#ProjectZen #Day12 #GratitudeProject
In 2014 I was diagnosed with COPD after two lengthy hospitalizations, at the age of 48. My life, as I knew it, came to a grinding halt (or so I thought at the time). I’m not ready to share the daily living with COPD yet, but I’ll get there. Eventually I will have a little COPD tab on my menu, to share how I manage this disease and offer support to others who live with it.
Yup. I am a former smoker. I don’t expect sympathy, nor do I want it. I already deal with the stigma of having a smoking-related disease, and was even told once by a casual acquaintance that I sort of deserved it. I was stupid, they said, and well….this is what happens. I don’t even know what to say to remarks like that. I do agree with the “stupid” part, in that I never sought help for my addiction in any real manner. I regret the lost money, smoking is expensive in that regard too. And in the end? I sacrificed my health to the tobacco gods. Regrets? You bet I have had regrets! But, I have also learned in the past two years that I cannot dwell in those regrets. Living in the “poor me” place left me paralyzed (inaction) for several months. Worry and isolation became my regular routine.
I realized that what that person told me….about being stupid and that I deserved this….that I took that little bit of rudeness and embraced it as my own personal truth. I agreed to lay down, do nothing, and die…..and feel sorry for myself the whole time.
Fast forward to today. I woke up this morning struggling to breathe. It took about two hours to work out the gunk, after sucking on all my little maintenance inhalers, and a neb treatment. As I write this, I can now breathe comfortably. My gratitude for an easy breath is profound. As I sat here working off the jitters that always accompany a neb treatment (for me, not all folks who use nebulizers on a regular basis experience this) I was overcome with a feeling of deep gratitude, the joy of being alive, the appreciation that I have another precious day with my husband and our cats.
In a weird sort of way…..while I hate this disease and I hate that I personally invested in this consequence of smoking (every pack of cigarettes I bought and smoked brought me here), I was also given gifts I never would have appreciated otherwise. I appreciate each day. I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to invest in negative things. My life has gotten much less dramatic since I have withdrawn my own participation in strife. I do fail here at times by emotionally reacting to divisive things, but I’ve gotten much better at handling this. I would rather invest my time in positive things and positive people. I’ve been doing a lot more of that. So that’s something I purposely work at being mindful of, every moment of every day. I’ve gotten a lot better at admitting my mistakes, and also recognizing what really is my fault. I spent a lot of time in my life apologizing for things that I didn’t do, and had no control over. I’m learning how to not be my own worst enemy and silence that relentless critic that lives in my head. I’m learning how to pace myself and work with “limitations” and to allow myself to feel like I’ve accomplished something, instead of always feeling like I am not “good enough”. I’ve learned how to accept help and realize that it is okay that I can’t “do it all” myself. I’m learning how to be gracious and accept help when it comes knocking on my door, instead of feeling bad about it. I am learning that it is possible to rebuild bridges long burnt, and reach out to people I love, and put the past to bed, start over, and “be family” once more. I’ve become quite the little Miss Molly Home-Maker in the past two years too, baking and cooking a lot, since I’m home most of the time now. I bake our bread now, and that is one way I can infuse my love and care into something that feeds others…..not just with nutrition, but also, love, joy and peace. My personal disease is teaching me how to care about others in a way I never did before. I have the time now, to listen to others, in a way I never did before. I’m learning that I can still have a beautiful life despite an ugly disease. I am grateful for humor too, I just chuckled out loud…..at myself…..that I was so hard-headed that I had to learn (and I’m still learning) all these wonderful things….the hard way. I had to lose some things, to gain some things. I appreciate the irony. I also relish the prospect of how many more wonderful lessons I will learn!
All I will offer today, for anyone who smokes, especially if you have COPD, if you want to LIVE, stop smoking. You can do it. If you need help, get it. It’s never too late too quit. You will live longer, whether you have COPD or not. JUST QUIT! Like I wrote earlier, eventually I will write more about it, but it will not be me writing about how awful my life is. Sure, discussion about disease progression probably won’t be pretty, but I want my focus to be on how to manage it, and how personal attitude matters.
Today I am grateful for another day. I plan on being around a long time and having many days I’m grateful for. COPD can stick it! This monster will someday catch up to me, but in the meantime, I’m going to hang on and enjoy the ride. I’m going to have a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart every moment of that wild ride too. So watch out! For me, the best is yet to be, and it starts today. I’m grateful, yes indeed.