Working on a happiness project is easygoing when life is easy. It’s easy to focus on increasing happiness when there aren’t any major hurdles to tackle. It reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy if Needs, one does not pass from one level to the next until needs are met. You can’t focus on self-actualization if you don’t have food in your belly and a roof over your head. It’s easy to focus on ways to make your life happier, when in general you are happy. This was my case until last night.
Last night was one of the most difficult nights of my life. I rushed my husband to the hospital ER, as he thought he was having a heart attack. I drug our sleeping girls out of bed in the middle of the night to panic drive a few, very long miles away, scared for what our beautiful future was turning into. Although we were given a diagnosis much less scary than a heart attack, we were given a reminder of what years of difficult military service does to a body, and how those residual effects influence daily life, even when you try to ignore or downplay the symptoms in front of you. We were given the reminder to listen to your body, and take care of it.
This hospital experience will continue to shape my outlook and my perspective of myself, my marriage, my husband, and my outlook on organizational institutions. As I looked around the ER, holding my two toddlers, comforting them and trying to make a nightmare into an adventure, I found myself asking a question over and over, “God, what is the lesson you are trying to teach me?” What am I supposed to be learning from this situation, that I clearly must learn the hard way? I asked myself repeatedly what lesson I must have missed, that now must be taught in a way that is blinding, in my face, in a way I cannot ignore.
To be honest, I keep vacillating between what the lesson must be. It was hard, it is hard, as I go to bed tonight it continues to be hard and brings swells of tears to my eyes. And yet what I keep coming back to, despite all of the horrendous events that have unfolded over the last 48 hours, what I keep coming back to, is gratitude. It sounds crazy but as I sat there waiting for the love of my life to be discharged I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. Prior to discharge, I sat in the waiting room watching a homeless woman, whom I recognized from previous interactions, struggle as she was told her daughter was killed in an accident. I know no other details than the pain I watched of this woman, whose life struggles I cannot even begin to fathom, break down as she was told of the information of her daughters final resting.
Throughout everything we went through in this hospital experience, I keep coming back to gratitude. Gratitude for my husbands safety and continued recovery. Gratitude for the friends and family, of which I did not reach out to, and yet I know that as I sat there, as the wee hours of the morning crept into light, I know I could have reached out to any. Gratitude for my family, who when I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with news from the hospital, sprung into action to help ensure everything would be ok; my husband would be ok after everything was said and done.
Through all of this, I’ve asked why more times than I can count, and as my mom reminds me, ‘I may not see right away what the bigger picture is and that it may take a great amount of time,’ I know that this lesson will be learned; not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but as this scenario unfolds, I see more and more of what I need to see. I see the gratitude I need to exude not just in times of prosperity when it is easy, but in times of strife. I see that my attitude, despite how freaking hard an obstacle may seem, contributes not only to my outcome in a situation but those around me. Tonight, as I draw a bath, for my husband, who continues to be in physical pain, I see the beauty in my life. I see everything I have to be grateful for. I see everything I wish that others could share and experience, and I hold it just a little bit tighter.