Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places
I’ve been having a lot of headaches lately and, naturally, my anxiety had me convinced I was going to die of a brain tumor. I knew, of course, how improbable it was. Every article I read — and I actually read quite a few — mentioned something about brain cancer, how the symptoms are often indicative of something other than a tumor, how a few headaches every now and then won’t immediately result in chemotherapy and, eventually, death.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks. I’m up to my eyeballs in schoolwork, and every time I try to get something done, I end up with a headache. It’s a daily occurrence now, and while I’ve been able to manage the pain with Tylenol, I’m starting to get tired — of my body, the sicknesses of my body, and how I’m never actually able to catch a break. I told my dad the other day that it’s always something — chest tightness, fatigue, and now headaches. Sometimes I feel like my body’s trying to tell me something. Like something’s about to happen and there’s nothing I can do but wait for the omen to come true.
I went to get my eyes checked yesterday. Both my parents wear glasses, so we figured there was a decent chance that my headaches were actually due to eye strain, considering the fact that I’m on the computer all day, every day. And, as it turns out, I’m not just nearsighted, I also have astigmatism, which basically means that the lenses of my eyes aren’t able to accommodate as well as they should.
In other words, I got glasses.
It was surreal. It was an eventuality, really, that I would end up needing glasses, so I’m not upset or anything. But I guess I just assumed that, all things considered, I’d be dead by the time I actually started to need them. I felt the same way about graduating from high school and college. Same with starting graduate school (which, by the way, I got in. So that’s exciting).
My PCA and I spent an hour there, scouring the store, trying to figure out which frames I liked the best. And at one point it just hit me. What, exactly, I’m not sure, but it seemed like everything all at once. That I was alive; that I’d somehow managed to defy every single one of the doctors that’d given me nine years to live; that I was picking out glasses, and my biggest concern in that moment was finding a pair that I wouldn’t mind wearing out of the house. It seems silly, and maybe it is, but silliness is the point — isn’t it?
Against all odds, I am here. We are here. Making plans for the future, with nothing promised, not even today. This minute, this hour, and all the ones after. Lin-Manuel Miranda always sees me right where I’m at.
My doctor says that astigmatism can cause headaches, so we’ll see how I feel in a few weeks when I finally get my glasses. In the meantime, I will fight with everything I have against anxiety. I will stand in a space of gratitude as often as I can —for Tylenol, and that amazing little hole in my stomach that lets me take medicine without having to taste it; for school, even when it feels pointless, because someday it won’t be; for my best friend, who’s currently up at 5:20 a.m. her time, who’s been making me laugh all day, who I love and love and love endlessly. For family and “Teen Wolf ” marathons, scalloped corn, spiked eggnog, and silly string.
It’s so much easier to start with grateful.
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