There are a various things going on for me at the moment, most of which I can't discuss in this public arena. I'm afraid I'll have to be vague and just say that it continues to be a difficult time, so to counteract this, and to lighten the mood of my blog from recent months, I'm going to spend a bit of time thinking about things for which I'm thankful.
1. Poisonous ivy
Specifically, I'm thankful for the poisonous ivy that's growing up the side of the house opposite mine at the back. The ivy has been there for years, and other than cheering up a drab wall has been of little note, but this year it has provided a safe place for a pair of blackbirds to nest. I live in a built up area only a couple of miles outside of the city centre, and very few houses in my immediate neighbourhood have gardens that encourage small birds, but there has been a noticeable difference in recent years. Maybe it's the conservation work done by 'Friends' of the park down the road, or perhaps folk have been putting bird seed/food out, but over the past few years there has been a rise in the number of small birds in the area (as opposed to pigeons and sea gulls). We've had a lone blackbird for the past two or three summers that has sat on the chimney stacks and filled the air with beautiful song. I love blackbird song, and this year the air is rich with it because the lone male has found a young lady blackbird and the pair have nested high in the poisonous ivy opposite. Apparently blackbirds have two or three broods a year, and my neighbourhood pair are already on to their second. It's wonderful. It's not often very noisy at the back, so if you're very quiet and listen carefully, you can hear the tiny chirruping of the chicks in the nest. As the chicks have grown, the adults - particularly the male - try to entice the youngsters from the nest with a morsel of food and a short whistle of song. With a lot of encouragement, the fledglings dare to take their first tentative flutters from the safety of their nest and soon learn to fly with confidence. I love watching this circle of life unfold almost in front of me, and listening to the variety of beautiful blackbird song, and every so often one or other of the adults will venture in to my yard in their hunt for food. I'm not quite sure what it is they find on the concrete or amongst the flower pots, but they always seem to go away with something in their beak. Yes, I'm thankful for the blackbirds, and for the poisonous ivy for giving them a safe place to nest.
I have some wonderful friends who have stuck by me in both difficult times and good. They text me, phone me, come round to my flat, take me out for an afternoon, send me cards in the post and private messages on Facebook, make me cups of tea, invite me round to their homes, make me laugh, share my tears, sit with me, go with me to the coast or the park, swap a little part of themselves for a little part of myself. At times my trust in friendship has been challenged by folk who have presented themselves as friends, but have turned out to be far from that. Those around me now are genuine, safe, trustworthy, and true, and to know that for certain after betrayals that have been is very precious and definitely something for which I am thankful.
It feels like a long time since we had any prolonged sunshine up here in the north-east of the country - perhaps a couple of years - but the last week or so has been beautiful. Today has been a fair bit cooler with temperatures back down to 16-17C, but I don't mind because the forecast is for it to warm up again tomorrow and Friday. Sunshine lightens me. Of course it doesn't take the stresses away, it doesn't make them smaller, it doesn't make them any easier to deal with, but it does force in a smidgen of light. The warmth of the sun entices me outside, even if it's just to the back yard, and wraps itself around me, like a hug from God.
4. The cat and the vet
Zach is so precious to me. He is a wonderful cat with enormous character who seems to know when I'm upset, when I'm ill, and when I need cuddles. He also loves to come for cuddles when I'm lying on the sofa with the computer perched on my legs and tummy; he leaps up, on to my feet, clambers around the side of the laptop, sits on my chest in front of the computer screen, and purrs in my face. Not particularly helpful for typing or seeing any of what I'm trying to do on the laptop, but his purrs are irresistible so he more often than not gets the cuddles he's demanding. He's got his summer coat at the moment (obviously), which seems to be a great deal thinner than his winter one, and as he's aged he's lost a fair bit of muscle mass. He's still very fit and healthy, but he'll be sixteen later this month so he's getting to be an old man and I can feel the bones of his spine when I stroke down his back. He spends a lot more time sleeping now than he used to, although he still has a lot of crazy running around times, and he is still fantastic company. I love Zach so very much and I'm thankful for the love and joy that I get from him. He hasn't often needed a vet for anything very severe (only twice in his life), but even the little things they do for him make me thankful that they are there. I had to take him last Friday because his claws needed clipping. They'd needed to be done for a couple of weeks, but with stresses of recent times I'm afraid that they'd been somewhat forgotten about, and then on Friday he got the two innermost claws on his front paws entwined in each other when he was clawing at his scratching post. He couldn't get them unhooked so I had to help, which wasn't easy and he was obviously distressed about the situation. I explained to the veterinary nurse what had happened when I took him for his claw-clipping an hour later and she had the vet take a look at him. The poor little lad has sprained one of the toes on each of his front paws, but he's okay, and after keeping a close eye on him for the past 5 days I think he's probably healed now. So yes, I am thankful for the vet for keeping my precious little lad healthy and checking him over for free last week.
5. My wheelchair
When I think what I used to be able to do it almost seems unreal ... it certainly feels unfair at times. One of my brothers and his family are going camping this summer, which is something I used to love. The last time I went camping was in 2006 when I had an amazing holiday on my own, camping my way around the country for four and a half weeks. It was meant to be three and half weeks, but I extended it after spending a week in hospital (including ITU) in Cornwall, not letting a little thing like the inability to breathe stop me from having the holiday I'd planned. It was fantastic, but I suspect that I'm not very likely to camp again as there's a significant lack of electric plug sockets in a tent from which to charge a powered wheelchair. All the same, I'm thankful for my wheelchair - Noah - because it gives me other freedoms - the freedom of independence in the outside world. Of course, there are limitations as many buildings still aren't fully accessible, and much of the countryside isn't at all wheelchair friendly, for example, but I can go out, on my own, on the bus, in to town, to the park, along many public footpaths further afield if I go out in the car. I don't have to rely on family, friends or carers to push me in an attendant-assisted wheelchair, or on my lungs for breathing to use a manual wheelchair, or on my balance (POTS) and lungs for walking. My independence is important to me, and I'm thankful that I have access to a means to maintain that independence as much as is possible.
6. My mind
Okay, so depression is awful, but depression isn't all that my mind has given me. I'm thankful that I have the mind I do, because with it I can think things through, I can reason, I can consider, I can be logical, and I can be illogical. My mind gives me choices and the capacity to make decisions; it allows me to challenge situations and concepts; it contributes to my creativity; it helps me to recognise emotions and identify why I feel what I do when I do. Without my mind I would not know that there are things for which to be thankful, and I wouldn't know that I am thankful for those things.
The ultimate 'thing' for which I am thankful is God. Without Him I would not have my mind, my thankfulness, my being, or anything else which deserves thanks. I thank God for God.