It has become somewhat of an annual tradition: we in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving Day and I write a email to share some of the reasons why I’m thankful and to remind others of their own reasons.
This Thanksgiving is different, for a number of reasons, yet funnily enough, my thoughts remain the same. Here’s a caption of the message I sent two years ago on this weekend titled “Thankful for…”
… another amazing blue sky sunny day,
the energy and ability to get out and enjoy it; the amazing weather this summer that allowed for amazing times out in it, the walks, rides and days spent in that weather; the stars and clear night skies; the minor, as opposed to major, issues with my blood and body that keep me as a consistent but not frequent visitor to the hospital; the commitments I made to “living and sharing” about four years ago; the road I’ve travelled to get me here; the perspective that my travels have helped me develop; the relationships and friendships that are such a major part of the trip; the tough times that always brought important lessons; the love of family and friends who ease those tough times; my ability to listen to my body and make the effort to give it what it’s asking for; the amazing triumphs that continue to provide a feeling that I haven’t found words for, yet; the awesome support I’ve received as I continue to take that sharing commitment to new places; the opportunity to connect with others and influence their perspectives on life and all things in it the interaction with and exposure to others’ perspectives on life and all things in it; the drive to continue building on all levels; the desire to figure out what it’s all about for myself; and most of all, I’m thankful for the fact that I’m here to be thankful.
Ironically yesterday was another amazing blue sky sunny day and I did have the energy and ability to get out and enjoy it with a ride on my motorcycle to Cape Spear with a buddy and my donor/dad. And all those things mentioned above are still so accurate however a couple of things stand out this year.
Yesterday was also the third anniversary of my second transplant. On October 10, I became even more like my dad as I got a second shot of his cells, stems cells the second time out. I’ve never had a third anniversary of a transplant before and, as you have heard many times, last fall/winter, in 2003, I entered new territory as my second remission became longer than the first one I had after my first transplant. And yes, that was against the predictions of my transplant docs.
And while I love that I’ve been here long enough to have a third anniversary, that is not the key difference in this year’s Thanksgiving. I’ve developed this habit of saying “I’m just happy to be here” and that doesn’t mean I’m “only” happy to be here, but more that when you take everything away the thing that stands out for me is my happiness to be here.
That happiness is resulting from a combination of factors, as is usually the case. However the distinct difference for me on this weekend in 2004 compared with Thanksgiving in 2003 is that I made a significant adjustment in my mindset and how I approach each day of my life.
This adjustment took a long time for me and at some level it is still very much a work in progress. But today, and only very recently, can I honestly say that I have arrived at a place where I feel completely comfortable with the possibility that I might live to be an old man, riding my motorcycle all over the world with my soon to be wife. That vision is something that took a short time to develop but a long time to believe in.
For the immediate future after my first transplant I was in a hurry, still very much in a hurry to get things done in case I wasn’t around for much longer. And while I was hurrying around I did manage to continue the evolution of my perspective on sickness, challenges and their purpose. I evolved enough so that when I got sick the second time I, in my opinion, had a much more embracing view of my challenge. A view that I believe has significantly contributed to me still being here and furthermore it has lead to the place I find myself today. However after my second transplant I was still in a rush. And in some ways more of a rush than ever. I also found that as I neared that time last fall and winter when my second remission started to hit the length of my first, the rushing slowly eased.
I equate the rushing with my comfort. Simply, the more I was doing the more uncomfortable I was. That’s not how it felt at the time, but it is how I know it to be. People cope with fear and challenge in many different ways. I work, stay active, keep moving. I realize it is a coping mechanism and I justify it to myself by saying that I love my work. Well I do love my work, but I know that a large part of it comes from my fear that I might not get to do what I want to do. It comes from a bunch of fears all relating to me dying. As you may have guessed, once I became aware of this I started to deal with it. However the tricky part is my feelings aren’t quite like my thoughts. Not as easily controlled. Not in healthy ways anyway.
Over the course of the past eight to ten months, I have spent a lot of time thinking and feeling. The latter is more effort for me, but I’m making it. Today I find myself in a place where I do have complete comfort with the vision of Karen and I, on my bike, tearing the shit out of the sea-to-sky highway out west at 80, 90, 100, years of age and km/hour. And having the vision is easy, but for me having complete comfort with that is new. And it feels good.
So on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am happy for all those things listed above, for all the blessings I have in my life. But this year I am most thankful for the comfort inside. Hope you enjoyed your turkey.
Live life. Love life.