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Gratitude in a halo

A while back Charles and I were going through a tough financial time – the kind of time where you sweat the mortgage and dread the credit card statement. I can still remember the feeling of constant anxiety.

And right in the midst of that, I woke one morning with a strange smile and a single thought:

“I have everything I want.”

You have to understand: Gratitude doesn’t come easily to me. Smiling doesn’t come easily to me. Focus, yes.  Smiling, no.  Charles is the peaceful one.  Unperturbable.  I’m the passionate one.  Fiery and impatient.

This was not a time when I had everything I want.  This was a time when gratitude was so far out of reach that making a list of “things that don’t suck” was a stretch. I was frustrated and angry and scared.

And yet here it was.  This pure and ridiculous thought.  This expansive contentment.

I’d been working the night before with a woman who was in chronic pain. She’d been through a series of spinal surgeries, one after the other. Putting metal hardware into her neck, hardware failing, neck collapsing, pulling hardware out.  And here she was, in a metal halo – drilled into her skull resembling some kind of medieval torture – here she was telling me how grateful she was to me.  And to God and to Life and to her husband and to her doctors and to…it was endless.  Her gratitude was endless.  And it wasn’t just words. It wasn’t a script, and she wasn’t reaching for anything. It was just glowing from her. Filling me.

I know what it’s like to come through a crisis and be so glad that the worst of the pain is behind you, and you survived it, that you praise all that’s holy.  But what does it mean when you’re still in the middle of it, still struggling, still in pain, and feel so blessed?  It’s winter but you feel so warm.  Where does that kind of gratitude come from?

It felt like love.

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