Stacey Robbins, Contributor
A Lesson in Gratitude – When Enough is Enough
I just got back from Italy.
My best girlfriend of 34 years took me on a “Thank you” and “Holy Shit, You Really Needed This” trip.
The ‘Thank You’ was for helping her through a 3-year divorce.
The “You Really Needed This” was because, well…
I really needed it.
It’s been quite a year.
My 13 year-old went through a bullying situation that escalated to ridiculous proportions and he removed himself from a school that he loved, but didn’t feel safe. He ended up by my side for four months with PTSD as we both worked to heal from the experience.
One month later, my husband was told his division was sold and everyone was losing his job. But before that, he would work 15-hour days for few months and come home to a son – and now a wife – with PTSD.
Two weeks after his job ended, our 11 year-old injured himself in soccer and ended up in a wheel chair for 2 ½ months.
And needed to be waited on hand-and-foot.
The mom, who was already in need of a break before all this happened, was now looking like a kind but demented character from a Dr. Seuss book, with massive under-eye wrinkles, a frazzled look in her eyes and one, long, grey hair standing straight on the top of her head.
That was me.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it was hard to breathe.
It’s been a lot of upheaval. A lot of transition. A lot of expenses. And a lot of energy out.
Oh, did I mention?
I’m a working mom who writes books and coaches people.
And I have Hashimoto’s.
Right before all hell broke loose, my dear friend, Dr. Izabella Wentz came over, sat on my couch and said, “Your adrenals need a break, Stacey. You need a 3 month spa experience where you rest, eat and play.”
Life breaking down for your family is not the equivalent of a 3-month spa experience.
So after almost a year of stress and rigor my girlfriend gave me the “You Really Need This” trip to Italy.
It was amazing.
And I felt like I was home.
I ate the most delectable foods that were senza glutine (without gluten), walked the cobblestone streets of Florence and listened to the beautiful music performed outside of the Duomo.
It was magical.
And I had a HUGE “A-ha!” moment.
When I returned to Southern California feeling full, rich and recovered in so many ways and I shared the pictures with my family, I realized something:
I had no regrets.
No ‘wishing the trip had been better, different or something else.’
I looked at the photographs and felt like they were a snapshot of an experience that I truly experienced with great joy, presence and gratitude.
It was enough.
And I was grateful.
And that’s when I realized that I haven’t always looked at the rest of my life that way — because I haven’t lived that way.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at photos of my past and instead of remembering the experience, I remember feeling inadequate.
Whether it was a picture from college, out with my friends when I was cute and 120 lbs. – I remember worrying that I wasn’t skinny enough.
Or when I looked at a photo of me, holding my kids when they were young. Even though I nursed them forever and loved them like crazy, I felt like a mom who wasn’t good enough.
Or looking at a snapshot from a past music performance, when I did a beautiful job and had a great career, sometimes I thought I wasn’t talented enough.
In fact, that reminds me of a man I met when I was performing…
I was getting ready to play in the North East at an event many years ago. I had several music gigs in that region right after 9/11, there was a sacred haze to that time where the nation came together in an amazing way and I felt it on every gig — but this one in Pennsylvania stood out to me amongst the rest.
Because the man who was setting up my mic and running the sound was such a quietly joyful and serving soul, he truly stood out in a crowd.
I mean, my God, he brought me water, wiped the bottle down, opened it for me and brought it up to my lips because my hands were full while I was sound-checking the guitar. It made me a little uncomfortable because, I swear — I think he would have sipped it for me if I could have somehow gotten the nourishment that way.
I stopped everything I was doing and turned to him, “Gary. You have to tell me how you have such a remarkable spirit about you. I want to know how you are such a serving, caring person.”
He paused what he was doing and looked me in the eyes. His gaze was clear and true as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded piece of photocopied news paper. He opened it part way and, even though it was a bit faded, I could clearly see a car that was totaled in an accident.
He said, “Stacey, I’m an EMT and heard the scanner go off. As they were describing the car that was hit, my blood went cold. I have four kids. That day, three of them were in the car with their friend driving to school when they were hit by a drunk driver who was out on an all-night binge.
I got news that no parent ever wants to get. My 14 year-old was in surgery removing his spleen. My 15 year-old, who was an all-star soccer player, had so many broken bones and a broken back, they said she’d never walk again. And my 17 year-old who had just gotten a scholarship to his first-pick college, was in a coma with a brain hemorrhage and wasn’t expected to make it through the night.”
“I was beside myself with grief and so angry. I was so angry at life and God and I stood in the hospital waiting room and said to God, ‘This is not fair! This is not enough! I haven’t had enough time! I haven’t had enough hugs and memories! I haven’t walked my daughter down the aisle or held my grandchildren…’
And after I broke down and cried the hardest cry I’ve ever had, I heard this voice say back to me, in my pain, ‘Just thank me, Gary. Thank me for the time you had.’
I was crushed and I was supposed to be thankful? Why would I even listen to a God who had obviously turned his back on me…. taken my kids. Taken my life…
I was angry and didn’t want to thank God for anything. I said, ‘You let them live and I’ll thank you.’ But I heard silence and knew that wasn’t the way this deal was going down.
The doctors came out and told us the time was close for my son and that I had to go in and say goodbye. I couldn’t say good-bye. I was too angry. It wasn’t enough time.
I took a deep breath and walking to my son’s room in ICU, I counted the years, months and days of each one of my children.
‘For my sons 14 years, 3 months, and 6 days – thank you.’
‘For my daughter’s 15 years, 7 months and 13 days – thank you.
‘For my son’s 17 years…’ I was sobbing to even say the rest because it was almost his 18th birthday… ‘11 months, and 5 day — thank you.’
And I cried and cried as we walked into his room, but I felt lighter, too. There was something about being thankful for what I had that helped me to face this moment.”
Tears were streaming down my face and I was holding in a sob as I listened and re-lived these moments with Gary. Now, he and I were both crying as he unfolded the piece of paper a little more. The one he originally showed me of the car accident.
“This,” he pointed to a girl playing soccer, wiping the back of his hand on his cheek, ‘is the daughter they said would never walk again. She not only walks but after two years of rehab is playing soccer again.
“And this,” he pointed to a young man, standing in front of a statue, “Is my son they said wouldn’t live through the night.’ He tapped his picture with conviction and passion, ‘His brain stopped bleeding and he not only made it through the night, but ended up at the college of his dreams. A little later than he planned, but he got there.
Gary wiped his eyes with both palms like a little kid. And then, he stared straight into my eyes.
“Stacey, I could never have lived enjoying them today if I hadn’t said, ‘thank you’ for what I had. It would never have been enough. Not only would it have not been enough, I would spend my life in fear – worrying about the next time they were in the car, the next notification on the scanner. The next phone call I would get….
We’re not supposed to live that way. God knew that and wanted me to know it, too.
So, I guess, to answer your question. That’s why I can do what I do, the way I do it.
Because I’m grateful.”
Gary was so right.
So many times we wait for life to be a certain way before we’re grateful.
To be skinny enough.
Or rich enough.
Or wise enough.
Or healthy enough.
We wait to have a husband
Or a career
Or an experience
Before we finally say, “That’s good enough.”
But that’s not the way it worked for Gary.
And while his story helped me to appreciate life and live it differently for a while, I stumbled back into some old patterns. There have been different reminders since then that helped me to re-center.
Italy was one of them.
I realized that I have spent so much of my life thinking that I wasn’t enough or ‘it’ wasn’t enough (whatever ‘it’ was – money, time with friends, my husband’s growth, my weight loss, or my health) and I really, really missed enjoying it in the now.
‘It’ – being ‘life.’
This great revelation unfolded for me: that, in order to look back without regret, it’s best to live with gratitude within the experience.
Our media, fraught with comparison tells us, “You’re not enough.”
And then, you’ll be enough.
But the Universe is sending us a different message:
Look at these trees, with all of these leaves.
Look at this ocean, with all of this water.
Look at this sky, with all of these stars.
More than enough.
This moment is enough.
This experience is enough.
This person you are
When I come from that place
I really end up ‘living’ life
instead of really ‘missing’ life.
That’s why I address the connection between our body and our beliefs when we look at what Hashimoto’s is. Because if our body is attacking itself, what beliefs do we have that are at war with our peace?
Believing you’re not enough is not peaceful – and it’s an idea that’s at war with the truth and wonder of who you are.
Because the truth is this:
When I get clear on who I am
and turn that gratitude toward myself,
I step out of the restless discontentment that is driving me
and I settle into that space of accepting myself.
I’m finally at home
Finally at peace
Finally with love.
I realize that I am enough
And that ‘enough.’
About the Author
Stacey Robbins, CHC, RYT 200 is an Integrated Wellness Coach, Speaker and Author of “You’re Not Crazy and You’re Not Alone: Losing the Victim, Finding Your Sense of Humor and Learning to Love Yourself through Hashimoto’s. Stacey addresses the connections between our beliefs and our body and that our healing can only go as far as our beliefs will let it. Find out more about her work, her book and her 30-Day Online Coaching Course. Read Stacey’s Thyroid Thivers story, here. Check out her website and follow her on Facebook.