Today marks 12 days to the end of the year 2020. There are multiple perspectives I have heard others hold on to as they anticipate this marker. “Wow, what a year!” “I cannot wait for this year to be over,” “2021 HAS to be better.” While we all have our own version of a hardship within the complications of 2020, I still find myself using a good old therapy technique of reframing my year-end reflections into GRATITUDE.
Fifty three weeks ago, my dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with a type of Head/Neck cancer in a sequence of overnight changes and events that shocked our family and challenged the deepest places in our hearts. “Our Guy” has always been the late night hospital visitor, the stand-in comic relief, or hand holder for when countless others were sick. He was never the one in the gown—he wasn’t supposed to be.
In February, he embarked on a journey of 35 rounds of consecutive radiation treatments coupled with chemotherapy. My strong, big boned, charismatic, and bold dad shrank, suffered and fearfully became the patient, one that I have never encountered in my personal or professional career. Seeing your parent ache and burn from the inside, painfully fake a smile, saying “I’m okay” to protect what his little girl sees demonstrated his desire to be strong, even in his weakest moments. I wanted to tell him it was okay to hurt, to be tired, to rest and get well. In those moments, I want to believe he felt that my presence changed the monotony of his days in those moments.
The unknowns of Covid-19 instilled fear in our family as we supported one another from a distance over the phone, Facetime, and texts. We were fearful of what would become in his immuno-compromised state. We didn’t know what to expect, we had to trust the science, we had to trust our hearts and be strong for Dad. As much as we clutched our souls in confusion, Covid-19 offered something different to him. My dad was granted the opportunity to quietly check-out, to go through this fight without missing a beat in his life. His beloved baseball season was on hold, hobbies like golf and concert-going were inaccessible, dining out was suspended all while friends protected themselves and their own vulnerabilities. We didn’t realize it, but time paused for him. I like to believe that is what springboarded his recovery period after the pain.
Never did I think I would be able to find appreciation for what his diagnosis coupled with a pandemic and ensuing global crisis created. For our family, especially for me, I can appreciate every moment where I was forced to slow down, read, take time outside to meditate, opportunities to sit with him and hold his hand, our hearts and eyes doing the talking when he could not.
In June, his biggest steps towards recovery strung together lighting the way for hope, a turn around and a positive grasp at what could be a rebuilding of his body, voice, and ambition. While my Dad may not have understood or listened to the news reports in the surge of Covid-19 around the world, he realized this will be but a drop in a sequence of time that essentially stood still, just for him.
As I look at the past six months of his incredible recovery process, I am witnessing a reconstructed spirit and an increase in his physical strength and I can’t help but wonder if this is exactly how things were supposed to be for our family. No one would wish for the pain, heartache, or trauma that has occurred throughout this process. However, I am left to reflect and believe in the consistency of practicing gratitude, finding the ability to reframe and seek new perspectives on an otherwise undesirable situation or series of events, to survive one of the most challenging weights and periods of time in my life.
I am stronger from it, Dad is stronger from it, and we can all continue to build strength using gratitude. We have the CHOICE to flourish among the fear and hardship.
*My wish for all my family, friends, colleagues and connections is that you can build your 2021 from an intentional place of gratitude and experience the shift alike.*