gratitude

Gratitude through adversity

Today’s guest contributor is one of my English Composition I students, Ryan Clack. He’s graciously given me permission to share his first essay of the fall semester with all of you. I was inspired and touched by his essay; I’m sure you will be, too.

What Makes Ryan Clack, Ryan Clack?

pexels-photo-1308713Answering the question above is neither simple nor complicated, but somewhere right in between. In order to start this “Who I Am” essay, I’ll begin with an introduction. My name is Ryan Clack. I am a 20 year-old Caucasian red-headed male from Temecula, California. I was born into this beautiful, yet harsh world on May 18, 1998, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I have three other siblings. Two are my half siblings, and my parents’ names are Ron and Heather Clack. I am not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit of a mama’s boy and have been that way forever, so it’s safe to say I love her very dearly. My father and I share a huge bond in the game of baseball, and he has been such an important piece to my maturity and manhood throughout the years. With that being said, baseball has been my identity my entire life; it’s where I’ve met just about all of my friends, and it has given me the blessing of an opportunity to play collegiate ball on a scholarship on this very campus.

If I were to ask my friends or peers, they would likely tell me that I’m a very outgoing, funny, loving, kind, and smart guy. These are some attributes about myself I cherish and am very proud of. My mama always said, “You’re the most like me,” because she is the same exact way.

Throughout this year I’ve dealt with a great bit of adversity, and that adversity is what makes the overall question a little difficult to answer. Why? I’ve had to learn many lessons since January 17, 2018, the date of my mother’s passing. I feel as if my attributes include being outgoing, funny, loving, kind, and smart. These have not changed due to the fact that those are practically my foundation as a person, but a lot of other things have changed. My mom passed away after a year-long battle with stage 4 colon cancer. The messed up part about everything is the fact that she beat breast cancer in 2016 only to find out six months later that she would be fighting another battle for her life, being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Throughout being there for the process of chemotherapy sessions, sores, and week-long streaks of her being so tired and weak she wouldn’t leave bed, I witnessed a woman who was literally dying become the most positive, loving, fierce, and fearless warrior goddess of all time. Whilst on hospice, she would write on paper because she could no longer speak.

One thing she wrote is so beautiful and powerful that it is what I live by and identify with on this day and every other day. She said, “I live every beautiful day and I can find beautiful on even the worst day.” Since the day that I watched her write this on her deathbed, my whole life changed. I learned to embrace the good, bad, and ugly and endure everything with a smile on my face. I learned how to cope with such immense pain and how to overcome the depression that comes with it.

If you ask “What makes Ryan Clack, Ryan Clack?’ today, I’d be able to give you a great answer. Adversity.

pexels-photo-325790Adversity has turned me from a teenage boy to a man, and although going through it is never easy, I wouldn’t want it any other way. With adversity I have learned countless lessons, great and awful, and it helps me learn through real life experiences. Those real life experiences are free, stone cold, and hard life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As of now, I couldn’t be happier with my situation, and I’m extremely blessed to be a part of such an amazing opportunity for me to continue to grow, obtain a degree, and continue to work on becoming the best person that I could possibly become.

gratitude

Abundance of gratitude

Today’s guest blog post is written by my friend Jeri Wright, a beautiful, free-spirited soul. Thank you, Jeri, for sharing your heart.

As I drove down the street today the sun-kissed my skin through an open window. The perfectly warm breeze gently caressed my cheek and tousled my hair. Every breath was a rush of energy and renewal. On a day like this, you just can’t help but to put your hand out the window and let it surf the wind like you did when you were twelve. Up and down and side to side, there is no resistance. I wonder, could this moment be any more perfect or this day any more beautiful?

A smile grows across my face and tears even think about welling up in my eyes for a minute. The awe and wonder I feel from a simple ten-minute drive on a nice day is almost overwhelming. I feel completely connected. This feeling, this emotion, has happened in my life before.

It happened when I was very young, at an age of total oblivion–that small window of life where all the world is a stage to entertain you. There are no scary things in life, other than monsters under your bed or in your closet. The age when you share pinkie swears with your best friend, and your best friend is either your mom or your cousin. When the biggest challenge you face is choking down your veggies at the dinner table.

12963511_609965423102_1062520607317924890_nMy swing set was a magical place in those early years. At around four, I would settle myself in the swing seat with no one else around. Mother would be inside cleaning or folding something. I had no siblings, and the cousins were too scared to play with me. After being sick for years, I had become the family glass doll. I would spend hours on that swing, amazed at how powerful my little legs felt while they shot me off into the never-ending Oklahoma sky above me. I imagined sailing among the clouds, the breeze in my hair and the sun kissing my skin.

This is my happy place. This is where my gratitude lives. Every moment when I recognize a gift in my life, I feel my happy place. Thankfully, as I acknowledge those gifts, I seem to recognize even more of them. My gratitude used to be reserved for “big” things like I’m glad my son’s cancer hasn’t returned, or I’m grateful that the police officer didn’t give me a speeding ticket. But now I feel gratitude nearly everywhere. I feel it in letting others go before me in traffic. I feel it in an uncomfortable situation because it gives me an opportunity to stretch and grow. And I feel it in the simple pleasure of watching my children play.

That abundance of gratitude has made it possible for me to relive my swing set magic every day.

gratitude

The gratitude word

*Today’s blog post is a guest post written by my lifelong friend and former neighbor Leslie Ferguson Thomas. I’m always thankful for Leslie’s contributions to my blog, but I’m more thankful for her ongoing friendship, her perspective on life, and her willingness to share it. Leslie’s husband is currently battling cancer; please keep them in your prayers this holiday season.*

On the day the surgeon told us he was pretty certain my husband Josh had cancer, I was anything but grateful. I was angry. For a few moments I was consumed by it. I wanted to scream, curse, and cry, so I did all three. This year has been crazy. I won’t spend time on all the details, but basically my husband has been diagnosed with two different types of cancer, had three different surgeries, and just started chemotherapy. That is not to mention all the other typical “life” things that have happened this year.

Josh and LeslieI have always considered myself a pretty positive person. People have even accused me of being the “Pollyanna type.” I try to smile often. I have never seen the point otherwise. I try to lift myself and those around me up. I do my best. I have always been one of those people who always thought my ship was about to come in, dreams were meant to be followed, and life was meant to be spent doing what you love. I believed that regardless of the cost.

I have always believed in God/a Higher Power.  I am in awe of all the things that happen in our world. All the perfect timing, the rhythm of everything. Sunsets leave me in awe. A sunset is a continual reminder to me that we are loved. Why else would so much thought and energy be put into simply coloring the sky at night? I am sure there is a scientific reason to it all, but still I am always humbled by the sunset.

This year my “positivity” has been rocked to the core. And honestly, I no longer see myself as a “positive” person. I am positive of nothing. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what this next moment will bring. How will my husband feel today? What challenges will we face? Will the income situation work out? Will I be able to get clients when I start my counseling practice? Will Josh and I grow old together? Will we be able to have a family?  I don’t know any of that. I don’t consider myself negative either.  I just am!!! And today just is what it is!!!

So that shift left me feeling empty. Everybody kept saying be positive. I suddenly didn’t know how to do that anymore. I still don’t. I feel like something inside of me has changed. It has changed so deeply, and I don’t know that anything will change me back. This is where gratitude has come in and has truly helped me. To me positivity is about believing in a certain outcome. I am sure others may have a different perspective on it. I just can no longer cling to certain outcomes, but I can be in this moment. I can be grateful.

JoshWhat I have found is that even in the worst moments, I can list things to be grateful for. I can look at the sunset and be in awe. I can go to our favorite lake, and be in awe and grateful for the trees. I can sit beside my husband, and be grateful for our relationship. I can be grateful for the way life is changing me. The way I have become stronger, and am more driven than I ever been. I can be grateful for how Josh’s body has healed, how strong he is, and how our relationship continues to get better and better.

“Gratitude” is my new saving grace. I am grateful for the country I live in. I am grateful for possibilities. I am grateful for the people who have helped us, checked on us, and encouraged us. Gratitude has also taken a huge weight off me. I don’t have to believe in anything. I don’t have to be positive of anything. I just have to stop and look around. Gratitude is about being in the present.

So now even in my worst moments, I try to remind myself of all I have to be thankful for. There is so much, and gratitude helps me to immediately center myself into this moment. And this moment is really all we have.

I think the most important part of gratitude is to never make yourself feel guilty for having a hard time with it, being upset, or feeling whatever you feel. I try hard to even be grateful for the emotions I wish I had less of. Gratitude to me is about being gentle and just opening our eyes to all of the good stuff around us.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody- lots of love,

Leslie

Visit Leslie’s blog at www.anembracedlife.com

gratitude

Day 12–Sensing

*Thanks to my friend Kristy Hutchinson for sharing today’s post. May all of us be granted the ability to find gratitude wherever we are today.*

I wasn’t there when he died. He sat on the couch, they say, choking and sputtering. He asked my mother and my aunt to go to the store to get him some decongestant. He asked for his brother. Then he couldn’t ask for anything.

I’m sorry I didn’t hear.

His daughters weren’t there when he died. They didn’t see him struggle for his last breath, didn’t hear him choking on his phlegm.  They couldn’t watch as the coroner closed his eyes and removed his body.

I wish I could have been there, to hold his hand and hear his straggling breath, to tell him I would be better, that I would learn from his mistakes, that I would succeed, that I would make him proud, fall in love, and die someday, too. I wish I could have closed his tired eyes and died for a moment with him.

I’m sorry I didn’t see.

How many times have you suddenly lost the ability to use one of your five senses? Whether it be out of convenience or out of sheer over abundance of sensitivity, we just don’t use our God-given tools to observe and experience life.  Think of how much we could learn by watching, hearing, feeling life if we could just take the moment to do it.

I have been a smoker for the better part of sixteen years. The story I told above is true. My grandfather died of Emphysema in our living room, days after I had returned to Lyon to complete my Senior year. I lived with him for an entire semester.  We were roommates, and he swallowed morphine every night to go to sleep, hacking and coughing the whole way.

Yet, I didn’t see him struggle to do everyday things.  I did, but I wouldn’t absorb it, believe that I too one day wouldn’t be able to take a shower on my own, use the bathroom, or get dressed. I let the things I saw pass by without taking stock in them, without really seeing.

I work in an office in which I routinely ask for someone’s first name. Over half of the time I usually get “Joe Smith,” the person spitting out their first and last name before I can protest. Or I ask for an email address and get a street address, et cetera.

The above examples are trivial, but you get the point.  So much of our lives we experience on auto-pilot. We go about our days ( or at least some of you may) in a bit of a self-absorbed fog, where we sit in a drive thru, not listening to the song playing on the radio, not listening to the operator taking your order and not listening to the person on the other end of the cell phone dangling from your ear.

Next time you think about it, just stop everything you can, just for a moment, and think about what our senses are meant to do. We as a species must evolve, adapt, learn and change to survive. If we can’t bring ourselves to learn from the mistakes of others, if we can’t stop and feel a little pain, we won’t learn, we won’t adapt, we will become stagnant and fail.

I wish I could have been present for his death, but even more, for his life. Now, if I try to recall his struggle, the memories are faint and fleeting. For nine days now, I have tried to remember, to realize that I, too, would one day hack and cough, be unable to breathe, need someone to tie my shoes if I were to continue to smoke. For nine days now, I have tried to use my senses to absorb as much of this bittersweet, enrapturing, miracle called life. And for this, I am grateful.

gratitude

Choosing to be an advocate

Thank you, Henry Petty, for sharing this inspiring story with us! For more from Henry, check out his blog.

Today, our company had a bone marrow drive to benefit those in need of a match and for Leslie Harris.  I had the pleasure of meeting Leslie, as she stopped by to say, “thank you,” to everyone participating.

Leslie Harris contracted a rare form of leukemia and has six months to a year to live unless she finds a bone marrow match.  She doesn’t look like someone who has cancer.  A former meteorologist for Fox News, she looked like what one would think a TV personality would and not a cancer patient.

But watching her tell her story of how she heard God speak to her when she was told the news of cancer made her not so much an untouchable TV celebrity, but someone truly humbled.  She said God spoke to her in that moment, “You can either be a victim, or an advocate.”  She decided to be an advocate not for herself, but for children who don’t have a voice in need of a transplant.

She started to break down as she spoke of how difficult it is to ask of others, and even harder when they say, “no.”

It’s surreal when you stand there with someone who possibly could be gone within the year.  She is stronger than I am, for sure.  She definitely spoke not of the latest fashions or frivolous material things, but of what really matters in life – her son.  She just wants to see him grow up.

I am truly grateful for her selflessness to help others knowing that God will take care of her.

For more information about Leslie Harris, you may visit http://www.loveforleslie.com/