Appreciating What We Have

© 2001 Michele Toomey, PhD


December 1, 2001

Post-encephalitis has left us living with hard, surrounded by hard, and dealing daily with hard. So for you, Marlene, to choose to have a gathering to "celebrate" December 1, 2001, the third anniversary of your attack by the virus, is to ask us to look away from hard and to look at appreciation. Since you have had encephalitis, you are more grateful for the quality of your life than we have been.

We struggle with anger and loss far more than we focus on appreciation for all that you still have and can do. Jill is perhaps the only one who is as free as you are to be appreciative of all that you have. You effusively hug us and thank us for everything we do for you, no matter how small the gesture. Sometimes we are embarrassed by your depth of gratitude. But it is genuine. Often you are able to luxuriate in the quality of your life and in your capacity to process what's going on for you because of the deep intimacy you now have with yourself.

Your journal has become a wonderful tool and a dear friend. You have learned to go inside and discover where you are and how you came to be there. Without fail, your writing allows you to become intimate with yourself. You treasure this ability to find out where you are within, and this experience permeates your mood. Such a contrast from your inability to find things in the world without, where you scurry, search, look again, then lose and start over.

We are living with you in this literal world outside your inner one, and we tend to focus our attention there. But, leave it to you, you decided to throw a party today to celebrate your inner world. You challenge and invite us to look inside and see what you see, a woman who is able to be intimate with herself as she processes hard and deals with the hard truth of memory loss and brain damage. Who appreciates all it takes and all it took for you to get here, and for whom "here" is rich and full.

Your invitation, for a party at 10 a.m. in the morning, is a fitting one. It is, after all, your inner world, your life, and your timing. When 2 a.m. is your rising time, 10 a.m. is early afternoon. To be able to join you, really join you, in this party of celebration and appreciation, we have to leave the hard of the literal world and enter the integrity and intimacy of the inner world. This is, therefore, a party in the invisible world within. We have to take off our shoes and go inside with you this morning, and we do. Following your lead we celebrate today, December 1, 2001, in a very special way with you. Herpes simplex encephalitis did not do you in, thanks to all of us in our joint, team effort, but most especially thanks to your persevering, gutsy, dogged, committed effort.

Encephalitis has wrecked havoc on your brain, but your intellect is intact, as is your indomitable spirit. You not only have not been done in, you have claimed your place within with such integrity that you are more enriched. Truly that is something remarkable and deserving of celebration. We are proud of you, Marlene, and we are ready to join you in appreciation of what you and we have. Congratulations, Marlene! December 1st is more than a tragic day in your life. It marks a rebirth and renewal of faith in the power of integrity that allows us to live with you where "truth and fairness meet."

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