I have a feeling that gratitude breeds gratitude. The more you feel it, the more it grows. I’m struggling to find the words for this post, because this week has been extraordinary. So I’ll just start at the beginning.
Last weekend, to mark what would have been my father’s birthday, both my books were free to download on Kindle, and I asked that people donate to Myeloma UK, the charity that supports sufferers of the bone marrow cancer that ended his life. I was stunned by the response, in particular by the numbers of downloads of my novel. By Sunday these numbers had fallen, which didn’t surprise me – the first day of a giveaway usually sees the highest numbers.
On Monday I logged on to check my stats on Kindle, expecting downloads to have dwindled more. Instead they had risen. Later, I discovered that the website Reader Giveaways had featured Drawings In Sand. How they found it, I don’t know. But I’m thankful.
On Wednesday, responding to a friend request Goodreads, I noticed Drawings in Sand had some new ratings, so I checked them out. Among them was its first ever one star. No matter what you write, not everyone will like it, so I’ve always known this day would come and wondered how I’d feel. Of all the emotions I had imagined, gratitude was not one – yet that’s what I felt. I had a one star rating, and I was still alive, still the same person I was a few moments before.
Curious to see what this person did like, I clicked through to her profile and found she’d given George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World one star ratings as well, along with Twelve Years a Slave, The Lotus Eaters and Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I was in good company. I felt jubilant.
Whether it’s nature or nurture I have no idea, but our elder daughter also writes. This week is the first of some pretty important exams. A few years ago she was a child plagued by persistent illness, low confidence and anxiety. A few years ago, sitting so many exams would have floored her. But not only is she coping with the revision and the exams, she’s still finding time to write fan fiction. (Our girls and their friends are a little obsessed with the Marvel movies and Agents of Shield.) Every day she gets more messages from people who love what she writes, who say it made them cry, that it inspires them. Some have taken that inspiration and written stories of their own, others have created graphics for their Tumblr blogs. And my daughter loves that what she writes has inspired others – she’s learning the joy that comes from being of service. And I am learning even more from watching her. See, gratitude breeds gratitude.
On Friday on this blog, I wrote a post about judgement, sharing a process I’ve used for years to question stressful beliefs. In the process of doing this, something I have ruminated about on and off for over a decade dissolved into nothing. A memory in which I felt powerless and attacked became a source of understanding, peace and compassion – for both myself and the other person involved. As if this wasn’t enough food fortune, yesterday, I found that our Ten Things of Thankful host, Lizzi, had left a trail of posts on Google+ and Facebook, saying how much she loved what I wrote. One them says, “Yvonne is one of those people who is sometimes, of a weekend, sent to inspire.”
Reading something like that just makes a person glow. Thanks Lizzi. Once again, gratitude breeds gratitude.
After I’d read it, glowing suitably, I walked to the supermarket. As is my habit, my first stop was to look at the newspaper headlines. Among all the outraged headlines about Max Clifford (a disgraced publicist) was this one: Stephen Sutton Discharged From Hospital.
It’s not often I’ve felt bowled over by gratitude at a newspaper headline. I’ve never met Stephen Sutton and only heard about him for the first time last week, yet somehow his story touched me. He is a nineteen year-old boy who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at fifteen, and soon after was told it was terminal. He made a bucket list of things he wanted to do before he died and one of those was to raise £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Two weeks ago he was only halfway to his target and his condition was rapidly getting worse. With so little time left, he took to social media to spread the word. His story went viral, several celebrities took it to their hearts and even the Prime Minster went to see him in hospital. Instead of £10,000, his campaign has raised over £3 million.
Asked about his recovery, Stephen says he feels, “even more fortunate to just be here and the experience serves as a potent reminder to go out there and live life as freely and as positively as possible.”
And somehow, seeing this just struck me with awe. Yet his recovery doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve long been fascinated by how the mind affects the body and lately I’ve read several books about it, including Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself by Dr Lissa Rankin. Everyone knows about the placebo effect, but from what I’ve read, it’s not just our own beliefs that can affect our health. How other people react plays a part too – if you have a doctor who is confident that medicine will cure you then you are more likely to get well. So with all that love, all those people telling Stephen he is such an inspiration – is it any wonder he’s recovered enough to go home? So, there I was yesterday, wandering around the vegetables, picking up gorgeous red peppers, juicy tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, feeling joy at this boy’s recovery. (I did also feel ever so slightly silly to feel so deeply affected by someone I’d never met, but if a Prime Minister can be moved to visit him then I can feel awe.)
I reached the checkout. As I stood waiting my turn, beyond the tills I noticed a little old man, stooped over his trolley, sorting out his money. He must have been at least ninety, his stoop looked permanent, and yet he was in the supermarket on his own. I suppose he reminded me of my dad. I felt such admiration for that old man. Then, as it came my turn at the checkout, I noticed that pinned to his jacket was a row of medals. My admiration doubled.
By the time I had paid and left, he was gone. Perhaps one day I’ll see him again and ask him about his medals, hear his life story, perhaps not. Either way, his life touched mine for a few moments and enriched it.
And that, my friends, has been another week of thankful moments.