On Sunday night of last week, I started writing down all of the things that I accomplished that weekend. The list was LONG. Doodes, I was hella productive. I was feeling really good about the start of my week, and I was planning to take that momentum with me all of the way till Friday.
But, life happened.
On Tuesday morning, I received a group text from my sister-in-law. Not really thinking much about it (my family does group texts a lot. We love each other you guys, no big deal), I started reading what she sent, and my heart dropped.
“Just to let you guys know I had to call 911 yesterday. Avram stopped breathing and his mouth was blue…”
The text continued in a long paragraph with details on what happened and what they experienced. But I couldn’t really comprehend what my sister-in-law wrote. Avram, my sweet, goofy, little 8-year-old nephew, stopped breathing. He was rushed to the hospital. Something was seriously wrong.
Immediately, my family started responding. I sat on the couch and read the responses, too shocked to wrap my head around the situation.
“We’d like to come by and see him.”
“Me too! I’ll come by during lunch.”
“If he gets out earlier, we could do something together outside of the hospital.”
Finally, more than ten minutes later, I began to barely, kind of understand what was happening, and I wrote: “Is he sleeping? Is he okay? I want to give him a big hug. Are you okay?”
This was me restrained. I wanted to scream: “What the FUCK! What happened!?!?! How did this happened?!?! What’s going on!!!!??”
I didn’t want to freak my family out. I didn’t want to freak my sister-in-law out. Watching your son turn blue, having to call 911, rushing with him to a hospital in an ambulance, watching him get stuck with a bunch of needles, waiting for test results, talking to so many doctors, and STILL not fully knowing why your son stopped breathing and turned blue must have been scary enough. I knew I needed to keep it together.
I eventually left work early to go sit in the hospital with my sister-in-law and nephew. We were soon accompanied by my parents and another nephew. Then my other brother showed up with his wife and three kids. Then my sister came. We all crammed into a hospital room and talked. The kids played and laughed and made lots of noise. In a way, it was great. It was terrible that what brought us together that day was this shitty situation with my nephew in the hospital with an IV and machines hooked up to him. It sucked beyond belief to watch him take gross medicine. It sucked knowing he was uncomfortable and confused on how, let alone why, he was in a hospital.
But it was nice that I was able to see almost my entire family (on, coincidentally, my sister’s birthday). It was so cool knowing that everyone, without hesitation, came to the hospital to just be together.
It also was nice that we knew (with almost 100% certainty at that point) that my nephew was going to be fine. He didn’t have a tumor pressing on his brain. He didn’t have an infection. He simply has seizures now. That it. Seriously. They call it Sudden Onset Disorder, or something like that. Apparently it’s pretty common. We have it on both sides of the family. No big deal. He’ll take medicine to control the seizures for as long as needed, which could be the rest of his life, or not.
I’ll spare you all the details about this situation because I realize that my experiences at a hospital are probably boring. They’re incredibly interesting to me, like how I had to wait in a long ass line to get food, and then got hella frustrated because people were taking their damn time deciding between tacos and lasagna, so opted for the salad bar instead. Or how parking was a nightmare. Or how I spent $50 in the gift shop on three things because that kid deserved a teddy bear, and a dinosaur game, and a deck of cards, and anything else he might want t have because he was in a damn hospital.
What I will say though, is I’m so grateful that it’s something as simple as taking medicine. Okay, it may not be super simple. Come summer, he’ll have to navigate swimming, and driving may be a whole situation when he gets older. He may never be a pilot or an astronaut or some other profession that he may or may not even want to be. There are details like that which will probably come up and may hinder his life. But oh well. We can figure those out. Or he can. He’ll be a grown-ass adult by then. It won’t be my problem.
My point is, it could have been worst. It could have been life threatening. It could have been devastatingly scary. Heads up, the lips turning blue thing wasn’t a big deal. His brain sucked up all the oxygen, and he would have started breathing again (most likely). If he were along or if this happened in the middle of the night, he wouldn’t have died.
The reason I started reflecting on gratitude was my sister-in-law said something in the hospital about how we can handle this. We can handle onset seizures. And we are. Granted, most of it is her and my brother because it’s there kid. But we’re there for them. We were there for Avram in the hospital. We were there when he got to go home. We’ll continue to be there because that’s what we do, and that’s awesome.
That week, the hospital week, I didn’t stay on track with my productivity. I ate fast food. I didn’t run. I didn’t write. Oh well.
But I did think a lot about gratitude. Apparently, there’s science behind it. There are techniques where practicing gratitude can make you happier. By practicing gratitude, by integrating it into your daily life, you can become more authentically happy. I dunno. That’s probably true. I like that idea. But sometimes life happens. Life, like that text we all got that morning, pull you away from any sense of happiness.
And that’s okay too. We don’t always have to be grateful, because life is going to happen. Let’s not try to sugar coat everything and pretend that it’s all great. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but I frequently think to myself “everything sucks!” And I mean everything. Work. Chores. Going to the grocery store. Paying your bills. Getting texts like that.
But, as a super smart dude explains: “Yes, there are bad things in my life, and it’s OK to feel bad about them. But it’s also important to remember the rest of my life, and to remember that even the bad things make life as complex and interesting as it is. Life would be boring without challenges!”
While I don’t fully agree with Leo Babauta (he’s the smart dude I quoted above if you didn’t catch that) on the idea that bad stuff makes life interesting (doode, I would LOVE for life to be hella easy), I like that he notes that you’re allowed to feel shitty sometimes. You’re allowed to get scared or frustrated. You’re allowed to have a bad day.
But let’s also thing about the pretty okay parts of the day. Let’s reflect on some of the great things we (hopefully) have in our lives. Yeah, we were in a hospital, but we were handling it. Yeah, the kid’s gotta take medicine for (potentially) the rest of his life. But we’ve got each other. We’ve got this.
So let’s do this gratitude thing.