I was talking about this book, Grumpy Bird, today, and recalling how important it is in my life. Three years ago I wrote this post and decided to re-post it here today as I gr umped about the weather. When is spring going to finally come and stay, I complained.
Children’s books are my treasures. I love both the illustrations and the wisdom contained therein.
When I was going through my cancer treatment, I kept a blog called Joyful Wrecks. I decided on the name to illustrate my experience that although I would be looking for joyful moments, and working to create them, I recognized that there would also be moments when I felt shipwrecked.
At that time my granddaughter, Sophie, was two years old, and she had a book that we both loved called Grumpy Bird. (by Jeremy Tankard) The book began like this:
When Bird woke up, he was grumpy
He was too grumpy to eat.
He was too grumpy to play.
In fact he was too grumpy to fly.
“Looks like I’m walking today,” said bird.
One morning when I was feeling down, I remembered the book and on a day when my spouse asked me how things were going. I answered,
“Looks like I’m walking today,”I declared
What I loved about the metaphor, however, was that I could still walk (do something) just like Bird.
Part of being a joyful wreck was that there were, and still are, times when we all feel wrecked. I remember a time when my right arm was painful because of my “wrecked’ veins from multiple attempts to insert an IV. In fact, one of the chemo nurse’s looked at my veins and said, “I see we are doing what we do best around here, ruining veins.” And we both laughed.
It’s not always easy to co-exist with discomfort and still perceive that today is a precious gift, especially since we are conditioned to retreat from what we don’t like or fear. Yet it makes all the difference to the quality of our everyday life. Right now. In this minute.
There were times my arm hurt; I felt nauseated and I wished I felt differently. I wished I didn’t have cancer. Yet, I still woke up. How good was that! I got up on two wobbly legs. I sat down with my spouse and had a bowl of cereal with a sliced banana. The birch tree outside the dining room window was wearing a beautiful leafy green dress and the birds were singing. The air smelled sweet and had a quality of spring exuberance that was almost palpable. In that very moment life was perfect.
Dr. Morita told his patients, “When climbing a mountain you can give up a hundred times a day, but keep your feet pointed up hill.”
Living well with illness is not about consistently feeling great and simply overlooking the difficulties. It is about not falling in a hole and staying there and allowing our illness to define our life. It means not putting our lives on hold or wrapping ourselves in the cloak of the victim mentality. That mentality says: “life is hopeless and I can do nothing.”
Living well with illness is about taking action, small steps, even when not in the mood. We keep our feet moving and pointed uphill.
In the midst of our illness, we’re finding funny stories, learning, resting, moving, creating, helping, questioning, weeping, smiling, being angry, loving, caring, showing up, saying yes, saying no, getting another opinion, getting things done, enjoying, appreciating, taking a nap, and finding meaning and purpose while we can. Come to think of it, this sounds like what everyone is doing, including those who don’t have a serious illness.
Why not live with outstretched arms? What do we have to lose? We’re all terminal — we are all going to die one day.
Why not use these living breathing moments to say YES to life! Discover your talents and cultivate them; remember your dreams and act on them; use your gifts to cheer one another on. We never know our impact on the lives of others. We do know that when we live fully, we are more alive.
1:) Another reason I like this book is how bird’s friends came to support him. They were not tying to cheer him up or give advice. They just joined in and walked along side until he was ready to fly again. Of course I also think a walk is a great antidote for everything.
2:) Sometimes when I have a tough day, an unexpected element enters the picture. A call comes, or maybe an email or a word from a stranger or loved one that suddenly turns things around. I am so grateful for those moments and I hope that I can be that person for someone else. I think these elements are in all of our days but we can easily fail to notice.
3:) “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson I appreciate this sound advice – “finish each day and be done with it.”
4:) The next time we meet it will be May. I am attempting to discover little known areas in my neighbourhood with their own beauty and charm. Finding new ways to stroll home. Thank you for coming by here. Please post in the comments or email some of your favourite children’s books and I will post them with delight. Each day is a new page in our book of life. May you enjoy it. Warmly, Trudy