Today is my favorite holiday, which takes place in my favorite season! It is a time to reflect on all that we have, and all that we hope for. I have so much to give thanks for this year. I am grateful for this space, where I am able to share my experience openly and honestly. I am grateful for a diagnosis (or really diagnoses), and the direction it provides. I am thankful for the health care professionals on my team who are committed to working with me to achieve more good days.  I am grateful to be able to afford so many (if not all) of the specialized foods and treatments recommended. Most of all though, I am grateful for the people in my life who “get it” and the perfect moments in time where I feel loved and accepted and don’t feel the pressure to hide or even explain myself.
These moments are precious when they occur with family or friends (and I am so thankful to say that they do!), but they leave me speechless when they happen with strangers.

I had a moment like this recently that I want to share. First, because
practicing gratitude, especially when things aren’t easy, is a powerful way to refocus yourself on all of the good in the world. The other reason I feel compelled to share this story is because there are so many stories out there that began the same way and ended differently, with judgement and unkindness. This is a story of open-mindedness and kindness, and we all need more of that.

In the three months that I have had a permit for disabled parking, I have not had one negative experience. I was so afraid when I applied for it that I would meet the resistance that is so frequently shared on the internet. It’s likely that someday I will meet someone who is uneducated or unkind, and when the time comes I will be ready to educate them about invisible disabilities and ableism with a smile (hopefully). Until then, I would really like to share the type of story that I think just must not get shared. The story that I want to give thanks for:

Lately, I’ve been struggling with an upper respiratory infection that won’t lift, on top of the effect of the ever-changing weather on my intractable migraine, and some difficulty with my SI joint/hips. When I pulled up to Whole Foods to do some shopping last week, my right side was numb, and I knew I would need the extra help of my handicap placard to make sure I had the energy to get through the store. I was right, and by the time I had gone through check out I was relying on my cart to help keep me upright. I walked my cart full of goodies out to my car, but had difficulty keeping it from rolling away as I opened my trunk. At that moment, I knew I should have asked the staff inside the store for help.

A split second later two middle-aged women on their way into the store approached me. I panicked internally, expecting to have to explain why a perfectly “healthy looking” young woman needed that coveted parking space. I started to tear up. I WAS WRONG. These women were not interested in judging me. They did not ask a single question about the nature of my disability. They saw me struggling, and they came to help. They helped me to pack my bags into my car, and then cheerfully offered to take my cart as their own. They were exactly what I needed in that moment. I will never forget their kindness. It is one of the many things that I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving.

This simple story illustrates my wish for you this holiday season: may you enjoy moments in which you feel at ease, knowing that the people around you understand (whatever it is you struggle with) and still value you. May you feel connected. May you take time to practice gratitude for each of these moments, as fleeting as they may be. Take time to say thank you to the universe.