Three Things and Thoughts on Gratitude

Hello out there. I don’t know if anybody is reading blog posts in this pandemic anymore, but if you are, well then, god bless ya! I’ve got the attention span of a squirrel these days. For the most part, I’ve just been really busy trying to process three big life events.

1). We had an election. It was intense. It still feels intense. There was no real closure, just a drawn out circus.

2). My sister’s husband passed away on election night. Too much closure.

3), My oldest daughter had a baby boy on Nov. 15th, and BOOM just like that I became a bonafide grandmother. This is the beginning of a new chapter.

Now, with all of the above, I’ve had A LOT of sleepless nights. I don’t think I slept hardly at all during election week, I was constantly in a state of panic, searching for clues, looking for someone to throw me a bone or some insight, a prediction, some hope, anything. I’d sleep very little and wake up with the overwhelming urge to reach for my phone to check on the state of my country. You know, I think I was just really overwhelmed looking at the same damn map for days.

Somebody tweeted something about how it was like watching one big gender reveal party that we all knew was going to end in a fire. I saw another person tweet about how there was a Strong Helm’s Deep vibe going on the night before. Yes, that was in reference to the final battle that took place in the Lord of the Rings.

I’m telling you, my survival mechanism turned out to be memes. An endless amount of memes, tweets, and posts from people I hardly knew on the Insta as everything was happening in real time. FB was silent. I couldn’t sit still long enough to park myself in from of the telly. I was moving between betting sites, scrolling through dials, jumping over to the the CNN guy sprouting off scenarios over the map, jumping onto a few insta lives.

I was deliriously cracking up over the Nevada memes just like every other person in this country. Only it felt more personal. Nevada is my closest neighbor. In my mind I was thinking, “God help us, this is really riding on Nevada? I laughed at a meme of a bejeweled show girl provocatively dancing against a Neon map of Nevada like it was a stripper pole, the ultimate tease.

What I wasn’t quite doing is processing my Brother-in-Laws death in real time. If I wanted to distract myself from my Brother-in-Law’s death I went to the election, when I wanted to stop thinking about the election, my mind went straight to my sister and losing my brother in law; and dang it all with this pandemic for making it hard to grieve in real time. Normally, in times of tragedy people commune together, and in this scenario, everyone was doing it all virtually while trying to decide if it was a good idea for everyone to get together with our current pandemic rate.

Nothing about this election was normal, nothing about my sister losing her husband was normal. His final service was a little “outside the box” and a little more along the lines of “to be continued in the spring when everything is safer.” I recall feeling so strung, I knew I was winding up instead of down. I just had to force myself to lie down and breathe even if it was not going to lead to sleep.

When Biden won the election, I threw my arms in the air and cried because I know that was the outcome my brother in law would have wanted and I felt bad that he was no longer a part of this life to see how anything would unfold. This election, this pandemic, all the things that have had everybody hanging off of the edge of their seat. It seems that he lived his life at a moment of climax without the resolution. It’s like he reached the top of a hill, and then went off it, and all of us left behind are still on this ride.

Sometimes I think of my brother-in-law, and was he even aware on election night? Did he look at the Telly and watch Texas and Florida go red and experience the wide spread panic of what was happening with Miami-Dade? Was he freaking out that Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham were winning, as well as that crazy ass Q lady? or was his mind elsewhere? I don’t really know. He overdosed that night. Was everything all just random and accidental, or were there other things that were just so “extra” that he went a little over board? Maybe he was three sheets to the wind and his mind was far, far, from current events, this wretched pandemic, or anything else pertinent for that matter.

It’s hard to fathom a dying mans last thoughts, his phone gave every indication that he was expecting another day. Anyway, I did give a shout for my brother in law when the red mirage faded, and things turned around. I will never know what his mental state was at the time, but I know in one of his better moments he might have been enthused with the outcome. It felt kind of like when one of your favorite long gone relative’s football team wins the Super Bowl.

So yeah, after Pennsylvania stole the show, and Nevada was not the show stopper we were all expecting, and everyone had finally arrived to what I call Dr. Seuss’s “the waiting place” there was a lull in activity where everything caught up with me, including my grief, and then sleep came gradually, and then it didn’t when my daughter messaged me that she was having contractions at home.

My son-in- law is a former drill instructor, so he was giving me updates all night long from Hawaii. He remained level headed and cool which I appreciated, and he really proved that he had a great deal of endurance, and stamina while holding up under pressure. My daughter was holding up like a champ, until she wasn’t progressing and could not keep up with contractions. Then the baby started crashing, heart rate dropping, and before one could even react or fully grasp the seriousness of the situation my daughter was rushed to another room for a cesarian section, and respiratory therapy was called in STAT.

I can’t tell you how much my son-in-law’s text meant to me. He calmly told me my daughter was going in for a cesarean, and that she and the baby were both fine. I can’ t tell you how much I appreciate that. In my mind, my daughter was just nonchalantly going in for a C-section because after too many hours of exhausting labor things just weren’t progressing and everyone just needed closure.

My daughter’s baby was revived. He had aspirated meconium, and had to have his stomach pumped. He had some oxygen therapy for a short awhile, but was never admitted to the NICU and was soon breathing room air. My daughter was stitched up and given IV anti-biotics since the sterile field was not given top priority. All is well that ends well right?

Anyway, my daughter’s baby was over due by about seven days. He was 9 lbs. and 15 oz. Go big or go home. Good lord, she was never going to get that baby out. A little oversight perhaps from the nurse midwife who WAY underestimated the weight. Yes, I’ve had to fight the urge to not allow that to gnaw at me (I hope it was a teaching moment at least). His hands and feet were extremely wrinkly like he had been in a swimming pool too long, and his feet seemed a little discolored on the bottom. All of which has been alleviated now.

Anyway, I worked labor and delivery for years. Yes, I was the one laying out instruments and handing over the scalpel in situations very much like my daughter’s. I am grateful because even though things took a dip, they turned a corner. Another great comeback. Not every mother gets this outcome. My brother-in-law did not get this outcome. My sister did not get this outcome.

This leads me to my final conclusion to this blog post. It has been one hell of a November. Possibly one of the most erratic Novembers I’ve ever experienced in a while minus that one terrible November when I suddenly became a single mom with four children and a five month old baby of my own.

I will say this, October was good, October was very, very good. There’s been a huge gap in my blogging because I got to spend October with my daughter in Hawaii before she had her baby. The pandemic had just been robbing us of everything and a window opened in October. October prepped me for November. Perhaps the universe knew I’d need some bliss before the big November shake up. I had a great week in paradise with two of my daughters. Documented below.

I have so much to be grateful for and this may knock some people for a loop, but bare with me. I struggle with gratitude. It’s not because I am not grateful, it’s just that sometimes I feel gratitude can border on toxic positivity. Take this for example: What kind of a person would I be if I said, “things turned out fantastic for my daughter and baby, and the election panned out despite that misfortune for my sister and brother-in-law.”

Toxic positivity opens the door for revering the two, and dissing the one as if to say, “two out of three isn’t bad.” Toxic positivity is like telling a paraplegic that they should be grateful that they are not a quadriplegic. I’ve dealt with toxic positivity and it’s sometimes ugly cousin, “Pollyanna optimism” my whole life. I’ve had people mow over abuses by telling me “I should be thankful it wasn’t worse, ” or even better, “that I ought to see the good side of an abuser, ” or “why wasn’t I embracing the light, and forgiving people who had done so much harm?”

This has been on my mind a lot lately in reference to the big shake up that has happened in November. I’m VERY THANKFUL that things worked out for my daughter, but I can still hold a place for grief along with my gratitude. In fact, I think that they are both required to generate balance.

I’m writing the part down that I’ve not said aloud that has been eating at me. Did my daughter have the delivery that she hoped for? No, she did not. In an ideal world, she would have had one of those unmedicated home births in a bath tub like one of those holistic instagram moms where everything stays the course and seems so perfect.

Is my daughter likely to have some PTSD from the birth experience she had? Perhaps some. Is she going to have to have Cesareans from here on out? Maybe. Could she be at greater risk for developing postpartum depression because her birth story was a little more complex? Studies say she could. Granted, she is being an absolute trooper, but I do want to say, that if my daughter were going through any type of a mourning process her feelings would be valid along with her feelings of Gratitude that things ultimately worked out. She can hold space for both.

I am very grateful for my friend Michelle who shared a quote with me when I needed it most:

The work of a mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give. If I carry only grief, I’ll bend toward cynicism and despair. If I have only gratitude, I’ll become saccharine and won’t develop much compassion for other people’s suffering. Grief keeps the heart fluid and soft, which helps make compassion possible. -Francis Ward Weller.

I must say that this gratitude concept has really been rocking my world and I’m going to say something totally blasphemous that could have me branded a heathen by my own community (if I haven’t been already). This goes back to the election. I’m telling you one of the greatest things I learned about the election this year is that the latin vote is not a monolith (neither is the military vote) Black and indigenous people saved our asses, don’t be calling Native Americans “something else,” racism was not a deal breaker for a lot of people, and that whole thing about “guardian white women voters” was a myth, and kudos to the young people for showing up.

Okay, more white women voters showed up for Trump than they did in previous years, and Utah can’t hide under “the virtue” of Mitt Romney. Yes, we had a ballot initiative where 19% voted yes to keep slavery in our Utah State constitution. That is 1/5 of the State. I brought this to the attention of my social media account and a “friend” commented, “It’s being removed! Think positive!” My immediate gut reactions was, “Are you f’ing kidding me?”

This has been what I’ve been able to fathom about the vote in my state. According to the Deseret News:

results show many Utahns warmed up to Trump after four years. He fared much better in the Beehive State than he did in 2016, jumping from 45.9% of the vote then — the worst showing by a Republican candidate in the state since George H.W. Bush in 1992 — to 58.2% this year.Meanwhile, Biden still produced the best performance by a Democratic Party candidate in the state in over 50 years. In fact, it was the highest percentage of votes a Democrat has received in a presidential election since 1964 — the last time Utah voted blue. His 37.7% bested Hubert Humphrey (37.1%, 1968) and Barack Obama (34.4%, 2008).

I also want to add that recently one of Utah’s top LDS church leaders gave a talk where he said, Black Lives Matter, and people literally lost their sh*t. They were either brimming with enthusiasm or there was also a lot of people who were extremely appalled by it. It was a mixed group.

Also, the leader of the LDS church (they don’t like to go by Mormons anymore) made an announcement shortly after the election. Mind you, Utah is an extremely conservative Republican state, the pandemic is running rampant here, anti-mask protests and Q conspiracy also run rampant among us. Okay, there was a lot of speculation over what the leader of the church was going to say.

I won’t lie, in my mind I was hoping for chastisement, but part of me felt it would be about “making nice” or “building bridges” or something in that general ballpark. Well it turns out the big message everyone had been anticipating was about Gratitude, expressing gratitude, and doing a seven day gratitude media challenge.

Okay, I struggled. Not the message I had been hoping for but it wasn’t necessarily a bad message. What kind of person disses on gratitude? An unsuspecting heathen like me I suppose. I even went so far to accuse the message of being riddled with denial and toxic positivity. I will also mention that my relationship with the LDS church is complicated, but like it or not, so much of it is engrained in my upbringing and culture. I struggle.

I had a moment of conformity. Maybe it was that I had just recently gone through that mixed big of tricks with the loss of a family member, my daughter having a baby, and the disappointments as well as the triumphs of the election on top of everything else, that I succumbed to the possibility that maybe I could be blessed if I participated in the seven day gratitude challenge. I mean, what could it hurt? Seven Day Gratitude challenge. I was on it.

It was tough, I stumbled through it for all the reasons I mentioned above, and it was on the third day that I found the quote about grief and gratitude that I so desperately needed to hear. So overall, the gratitude challenge was not all for naught. I know I’m not alone people. There is much to grieve about this year, and there is much to celebrate. There have been triumphs and there have been failures. So, I don’t know who needs to hear this, or who is still reading, but perhaps you can hold space for Grief and Gratitude. One truly cannot exist without the other. Just something to consider. Anyway, Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving Y’all!

Until Next post,

Rachelle Losee Whiting

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