This Quote by Ernest Hemingway is an Excellent Reminder

It reminds us to pause, reflect on all that we do have, and be grateful for it. And, if there’s something we’d like to change, it reminds us to take action to change it.
Whether it’s time, money, status, support, health, or friends—no matter. It’s easy to get caught up in focusing on what’s wrong in our lives. It seems the more we focus on our lack, the easier it is to become stuck in endless negative contemplation. At its extreme, pervasive negativity can take over. It doesn’t help that we see it all around us…Online, in videos, in print, on the radio, everywhere it seems, the focus is on what’s wrong around us.

Two Months Ago, My Perspective Changed

My life took a pause when I underwent double jaw surgery. Planned years in advance and involving multiple cuts to my jaws and then bolting them back together in the new position, it would be intense. It was, however, necessary to correct the congenital defect affecting my ability to breathe. For the last 15 years, I required a CPAP machine, a solution that began to help less and less.
Often covered by insurance, sleep apnea is a life-threatening condition. A condition causing significant health problems, death from a heart attack isn’t uncommon. Prior to being considered a surgical candidate, you must demonstrate you’ve exhausted all other avenues. Even with the blessing of insurance, I knew I’d face significant out-of-pocket expenses. I saved up.
Despite careful planning and preparing my mindset, I couldn’t help feeling scared. The nearly consuming, “what if something bad happens,” or, “What if the surgery causes a secondary problem?” kept edging their unwelcomed whispers into my consciousness.
It didn’t help that some of my well-meaning friends questioned my decision, citing all the terrible things that could go wrong, especially at my age. But having exhausted all other options available to me, I knew deep down, this was my only recourse. It was now or never, so I took the plunge.

When I Woke Up in the Hospital Bed, I Was Glad to Be Alive

Though I wasn’t in any pain, my head felt three times its normal size, my face so swollen, I could barely see. My tongue was frozen. Glued to the roof of my mouth, it was as dry as the Sahara Desert. I couldn’t speak or swallow…I didn’t care to try. In what seemed like mere minutes, the nurse arrived to check in on me.
How are you feeling?” she asked. The tongue-in-cheek response that rose to my lips never made it out. I shrugged instead and raised my eyebrows, as if to say, “I’m hanging in there.” Or, “As well as can be expected.” Or, even pithier, “I’m alive, so that’s a good start”—Any of those would have sufficed. Fortunately, she didn’t require any real communication from me right then.
She nodded at my non-verbal response, and with a bright smile, announced my first task: “You must stay hydrated, so I’m going to teach you how to sip from this cup of water.”

Far Easier Said Than Done

Not only could I not feel my tongue or anything else in my mouth, but I couldn’t feel my lips or the rest of my face. I also wasn’t entirely sure I could manage to sit up to take the cup she offered.
You’ll take your sip, then you’re going to put your head down to swallow, like this,” she said, demonstrating. You don’t want to aspirate the water into your lungs. Since you’ll need to get used to swallowing again, you’re going to have to practice a little.

That Was an Understatement

The entire layout of my mouth had changed. Nothing was where it was supposed to be, according to my brain. Putting my head down while swallowing at the same time was like trying to find your way in the pitch dark of an unfamiliar room—you know there’s furniture, but you don’t know where anything is. Until you can’t do something as basic as swallowing, something you normally do thousand times a day without thinking, do you realize how much you take for granted?
My sipping test ended with most of the water spilling down the front of my hospital gown. Not my finest moment. I spent the night in the hospital, where in between naps, I practiced swallowing without much success. Before they would release me the next day, I’d need to demonstrate my mastery of the basics, like swallowing and standing on my own without keeling over from dizziness. While both continued to be challenging, my progress it seemed, was good enough. They sent me home under the care of my husband, who drove me.

I Rode in the Back of the Car as Instructed

In case the unthinkable happened, and we got into an accident, the airbags deployed wouldn’t shatter my fragile, newly reconstructed face. With the companion dizziness from the surgery, I wouldn’t be allowed to drive for at least four weeks. I thanked heaven for my ability to email and text during my recovery.
Over the weeks that followed, I slowly gained control of my mouth through practice, but I struggled. For too long it seemed my liquid diet leaked from the side of my mouth, ending down my front. With no control of my facial muscles and numbness that extended from my eyes to my chin, I still couldn’t feel a thing. So frustrating was it to eat, that I finally resorted to using a flexible plastic cup, practicing in front of the mirror to get it right. Even now, eight weeks later, I have plenty of residual numbness. As a condition that can take up to 18 months to dissipate, I’m still restricted to a 100% blenderized diet.

What Does This Have to Do With Feeling Thankful?

My ability to breathe at night without choking awake seems to have improved. While difficult to tell for certain due to the residual congestion that’s expected to last up to 10 weeks, it adds yet another layer to recovery challenges. But I’m determined. I don’t ever want to use that machine again—Not if I can help it.
Though it did its job well for a long time, I’m thankful I no longer must listen to it whistle, shriek, or gurgle throughout the night. Or have it rain cold water on me. Or waking up suffocating because of a power outage in the small hours of the morning. I’m thankful that I now can sleep all night long without interruption, no longer waking up with my heart pounding.
A marked contrast to years of waking up groggy, feeling like I never got enough sleep, and living on vitamin B-12 just to make it through each day, I’m thankful. I now start my days feeling more rested than ever before. I’m thankful to be gradually returning to a normal sleep cycle after decades of never experiencing one.

These Days, I Focus on Small Wins

Whether it’s the medicines I use to help with congestion, the inch-by-inch return of mobility to my facial muscles now enabling me to talk and take in food normally, or my ability to resume driving–Every day I feel fortunate to experience these incremental improvements. With persistence in conducting my jaw and mouth exercises daily, along with a little bit of luck, I’m hoping to graduate with a soft-chew diet. Maybe even in time to enjoy Thanksgiving!

The Bottom Line

What is it that you’re thankful for today?

We’ve all heard “Home is Where the Heart is” but why is this important? It comes down to one simple idea. At the heart of everything that matters to us as individuals, we if use our heads to identify ‘What,’ and our hearts to tell us ‘Why,’ we’ll be able to discover our own true north.
If we’re always on the go, never stopping to contemplate long enough what isn’t working in our lives, it’ll be next to impossible. In my case, no matter how much I wanted to avoid the issue altogether, I was forced to admit surgery was my only option.
Sometimes we must step back from our current circumstances to gain perspective. If you do, chances are, you’ll find something to be grateful for. If not, what action can you take to change your circumstances? Look inside your heart to examine what’s truly missing. There you’ll find the answer.
Because there’s no place like home.
If I ever help facilitate finding your true north through a real estate change, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Call me or text me for a confidential, no-obligation consultation. For text, use the keywords, “real estate inquiry.” I look forward to hearing from you.
P.S. If you need any resources for sleep apnea, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to share any information on the subject that can help you or your loved ones.

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Lori’s reputation for exceptional service, discretion, and uncompromising integrity is at the heart of every transaction. With experience cultivated from almost 20 years of real estate transactions, both as an agent and investor, Lori brings her passion, market knowledge, and unmatched work ethic to each transaction.