I spent much of my life in negative territory. For good cause. Things had been pretty difficult: I divorced one husband and buried two more by the time I was 42. I raised two children, alone, and they were ten years apart, so just when I got through a difficult period with one (those roller-coaster teen years)…I had to walk the same minefield alone, again, with the next.
We often didn’t have enough money…I drove cars with over 200,000 miles on them, cars that broke down often… just as I almost broke down.
Frankly, I hated my life.
I resented what I thought were all the ‘normal’ families out there..the ones who had two parents sharing responsibilities…I hated holidays because they made me all the more aware of what we, as a family unit, didn’t have.
But here’s what I know today: In retrospect, people I’ve since designated “angels” stepped up at just the right, critical times, when things could have gone waaayyy differently. They were the ones who got me through at an especially rough point. This post is for them.
It is a reminder to myself, too, to note the angels…to not immerse myself in negative territory, thus missing the truly remarkable: Here’s my gratitude list of people who helped me at critical junctures:
My “Lucky 13” (Yeah, I know–that’s supposed to be bad luck.) But since, I’m not superstitious, here they are. I wish to thank:
- The female doctor at the Regan Building, oncology floor, who became my friend over the last many months of my second husband’s life. She helped me extricate from a most damaging relationship at a critical time, giving me permission (as it were) to walk into the sunlight. Because I saw her as the mythical Charon , who ferried the dead across the River Styx, to the underworld, I gifted her with a woolen cape, before we parted.I wanted her warm on her chosen life journey. This young woman died a few short years later, but I’ll remember her always.
- The woman at the Department of Motor Vehicles who saw me many years ago, a truly emaciated being who’d gone through 18 months of terminal illness with that husband. When I stood in a long line, to switch auto registrations following his death, she took me to her private office, where she facilitated paperwork. I thank her for her help at that critical time.
- The radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital who, upon diagnosing my breast cancer, pressed a paper into my hand, on which she wrote the name of a trusted surgeon (she never had to do this.) Because of her, I called the surgeon the next day and put into motion my recovery.
- The many friends who’ve stood by me in difficult times, giving me the benefit of the doubt that I’m “a good person,” at times when even I was unsure.
- The many students I’ve had over my 30 years in the classroom who brightened my day, immeasurably, kids that redirected my focus and let me know that what I did was important…if only to them.
- Two therapists who helped me unravel why such damaging things occurred in my life. They helped me connect the dots, as it were.
- My doctors who surgically removed my cancer and reconstructed me, too (yeah, I know…sounds like hard-hat territory.) But because of their expertise, I look fairly normal today and that’s important for my psyche.
- A primary care doctor who diagnosed my husband’s blocked carotid artery. If he hadn’t, my husband would have never recovered from that terrible accident two years later.
- Doctors who repaired my husband’s broken neck. Because of their skill, he’s not a paraplegic today.
- Medically-attuned friends who gave me wise counsel at that time, telling me how to interact with the medical community…what tests to order, etc.
- Daughters who stood fast at crisis points, supporting me when I didn’t think I could do it. They, their partners, and our grandchildren offered hope and humor, two of the “stuff of life” I must have.
- A lawyer who took our case when others didn’t want to. Because of his masterful handling of a critical (and difficult) situation, we prevailed and won justice.
- To my husband, the man who moved in with me, following my diagnosis of breast cancer (that’s when many move out). He stood by me, and then I got to do the same for him, in his recent crisis. There’s no one I’d rather spend time with. Irony is: If we’d met earlier, in life, we might not have valued one another as much.
Yes, these are my “angels,” the ones whom I might not have noted earlier in my life. But upon reflection, I know how critical they were. I know, too, that if I focused on the bad, I’d miss the help they provided.
Another irony? Most of these people whould never realize how very much their action meant to me (small–and big– acts of kindness matter.)
My wish for you? You can see the angels in your own life….
On that note, “May you have Peace and Good Fortune in the New Year.”