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gratitude for the status quo

when the table turns: gratitude

by Judy
May 25, 2015

Thinking about what we might call the status quo, when there does not seem to be any change one way or another - perhaps small changes but nothing that big - and how often we can start to take this for granted. I am thinking in this case in relationship to living and helping to care for my elderly mother. Yes, there are moments that are difficult, but on the whole it's been pretty even. Yes, my mom is getting less engaged in general; yes, there are times like yesterday when it is difficult – no food pleases her and she “blames” it on us and does not realize how changed her relationship to food is, but that passes quickly and we are back to what “feels” like nothing in particular is happening. And then I start to look back. I think that for three years now Mom has not gone into hospital which is often so difficult on so many levels – for her and for us. She has not had any major illness. She has been able to be in her own home and well cared for in every way.

Often when there is what could be called the status quo, one can take this time for granted, but looking back there is so much to be grateful for. I also have been given much space for myself. I have been able to read, write and paint, enjoy the company of my mom’s professional caregivers and be able to be with my mom and still have lovely times together.

Of course on the global level, there are endless “things” to be grateful for – food on the table, easy access to water – more than all the basic needs - no big natural disasters, a government and society that yes, has many faults – sometimes overwhelmingly so – but on the grand global scale, it could be worse – a lot worse.

Looking further afield, there are, for example, the recent two major earthquakes in Nepal. For those of us living in a non-earthquake zone, how much do we take for granted just having the earth beneath our feet? That sense of stability and safety is unquestioned. I cannot imagine the terror of living through two major earthquakes in less than three weeks with endless aftershocks. It’s terrifying beyond comprehension and perhaps will never be erased from people’s consciousness.

Then there are the people fleeing North Africa and what they have to endure and go through, the Syrian refugees living in camps in Turkey and Lebanon, the ISIS massacres, the plight of so many people, women and men, who are being oppressed, diseases…really the list is endless.

When I contemplate all this in all directions, wide and near, I again take in how very fortunate I and my mother are in so many ways. It puts a lot in perspective – life-shifting. I feel very spoiled in many ways and in that an obligation to take advantage of this good fortune in the best possible way. I don’t know exactly what that looks like but I do know, it’s not about wanting more, being greedy or victimized; on the contrary, it means definitely not living in a state of need and giving back in some way.

And then I think how we as humans can so easily forget how fortunate we are - even fortunate to have the luxury of having safe ground - and lose perspective on our lives. It seems to be the nature of our limited consciousness and in that the need to almost consciously make effort to remember – step back and back further and start seeing more and more of the picture.

As I am in the middle of writing this essay, just the other day the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia happened. Can you imagine: someone going on perhaps their daily routine trip back from Washington D.C. to New York or Philadelphia, reading a book, newspaper or napping, and this happens and perhaps their whole life changes or if not that dramatic, it’s an event that will no doubt affect them for a long time. Just an ordinary day - perhaps nothing special – and then this happens out of the blue.

So as I step back, I am grateful for the status quo…sure it’s not always easy, but from the biggest perspective, it’s exceptionally good. I also have caregivers who really care and I'm in relatively good health. This also cannot be taken for granted.

And my hope is, by writing these blogs that Andrea and I do, perhaps this perspective will help others, as well as myself, to look from a distance and have a bigger view on our lives.

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