Gratitude for the Web of Life

Gratitude for the Web of Life

I meant to put eye drops in my eye, but late at night I accidentally grabbed a bottle of ear wax removal from the medicine cabinet.  The first agonizing seconds of stinging pain told me I had just made a terrible mistake.  Flush, flush, flush with warm water.  I called my medical provider’s emergency room, which patched me through to the pharmacist on call in the poison control center. “Carbamide peroxide 6.5%. Yes, that’s a common mistake.  Set the kitchen timer and flush continuously for 15 minutes. Call us back if not better in 30 minutes.”

The pain did go away after 15 minutes, but the vision in my left eye was very blurry.  That late at night, I went to bed to try to get a good night’s sleep, not knowing if I had damaged my cornea, whether the damage would be permanent. 

My vision was clear when I awoke in the morning, and a quick call to my ophthalmologist let me know specifically which eye drops to use every hour for the rest of the day to flush out any residual toxins.

Waves of deep gratitude, of course.  My eye would be okay, no permanent damage to my vision.  Another moment of relief that morning when I called a friend as planned. I explained what had happened and why I was calling late, checking with my eye doctor first.  Gordon said, “Oh, I’ve done that.”  The support of “common humanity – I’m not the only one. Other people have survived the same mistake I made.”

And then the gratitude deepened – to what I call the web of life.  Someone knowledgeable guided me through caring for my eye very late at night.  Nurses and doctors reassuring throughout. I was cared for.

Thanksgiving Day, celebrated in the U.S. this Thursday, is a time when we naturally give thanks for the people in our lives we are grateful for: family, close friends, warm-hearted neighbors, friendly and supportive co-workers.  The web of life deepens that practice to the many, many people who help sustain our lives, even if we never meet them: doctors and nurses who staff emergency rooms, firemen ready round the clock to jump into action to save a life.  People who grow our food; people who pick up the garbage and recycling; people who fix the potholes in the streets and test water quality to make sure we have water safe to drink.

Here’s an audio recording of the exercise Gratitude for the Web of Life from Resilience. You can practice cultivating giving thanks for the people, circumstances, and resources that sustain your well-being every day. You will be grateful for the practice.