Out of the Valley: Nine days of beautiful gifts
In my last post I wrote about some health issues that had me searching for the light around me. It was the convergence of many ongoing symptoms that made it so intense. I wasn’t sleeping well. I felt intermittently drowsy and dizzy and nauseous. My appetite was all but gone. But when I sought medical help (my doctor sent me to the ER), all the test results came back negative or normal. There were just two thin threads to follow. I scheduled appointments with two specialists, but while I waited, my symptoms continued to impact my days. Most notably, I had to avoid screen time as it made everything worse.
In the past, I would have kept my “complaints” to myself, thinking I didn’t want to burden anyone with worry. But I’ve learned that when you’re in a valley, it’s okay to open up and reach out for help.
So when my mom and sister asked how I was doing, I gave them specific details. I described my frustrations and the ways I was trying to manage them. They listened patiently and offered empathy and love.
Nearly three weeks after my ER visit, I’d been following my doctor’s treatment plan for a few days. Some symptoms were showing improvement, but others were stubbornly persistent. I’d spent over a month with what I now see was mild depression, and I was having a difficult time breaking out.
Then the doorbell rang. My sister handed me a bouquet of flowers with the attached note:
Lisa — Remember when Grandma Kelley gave you nine gifts to open each day after you back surgery? [when I was 13] And remember how Grandma Hume used to send us such loving care packages? We know it’s been a tough couple of weeks for you. So, in the spirit of our Grandmas and their love, we came up with this idea to show our love and support. This is your first gift of nine, and for the next 8 days, you get to look forward to opening a gift. Each gift is much more than a present. It is our way of telling you... You are not alone. We stand with you. We are always here. You’ve got this. We love you. — Mom and Kara
I melted. I felt humbled and grateful and loved all at once.
The next day, just as the mid-morning blahs hit, I grabbed a package and dialed my mom and sister on a video call. Not only did I get to open a gift, I got to see their smiles and hear their words of encouragement. We caught up on the day’s events, and I updated them on my health. It went so well, that I made it a routine for the opening the rest of the packages each day.
Each gift held it’s own underlying message, and though I chose which one to open randomly, they all seemed to be in the perfect order to lift me out of my slump.
Day 2: Without screen time, I turned to cleaning out one of my catch-all cabinets. These organizing bins were evidence that my mom and sister were truly listening when I shared what I was doing.
Day 3: A third warm hoodie, after receiving the first two for my Christmas wish list, told me that wrapping myself in comfort was a way to heal.
Day 5: A framed “generations” picture with my mom, my sister, and my niece, told me my role as Auntie is valued and cherished. And how can you not smile at a newborn baby?
Day 6: A pair of colorful, knee-high socks was the perfect addition to my collection of (okay, obsession with) warm socks, showing me just how well my family knows me.
Day 7: This nod to Scripture was a meaningful reminder that a higher power is in control, and that I’m never alone. It also reminded me of a centering song that brings me peace. I started humming it any time anxiety set in.
Day 8: Peppermint tea and a mug that says, “choose joy” added layers of meaning to the day. I loved the warmth and comfort of drinking hot tea, the flowers that match my niece’s nursery whose name also means joy, and the reminder of a reliable, cheer-myself-up song called Joy.
Day 9: On the last day, I opened the largest gift, my way of saving the best for last. A few weeks earlier, my sister was shopping and had texted me pictures of all the inspirational signs in the store, wondering if I wanted to buy one. I’d gravitated towards this one, but decided I didn’t need it. However, as I unwrapped the gift and saw what it was, I realized how much I would enjoy it and the reminder of the beautiful hymn.
At the end of nine days, not only had my physical health improved, my mental health was restored as well, thanks to the love and support of my family. I will forever cherish their thoughtful kindness and the little gifts.
If you’re in a valley, you may not be showered with literal gifts, but if you open yourself up to a trusted friend or family member and are willing to accept their gifts of encouragement and support (keeping in mind their gift may be a suggestion that you seek professional help), you can climb out of the depths feeling renewed and loved.
Who has helped or is willing to help you out of a valley?
What would happen if you accepted their gifts with gratitude and openness?
Some of January's Doorways:
- For many days, the only Doorway I could find was the tiniest improvement of one symptom, or a night with a little more sleep. I tried to recognize the healing as it came, even if it was gone the next day and slow to return.
- I was able to connect with two friends when I wasn't feeling well. We took turns listening to each other and offering support and encouragement, and I was grateful for their friendship.
- Looking for a moment of peace and harmony, I sat on the couch with my eyes closed and spread my arms out to invite a connection with Spiritual energy. I was joyfully surprised at the response when my youngest dog, Riley, started licking my hand. Her affection warmed my heart.
- I was smiling, cooing and making other silly noises at my niece on a video call, trying to get a reaction from her. About the time she broke out in a grin, both of my doggies had come to my lap, wagging their tails. I was awed at the universal language of safety, love, welcome, and kindness.