The President’s Corner

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

by Jaime Castle

Perhaps you are familiar with the children’s book with this same title, the one written by Dr. Seuss, that tells you that you should be grateful for your life’s circumstances because there are others in this world who are much worse off than you. By showing whimsical examples showcasing this relativity, you gain appreciation by thinking – things could be worse! Of course, the examples in the book are silly and fantastical, designed to make children laugh, but the premise is a very realistic one: some people are much more… oh, ever so much more… oh, muchly, much-much more unlucky than you!

I’ve had a lot of recent disappointment in my life, mainly concerning the career route and reroute that I’ve been on. I’ve wanted so badly and chased and worked for job opportunities, but things haven’t worked out for me. I’m back in the saddle again looking for my next job which will hopefully be long-term, and it is mentally draining and frustrating. At home, I feel like there just isn’t enough hours in the day to get all of the things done. I feel like Sisyphus, but my boulder is laundry, and dishes, and managing the needs of the people and animals in my household. I’ve been stepping back from a lot of non-job responsibilities, saying no to attending things and to taking on new volunteer tasks, in hopes that I can find more time to catch up on family time and creative time. I have been slowly de-stressing by doing this, but it does not come without guilt.

My sister lives exactly an hour away, out in Adams County. She moved out there with her husband at the time when they enjoyed the wide, open spaces, and seeing their three children grow. Something happened, though, right after my sister turned 40, nine years ago. She got bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease. She wasn’t feeling her legs and was so very tired. She eventually was walking again, but she wasn’t getting all of the way better. She was later that year diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that very well may have been triggered by the Lyme disease.

MS can look like many things and many people live very normal lives keeping it managed. My sister got the worst of it. In the nine years that she has been living with this, she went from being tired, to needing a cane, to using a walker, to using a wheelchair, to being mostly bedridden. These days, she struggles with having the strength to lift a spoon. She is no longer married and two of her kids are adults and on their own. She has a home healthcare aid during most of the week’s daytime hours and my parents, who moved out to Adams County, live next door and help her out on the weekends. Her youngest is 16 and she shares custody of her daughter – at least for now. We don’t know for how long my sister will be able to stay in her house and we feel that in assisted living is where she will need to live. I feel guilty for not being able to be there more for her and a sort of survivor’s guilt for being the healthy one.

I am two years younger and I still feel that I have so much of my life in front of me. I cannot imagine the physical frustrations and the mental depression that she endures. My problems and struggles are nothing compared to what she faces. Since her turn for the recent worse, I have used my regained time to go out to see her and be good company and to do any projects or chores that she needs done. I like to spoil her with treats too, like chocolate or a really great smelling hydrating lotion.

When I come home after a visit with her, I find renewed motivation to get my own household chores and projects done. I ask myself, how lucky am I that I am able to apply for job openings? How lucky am I that I can push a vacuum? How lucky am I that I can load the dishwasher? How lucky that I can fold laundry and put things away? How lucky am I that, when I sleep, I can turn my body into more comfortable positions? So many things in our lives we are so fortunate for, and we do not even realize it.

Who we have, what we have, where we live, when we live, what we can do – there is a lot to be grateful for. I’m going out to see my sister this weekend and we will find things to laugh about, and we will look for joy. I think one point that was left out of Dr. Seuss’s book was that we can be good to those that have it worse. We can find gratitude in our situations, but what kind of people would we be if we didn’t help others? So, for now, I bid you to know that you are lucky, but also to be kind to the unlucky! 

Image source: courtesy of Jaime Castle of Jaime and her sister Debby