Project Thankful: Reason #1

 

                                                                           (Source: bidmc.org)

On the first day of my year of thankfulness, I am most thankful for: my health.

Starting in high school, my stomach would hurt if I put pressure on it.  At the time, I thought it was not something to be alarmed about.  I learned not to hold books against my stomach, and eventually I stopped laying and sleeping on my stomach.  In college, my stomach took on a voice of its own, one that liked to speak up in class, especially after lunch.  I again learned to cope, spending class time with one hand on my lap standing guard in case of any stomach noises, so as to gently put pressure on the area, quieting it down.  When I told my doctor about my stomach, they recommended a probiotic.  Because my sister had also experienced stomach issues which led to her being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I requested a blood test to be done to determine whether I also had Celiac.  The blood test came back negative.

After college, I began substitute teaching.  In January 2012 my symptoms escalated.  I noticed abnormal weight gain despite no change in my normal eating habits, fatigue (think energy completely drained by 3:00 in the afternoon), bloating (or what I liked to call my food baby look), and stomach pain.  A LOT of pain.  It felt as though something was trying to compress my lower abdomen into a compact ball, and that ball was trying to erupt from my stomach.  I would need to sit constantly, and if I did need to stand or dared to move around, I was often hunched because the pain would prevent me from standing straight.

My primary care doctor noticed unusual stomach pain during my annual physical exam.  Pretty much this is what happened: she applied the barest of pressure on my abdomen to test for sensitivity; I said yes, there is sensitivity there; she touched another spot; I shouted “Ow, ow, ow!” and cringed.  This reaction made her order a lower abdominal CT scan, the results of which showed a portion of my intestines was distended. 

Because that signaled “Something is really wrong,” she told me to see a gastrointestinal (GI) doctor.  I made an appointment to see the same GI as my sister, and the GI doctor ordered a full workup to determine a diagnosis.  Lots of blood work, a second CT scan, a colonoscopy, and an endoscopy (the endoscopy and colonoscopy taking place on the same day) later I was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue Disease.  What that means is that I am unable to digest gluten, a by-product of wheat, rye, barley, and malt and their ingredients.  If I do ingest gluten, even the tiniest bit accidentally, or if my food is cooked/prepared on surfaces where glutenous foods have been cooked/prepared without being stringently cleaned, then I will get very sick.  Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder, so if I do get glutenated then my immune system will attack my intestines, blunting the villi, the parts of the intestines that are responsible for absorbing nutrients.  Individuals with Celiac Disease need to follow a strict gluten-free lifestyle, including a gluten-free diet.

The damage done to my gut from years of being undiagnosed was severe, taking more than a year for my gut to heal.  The healing extends beyond my gut, however, as Celiac Disease is a condition that takes time to come to terms with emotionally, psychologically, and mentally as well as physically.  And it is one that once you begin to heal, you begin to realize what being healthy truly means.  There are many times when I look back to high school when I began experiencing symptoms and wonder, if I had been diagnosed earlier, how would my life be different now?  The truth is I don’t know.  What I do know is that I prefer to focus not on what could have been, but what might be.  Because that’s what being healthy means: possibilities.  

Project Thankful

Hello, readers.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with ones you care about.  I’ve always found the idea that it’s on this one day that people are supposed to pause and reflect on what they are thankful for a little off.  I mean, Thanksgiving is only one day out of the entire year.  Why can’t we be thankful every day?

As I was thinking over what to post about what I am most thankful this year, I decided that instead of just one post, on one day, giving a cursory list of what I’m thankful for, I would give thanks each day for one year.  Spotlight one thing each day that I am thankful for.

The kernel of this idea came after spending the morning Black Friday shopping.  Although I had posted about how ridiculous Black Friday is with its hours, I found myself shopping this morning because (a) I had to drop my mom off at her work at midnight, so I was up anyway and in the neighborhood of a store whose specials I had been eying, and (b) due to the fact that I had to drop my mom off at such an insane hour, I was up and would not have been able to go back to sleep.  Well, after a morning of shopping and convincing myself that at least this way I took care of most of my holiday shopping, I found myself sitting in the car, waiting for my mom to come out of work.  As I sat in the car, my eyes seriously hating me for how little I slept, I thought a thought many think on a daily basis: I need to win the lottery.  Only instead of casually thinking this, I said “Okay, how would my life and my family’s life be different should I actually win the lottery?”  The vision unfolded from my subconscious.  My parents quitting their jobs because they would be financially independent.  New, or nicely used, cars to replace our current ones which make unhealthy sounds every time we turn them on, and even more unhealthy sounds when we drive them.  Moving into a bigger house.  Booking trips without budget as one of the concerns.  Student loans paid off with no need to take out more to cover expenses that attending grad school will incur.

It’s a vision I have had a lot of time to think about, from how I would feel matching my numbers to the winning numbers.  About how my family would react when I tell them the news.  About what we would do first.  I thought about all of these things, but most importantly I thought for the first time about how my life would actually change.

The answer I realized was that my life itself would not change.  Sure, it would look a little different, but I would still be me.  The lottery can’t change my life, not truly change it.  It would make some things a lot easier, but true change comes from the individual. 

My goal with my year of thankfulness, or Project Thankful for short, is to change my mindset.  That instead of worrying about what I don’t have, or how life would be different “if,” or about winning the lottery – instead of all that, I focus on what I do have, not the “ifs,” and taking stock of the lottery I already have in my life.

I plan to share my experiences on this blog and one of my other blogs, The Consultant (theconsultantblog.wordpress.com). 

As always, thank you, readers.  I will always be thankful for your audience.

 

Black Friday Is NOT A Holiday

As everyone knows, this Friday is Black Friday.  Not too many years ago, stores used to open at early, but still semi-reasonable hours on Black Friday.  As in 5 AM, even 4 AM.  Then they began opening earlier.  And earlier.  Now there is 12:01 AM on Black Friday and 6 PM on Thanksgiving.

It’s hard to miss the advertisements stores have for Black Friday.  You know, the ones where they build up the event as though it actually is a holiday.  Black Friday is NOT a holiday.  Thanksgiving IS a holiday.  Yet Thanksgiving is becoming almost irrelevant in the wake of a day appropriately named Black Friday.  Because to me Black Friday is not a happy day.  Black Friday causes employees to dread Thanksgiving, knowing that they either have to cut the holiday short or not have it all together because they have to be into work at such ridiculous hours.

Remember Thanksgiving, the holiday.  A day for parades and football games.  A day where there is a lot of food, and the person who prepared that food had to get up at a really early hour to have it ready in time, and even though other people might not understand why they did it, they did it because they wanted to make the day a little more special than just an ordinary Thursday (and/or because they really like to cook and bake which leads to them having a slight obsession with Food Network and other food-related shows and websites….not that I know anyone like that…).  And most of all, a day to relax a little, even if that relaxing takes place only after consuming large quantities of food and beverage.

Make this year’s Thanksgiving (and every year’s Thanksgiving afterwards) about Thanksgiving, not Black Friday.  I mean, if anything else Thanksgiving sounds more cheerful than Black Friday, right?

Why Do New Beginnings Mean Leaving People?

I am about halfway done with applying to graduate school.  My end goal: a PhD in English.

Ambitious? Yes, but I like to go after challenges. I love literature, especially research. Am I a nerd? Also, yes. To me, research is a form of creativity because you are explaining to others how you view something, allowing them to glimpse into your interpretation in hopes that they will be impacted by your words. Through my time spent working as an Educator, I am also fueled by the desire to teach at the college level, a desire stemming from my passion for working with students.

Then how come the gloomy title of this post? Because more than likely I will be moving to wherever I am accepted and choose to go to grad school. And only a couple of those wherevers are close to home. The rest are either long road trip or need to book a flight places.

Although I do not find out the admissions’ decisions until after the New Year, I am already feeling the sadness at the thought of leaving home. It will be my first time leaving home, living on my own (unless you count my cat), and the words “leaving home” and “on my own” are not the cheeriest of sorts for good reason. I am going to miss my family and my friends, as much as they may drive me crazy from time to time. And this sadness is more poignant around the holidays with me realizing that this might very well be the last holiday season I spend at home.

I haven’t mentioned any of this to my parents because if I did then I would start crying, and they would start crying, and it would get emotional, and we do not have enough tissues in my house for all the tears that would happen. So instead I am blogging about it. Because why do new beginnings mean leaving people? Why do new beginnings imply leaving something major behind, rather than simply an extension of happiness in someone’s life?

As a writer, new beginnings are used for a number of reasons. I am going to focus on mine for the positive aspects to try to distract from some of that sadness. That and cats. Because, really, who wouldn’t feel better looking at cats?

 

Confessions Of A Writer #21

This confession is about ambition. Because any writer who claims not to be ambitious is a probably lying. A writer does not set out to build a story. A writer sets out to build an empire.

I have been a neglectful empire builder, leisurely choosing my bricks and waiting too long to transcribe my plans. But with notebook and pen in hand, I hope to get back to building.

Last night, I was thinking about what makes me happy. As I wrote out the draft of this blog post, I fully realized writing is what makes me happy (along with a few other things such as family and dark chocolate). There was nothing original in this realization; I’ve long known writing is one of the pieces to my happiness puzzle. What was new was the other realization of how dampened that which makes me happy can become by the mundane, and the value I was placing on the mundane.

So here’s to not getting entangled by the mundane. Here’s to the empires out there, the names and the stories. Most importantly, here’s to the builders.