Sarah Matcha, Executive Director

This time of year in particular, we are all reminded to be thankful. The season of giving and gratitude is again upon us, reminding us of the good things in life. At various times in our lives, given the unforeseen obstacles that pop up, keeping perspective can be difficult.

As a 30 something mom, most would say that I have had little reason to have struggled or to have understood the feelings of heaviness in the world. Having worked with those with chronic illness for several years and having raised and nurtured a little girl with chronic illness, I would say that I have had my share.  Do I often see others struggle to find hope or perspective? Absolutely. Do I ever struggle to find happiness and hope in my own life? Of course. Even as a “young”, and from my perspective, extremely blessed person, every day can be a struggle. The burden of chronic illness is not a light load to carry. It is something that is there day and night and may come to consume your life.

To struggle is to live – this is the only way that we learn to cope and adapt to our ever changing environments and the curve balls life throws at us. We constantly struggle to understand the world around us and to find happiness and meaning in our lives. This can be made much harder or seem much heavier when diagnosed with a chronic illness. The questions of what may have been done differently to avoid or prevent the illness…the questions of “Why me?” or “Why now?” often weight heavy on our minds…

The reality is that some of us are better equipped than others to handle the stress, anxiety, fear and problems that life with chronic illness hands us. Try to keep in mind that ultimately, there is only one thing you can control in life. It is the only thing that no one else in the world can change or alter in any way, regardless of circumstance or situation.

Your perspective… Your reaction.

Each of us has the capacity to decide whether we want to view the struggle of life or the weight of chronic illness as a task to be endured and completed, or an opportunity to learn and grow.

In no way am I claiming to know exactly how to live a happier life-nor am I the first or thousandth person to stress the importance of perspective and rolling with life’s punches. This is all old news…but I find that it is much easier to keep the perspective of gratitude if I work at keeping it at my attention on a daily basis.

To struggle alongside each other and live compassionately with one another gives life special meaning. With an open and positive perspective, feelings of gratitude for simply waking up in the morning and realizing what fortune we have to be here at all will trump the feelings of desperation that often are linked to a chronic illness diagnosis.

Gratitude puts situations into perspective.

Gratitude helps us realize what we have. It helps us to appreciate the little or ordinary things that we often take for granted. It may be easy to appreciate our spouse or caregiver but the smile from the cashier at the grocery store may mean just as much in that moment.

Gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and in general makes us happier. It helps us to build a community, to give to our community and to give our community purpose as it bonds through our common need for support.

So at this time when gratitude is at the forefront of your minds, I encourage you to embrace the concept and view the world around you - - appreciating the little things, as well as the big.

Happy Thanksgiving!!