and a girl get sucked into a fantasy world.  The girl wants to be a hairdresser.  The boy wants to work in IT.  They had adventures including a banshee in an underground cave, rock giants, and a black mage that the girl accidentally killed by shoving him off a cliff, except maybe he didn’t die because he could turn into some sort of bird of prey (but we couldn’t remember what).  We tried every google combination we could think of over many years, asked facebook friends, tried Yahoo Answers, and eventually, exactly one year ago today, we finally hit on the right google combination and discovered that the books were the Llandor Trilogy (and that there were actually three children, not two).  It was quite possibly the single most cathartic experience of my entire life.

I’m going to celebrate by reading the series again, starting today.

10) This blog and you, my lovely readers

I never actually thought anyone would read this blog.  I thought I’d write for a while with maybe 2 followers, then get bored and stop.  Instead, 2 months after starting it I have 41 followers.  It may not be many in the grand scheme of internet pages, but I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of you and you are the reason I will continue writing.  It tells me that there are people who are interested in endometriosis and that it is worth writing about.  So thank you, my wonderful people.  I hereby commit to a giveaway of some sort when we reach 100.  I’m working on ideas (but feel free to drop some more in the comments).

 

So what are you grateful for today?  What little things have made your heart sing?  Are you excited for September?

 

Staying Grateful

There’s a lot not to love about endometriosis.  It alters our moods, our bodies, our pain levels, our love lives, our work and our ability to have children, and generally not for the better.  I tried starting this month out with a post on the few positives I have managed to drag out of this experience, but today I want to talk more about how to maintain a mindset of gratitude in general.

It’s a funny thing, gratitude.  I often say and think that you don’t owe people gratitude for doing the bare minimum of decency, such as when men get applauded for “babysitting” their own children.  However, I do think that gratitude is healthy, and taking time to be grateful for small things is good for the soul.  It has a whole range of positive benefits on the psyche, from making us happier and more likeable to making us physically healthier due to the reduced stress.

In addition, Christians are called to be grateful to our creator for our lives, this beautiful planet, and pretty much everything else.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you let yourself turn into some sort of sycophant who is constantly kissing the bottoms of everyone for any minor thing they’ve done to assist, nor am I suggesting that we should be grateful for the problems that we face as people with chronic illnesses.  What I am suggesting is that we do our best to cultivate a more grateful (but still realistic) mindset overall.  How can we do that?

Step One

List things that you are unadulteratedly (is that a word?) grateful for.  Things that don’t have any negative association for you.  For instance, I am grateful for spring weather, for my idiotic cat, the love of my husband, and my comfy bed.  They aren’t things that ever have negative aspects for me.  I think you’ll find that this is actually a surprisingly large list.  Challenge yourself to make it as big as possible.  Fill pages.  You don’t need to have a reason for why you are grateful for them.  I’m grateful for mountains.  I don’t know why.  I just like them.

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Mountains are PRETTY.

Don’t just make stuff up, though.  If you hate the ocean, don’t put that you are grateful for it.  It’s not something that you can be purely grateful for without a negative.  There’s no point fluffing out the list for the sake of making it bigger – that will take away from the things that you really are grateful for.

Step Two

List the things that didn’t fit on that first list – things that suck but you are grateful for a particular aspect of them.  For instance, I hate that it can be so hard to get doctors to listen, but I am so grateful for the ones that do.  I hate that I have so few days without pain, but I am grateful when they come.

It’s important with this to list the negative before the positive.  Framing it as, “I love it when I get to exercise but I hate that it hurts so much afterwards” is not looking on the bright side.  It’s true, but it doesn’t belong on this list.

Step Three

Put your list into practice.  When you come across a bad situation or are having a terrible day, see if you can find a bright side to it.  Write it down if that helps.  I’m not saying that you will always be able to find a bright side.  Sometimes there simply won’t be one, and that’s ok.  However, the more you do this, the easier it will get.  It’s a case of faking it til you make it, and it does work.  You are training your brain to be more positive.

There are a number of things that I don’t find to be healthy habits in training your brain this way, and I would try to avoid them.  First, don’t compare yourself to someone else.  Your gratitude shouldn’t be, “Well, my endo sucks but at least it isn’t as bad as Emma’s.”  That invalidates your pain and makes poor Emma an object of pity.  Don’t do it.  Second, don’t get stupid with it.  “My pain is a 10/10 but at least I’m not DEAD.”  That’s not a helpful mindset and it will make you bitter, not grateful.  Goodness knows I struggle enough to be not bitter without thoughts like that.  Third, don’t force it.  Faking it and forcing it are not the same.  Four, don’t let gratitude get in the way of holding people up to standards of human decency.  If you got your handbag stolen at knifepoint, you wouldn’t be grateful to the thief for not actually stabbing you.  You might be grateful that you got out unharmed, but that’s not the same as being grateful to the knife-wielding menace.  Send your gratitude in the right direction.

 

I don’t think gratitude is easy when you’ve been dealt a really rough hand.  I am often too depressed to be grateful for anything.  Sometimes, even the things I’m grateful for can be really annoying.  For example, I am incredibly grateful for my cat, but as I typed this sentence I just heard him figure out how to unlock open the bathroom window and now I know I will never have peace or a warm house ever again.  Yep, here comes the cold winter air swirling in.  Little pest.  Got to be impressed at the persistence and ingenuity, though.

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Preparing to ruin my nice warm bath by opening the window and letting in all the cold, no doubt.

I digress.

Practice making perfect and faking it til you make it are pretty worn-out maxims by now, but they remain true all the same.  Some days it is hard, but I find my mental health really does benefit when I drag my brain away from the bad stuff and let it frolic in the good stuff for a while.  Being in a good place mentally then makes it easier for me to deal with the physical pain.

Do you find that being grateful makes a difference to your mindset?  How do you manage to stay grateful when we have a fair number of things not to be grateful for?  Let me know in the comments, and say tuned for the follow-up to this piece, “Staying Generous.”