Hope vs. Gratitude
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the colorful leaves blowing in the cool Texas fall air. I love green bean casserole mixed with cornbread stuffing. I love having an excuse to eat Pumpkin Pie for breakfast and leftovers for dinner. I love being with family and friends, but mostly, I love that we have a holiday centered around gratitude.
A few years ago, our family was gifted a Gratitude Jar. I’d like to say we do this on a regular basis, but in all honesty, it’s more of a “when we remember,” we like to get a square of paper and write down the things for which we are most thankful. Mine tend to be the obvious- family, health, friends. Ellie usually lists our dogs first, and Tommy, without fail, puts mac n cheese. Gratitude is gratitude, and all entries count.
As I began thinking about gratitude for this year, instead of thinking about what I was grateful for, I started wondering about the relationship between gratitude and hope. Gratitude, by nature, implies being content and thankful for aspects of your life. By contrast, hope is the opposite. Hope suggests wanting more. So, if we are truly happy and satisfied through thanksgiving, would hoping for something be a contradiction to our present gratitude?
Last week, I had a pretty bad sinus infection. Since my second bone marrow transplant, my sinuses have, for unexplained reasons, been chronically infected, and sometimes these infections are nasty. I’ve gotten used to unexpectedly waking up in the morning with another lousy infection, which will keep me in bed for days or sometimes even weeks at a time. I’m usually not given any warning, and there have been no explanations from the country’s top doctors as to why. I can only be explained as a “very unusual case.”
I had a day last week (okay, maybe two) where I was pissed. I felt awful and barely had the strength to walk downstairs. I knew my body had to rest, but my mind was so busy. I had so many things to tend to, responsibilities to carry out, including my daughter’s 12th birthday. Bed was the last place I wanted to be- but my body didn’t give me a choice. I allowed myself some time to feel pity for myself and my situation. I didn’t want to hear encouraging words from friends and certainly didn’t want to watch others live their healthy lives with their healthy bodies. So, I did what I usually do when these infections hit. I numbed out with Netflix and Bravo and got through each day feeling as little as possible.
The days passed, and the clouds cleared. I began feeling better and slowly reentered the outside world. Reentry is always a shock to the system. I felt like an alien living in a foreign world- like I just did not fit in. It’s difficult to relate to others when you know no one can understand the circumstances of your life. It feels inauthentic to smile and fake going through the motions. But that is just what I have to do to get back into my “normal” non-sick life so I can function until the next infection surprises me, and the cycle begins again.
Knowing my daughter’s birthday was coming up made last week’s sickness that much more difficult. My children have been through so much because of my health, and they have handled it all so well, but I was hell bound determined not to have this effect my sweet Ellie’s big day. She deserved so much more than my body was telling me it could give her.
My husband was a life-saver and did all the preparations. Ellie woke up to balloons and cards and gifts. Her day was filled with friends and love and laughter. I was able to get dressed and smile along with her until I fell into bed again at the end of the day. I was so worried that my limitations had impacted her day until I found this note she had posted on her new cork-board.
As I read my daughter’s list, through the tears forming in my eyes, I saw the one thing that I had been overlooking all this time. And that’s this:
It’s not that gratitude and hope contradict each other. It’s actually the opposite. Hope and gratitude are intrinsically linked. Because gratitude is the launching pad from which all hope springs.
Gratitude is a practice, not a choice. Landon’s words from last week’s hope heroes ring so true. Gratitude shapes our attitude, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. We have to actively choose gratitude in our lives to reap the benefits of this process. It’s the living in the now which supports and launches our hopes, and the more solid the launching pad, the higher we can spring into our desires. And the higher we are able to spring, the brighter the light from our hopes can shine back down onto our foundation of gratitude.
So here it is: Hope illuminates gratitude and gratitude launches our hopes. To make a real impact, one cannot exist without the other.
This year, as I prepare to eat massive amounts of pumpkin pie and pretend to watch several football games, I will carry with me the gratitude for this body that has overcome insurmountable odds while still holding on to the hope that it will continue to grow stronger and, one day, sinus infection-free.
Because the swirling combination of hope and gratitude is what is turning this very unusual case into a common success.
In so much love and hope,