It hasn’t been the most relaxing year for me. In January my boyfriend’s house burned down and not a month later he was in the ER, debilitated by some opportunistic bacteria that colonized his digestive tract in the wake of his stress-induced immunosuppression. A perfect storm to kick off 2016.
He has since been to the ER multiple times, spent eleven days admitted to the hospital, become very close with both a gastroenterologist and an infectious disease doctor, and has spent weeks eating very little aside from boiled-down beef bone broth (it is disgusting).
(On a side note, I won’t be using his name in this article so excuse my use of terms like “my boyfriend,” “my S.O.” etc. He asked me to use the alias “Dirk Diamond” in this article but I refuse.)
In 2015 around this same time of year, I posted online about all that I was thankful for because, of course, Thanksgiving. I wrote that I was thankful that my apartment burned down because it led to me buying my house, and I was thankful that my job is demanding because it keeps me moving forward. I said that I was grateful for my past relationships because it led me to Dirk (I am so ashamed of myself).
All three of these things are still true, but when I began to consider what good had come out of 2016 things were significantly more difficult. So I sat and ruminated on it for some time and as expected, the sunshine of reality began to break through my self-pity.
I recalled the kindness of the community after the house fire. The roof was still smoking when people began showing up with casseroles and extra clothes, offering places to stay during the transition. Family, friends, and friends-of-friends donated and set up fundraisers to help cover the costs of immediate needs. All of us were overwhelmed.
Then sickness struck, and the community rallied again. My boyfriend’s work crew picked up slack and covered his lost hours. His boss and co-workers checked in regularly. “We are fine here,” they told him, “We don’t want you thinking about anything but healing up.”
But even with all the support and love and casseroles, things were still not easy.
After the most recent C. Diff relapse (two weeks ago) we both just wanted to curl up and sleep until January. But even though our relationship went from romantic comedy to hospital drama in the matter of weeks, we stuck together and to me that says a lot. (I’ll stop here because this isn’t a love letter.)
Everyone knows that life has an obnoxious habit of not doing the things you want it to. I spent the better part of this year sad and angry. I did my fair share of moping in the hospital cafeteria at 2 a.m. But now that I have emerged from my shell of self-indulgent misery, I realize that this year hasn’t been so bad.
Maybe it’s just a rebuilding year; maybe it’s a “perspective year.”
So I am reminding myself to be grateful, regardless. Be grateful for your mom or your cats or your significant other, or very simply be grateful for your health.
And I am reminding myself this holiday season, and forever after: life and love are born from tragedy, even if you have to literally sift through some ashes to find them.