Friday, April 18, 2014

Count Your Blessings

This post has nothing to do with confidence or health or fitness but I think it's important to share. I hope that you get something out of it and that it can give a little perspective. I feel like I've learned a lot in this past year, more than most 22 year-olds that I know and I don't mean this to be bragging or condescending. It's just that I've gone through harder times than my friends but I'm not writing this for sympathy. That's not my goal at all and it never has been. I don't mean to say either that what other people are going through doesn't matter or isn't as difficult as what I went through. We all lead different lives, encounter different circumstances, and endure different hardships. It doesn't mean some paths are better or worse than others, just different. I'm also well aware that what I went through last year could've been so much more difficult in comparison to what some people go through every single day of their lives. All in all, I've been so blessed and that's what this post is about-- finding the silver lining in whatever you might be going through. For me, the silver lining was learning to appreciate the people in my life and their love for me.

I'm just gonna take a minute and be warm and gushy about all the amazing people in my life. They're the ones who have supported me through my entire life, my journey, and loved me unconditionally. I am so blessed and truly thankful to have such wonderful people surrounding me. It's true when they say that the tough times really show you who your real loved ones are and believe me, I've sailed some rough waters. If you haven't already read my about me page, then you should know that my mom barely survived a brain aneurysm of May 2013. We're coming up on the one-year anniversary and I can't believe how far she's come. I'm not gonna talk too much about it now because I plan on doing a post about it in a couple weeks. For now, I just want to focus on the big picture and all the blessings in my life.

I think it's really important to take the time to count your blessings and see all that you have been provided. I'm not financially rich by any means but I have enough people and love that enrich my life. It's all about perspective and finding the little things that you may take for granted. There were so many times that I broke down in utter fear and worry last summer. Things like losing my mom, finding a job, paying medical bills, paying back student loans, finding a car that I could afford, being able to pay all the bills since my mom usually took care of that stuff. Every single little thing piled up so that I was a tightly wound ball of stress. But through it all, my family and friends never left my side. God provided for my sister and I in more ways than one. Miraculously, my mom survived and her health coverage was phenomenal that we hardly had to pay over $500 for her deductable yet her three brain surgeries amounted to tens of thousands of dollars and that's not even adding in her 2 month stay in the ICU, 2 month stay in a step-down neuro unit, plus her recovery in a brain rehabilitation center and nursing home. In total, she spent 6 months in the hospital and rehab. If we had to pay all of those costs out of pocket, we would be completely bankrupt. Yet, we were blessed with more money than we needed. My mom's coworkers donated their paid leave so that she was getting full paychecks for months on end. They even went beyond that and set up a fund so that people were giving us donations for things like groceries and bills. I was speechless and can never repay them.

My sister and I were both able to find full-time jobs. We each got the first job we interviewed for and were able to put away some of our own money. My grandma, bless her soul, gave us money for when we would have to start paying back our student loans in the fall and my aunt spent countless hours and weekends helping me find an affordable car. She also fed my sister and I dinner on most nights, just as she always had over the years, so we were able to save on groceries too. If it weren't for them, my sister and I would have been completely lost. They put their lives on hold for us just so they could be there to support us. All four of us went to the hospital every day to see my mom and they stayed by our side through it all. The best part? My parents are divorced and my aunt and grandma are on my dad's side. I think that says everything about their love and commitment. They're two of the best people I know.

So, bottom line is that my experience with my mom taught me a lot. It taught me to slow down and not take things for granted, especially the people in your life. I have a voicemail from my mom saved on my phone that I listened to every night when she was in the hospital just so I could hear the sound of her voice. It wasn't even anything special but I just needed to hear her say my name and that she loved me. I cried myself to sleep so many times because I was just waiting for another midnight call saying the doctor had to do another emergency procedure and they needed my permission or that she had gone for yet another scan. And still through it all she remained unconscious and unresponsive. I just wanted my mom back and I couldn't have her. That tore me apart but it taught me something important. I'm still not perfect at it but I try not to take those closest to me for granted. I'm human and it still happens a lot but I'm learning to appreciate those around me. I may not always say it because I'm not gushy with my loved ones like that but I'm trying to be better with putting it into words.

Please, take the time to tell those you love how important they are to you. Don't make the same mistake that I did and wait until it's too late. I was blessed to have a second chance with my mom so that I'm able to tell her more now. And if you're in a place where you can't then my prayers go out to you. Really and truly I mean that because 10 months ago I thought I was at that place and it broke my heart. I remember the feeling of cold dread that I may not ever get to talk to her again or be able to tell her I love her or thank her for just how much she sacrificed for me over the years. My sister and I were her whole world and she would've laid down her life for her girls.

From all this I've also discovered that my perspective on life is completely altered now. I look at the big picture instead of all the little things. If someone cuts me off in traffic and my road rage flares up, I tell myself that it could be a lot worse. I have a home, a job, and a family that loves me. The little things roll off my back a lot easier now. I've never been one to stew over things or hold a grudge but still I've noticed a change in my attitude about life. Sometimes things can still get to me but I have a better way of dealing with it. It's still a major work in progress as with everything in my life but it's a lesson I'm glad I'm learning. I'm more aware of my blessings and life seems so much more peaceful now that I focus on the good things.

If you're still going through hard times, please keep holding on. There wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel for months and it was exhausting. If you've been going through something for years, then your perseverance is inspiring. From the bottom of my heart I mean it and I admire your strength. It took a lot for me to just get through a few months that I have all the respect in the world for people who go through much worse and much longer. My daily reminder and encouragement was my coffee cup. I realize that sounds silly but let me explain. It has mine and my mom's favorite poem engraved on it: "Foot prints in the Sand". If you've never heard of it, don't worry I'm including it at the end of the post. I actually thought of getting the last line "it was then that I carried you" as a tattoo on my foot for my mom and I'll probably do that some day. For now, though, I hope it can serve as a source of encouragement for whatever you're going through. Just keep going because you're a survivor and you're not going through this alone :)

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand;
one belonging to him, the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand, he noticed that
many times along the path of his life there was only one set
of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk
with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of
footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed you most,
you would leave me."

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."
--Margaret Powers

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