Finding gratefulness can be damn tricky. The thought comes not from despair or from some illusionary dream busted from a lack of effort. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that one should cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes and give thanks continuously for all things that contributed to your advancement. Phooey to that. Several weeks past cold-turkey of pain medications, listening to persistent tinnitus, and walking like an extra on the set of some zombie episode leaves me sick of it all.

Sure, I could keep some form of a gratitude journal, reflect upon the good things of life, say prayers, and offer meditative mantras to God, but that means I am still stuck. Here. In the ever-present sound of persistent ever-lasting tinnitus. Remaining calm in the face of adversity was my superpower. And it served me well. I’ve been grateful through so many challenges. First, there was a tumor, then arthritis, followed by Parkinson’s and Ménière’s disease. But the gratefulness that helped me through so many days disappeared when Ménière’s disease rolled in. I feel destroyed.

Like many sufferers on the road to God, I was my caretaker and fellow traveler. I saw myself as an impartial third party following along as my body moved through the stages of each disease. In each phase, there was a challenge and awakening. And in many ways, my blog (and that which God inspired me to write, hopefully, become a teacher of living and dying. But, truthfully, I am unsure what changed. So, why did Ménière’s disease stop my motivation? For all the talk and gander on positivism, what ceased the spiritual? 

I am not alone. Mother Teresa endured what the church calls a “dark night of the soul” — a period of spiritual doubt, despair, and loneliness. She spent 50 years in the night. I am only in week two. Geez, I have a long way to go before bitching. Right? But then, why am I here? Maybe God wants me to learn the spiritual poverty of those who feel “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.” Mother Teresa understood when people shared their doubts and fears, their pain and suffering of being unloved and lonely, that she could empathize because she was experiencing it.

There is an important note. Mother Teresa, like all saints, can be imperfect. They can suffer and even feel unloved by God.

“There is so much contradiction in my soul. She wrote that deep longing for God is so deep that it is painful, continual suffering, and yet not wanted by God, repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal. Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing; to me, it looks like an empty place. The thought of it means nothing to me, yet this torturing body (my body) longs for God.

Over several years of treatment, I met a few regulars. Unfortunately, some regulars are no longer with us. However, the other day, another regular termed the few remaining as ‘comrade in arms.’ When Soh heard this, I realized that I bridged the gap that divides those with cancer from others through illness. Being labeled a Comrade provides a peaceful feeling of oneness, not only with God but with others. One comrade phrased her gratefulness accordingly.

“I am grateful for the kindness of those around me. I give thanks to those who care for me. I am thankful for the beauty and grateful for the truth. I notice and acknowledge the small things in life as blessings—a simple meal of rice and soup, the nurses who serve me, those who deliver food, the hospital, whatever form of exercise I can get, reading a newspaper, and living at home through much of this.” 

Thank you. For I am grateful. Thank you God.