Grateful and Guilty


It was a clear, crisp day at the coast, and I had just finished a workout at my local gym. I was driving down Encinitas Blvd and I saw my eyes in the rear-view mirror. A sudden gust of white air passed through my body and I remember feeling “happy”—Pharrell happy—happy to the core. I was thirty-three years old and single for the first time in my adult life.

Only weeks before a heaviness had encapsulated my body: why does it work so easily for others? I remember thinking. Girls in my high school met cute college boys and now they were married, living on a hill, with three perfect kiddos. Childhood friends had coupled up, trying to work on “forever.”ImageEven my two Greek cousins (who are as close as siblings) as well as my brother had all met their spouses and were settled. But I was alone again. At the time I felt, “Forget all the Oprah BS, I don’t want to be whole alone! I want to be part of the exclusive married couple’s club.” I was a product of my mother’s generation, largely defining myself by a man. Through the years, I chose men, good men, but unfortunately partners with whom the fit wasn’t ideal for a variety of reasons. But because I was more realistic than romantic in my late twenties, I was willing to try. But trying isn’t enough, love has to be mutual, and I simply hadn’t found My One.

Nevertheless, that sunny day, leaving my regular routine, something changed. I found something else. It wasn’t like I was entirely whole, complete, Oprah-healthy, but I encountered something new . . . an appreciation for what I did have. I didn’t want another minute to go by without realizing all that I had been blessed with. A loving family, good friends, my own condo by the beach, and a job that I mostly enjoyed. Above all, I had a healthy body, a clear mind, and a light heart. I didn’t want to wait till something truly awful happened to “see” the beauty in life. I suddenly heard the birds sing—as silly as that sounds.Image

And I saw my own eyes. I liked what looked back. The woman’s eyes shone.

It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had some struggles. I watched my mother survive breast cancer. I’ve tried to support my father as he falls apart. Thankfully, I didn’t want children, so when the doctor told me that my fallopian tubes were almost completely destroyed, I didn’t lose it.

When I met my husband, we had various external issues to overcome, but we took them day by day, and every day has, indeed, been a blessing. A year ago we planned to go to Greece, tickets were purchased, but “life happens” so we cancelled our trip. As I write this, something has happened again, but this time it’s much more serious.

I have a family member who is struggling for his life. He’s my age exactly. He’s tied to tubes, he can’t eat, can barely see or talk, has not sat up for weeks. Unlike me, my family is very private, so I probably should not be writing this. But they also know I process through writing, so I hope they will forgive me.


This family event has left me with tears in my eyes as I drive, an empty feeling in my gut every moment when I wake. I feel guilty on the treadmill. I feel guilty when booking hotels on Greek islands. Still, I bow after every workout, consciously thanking the powers that be for my strong body. I dedicate all my yoga practices to his healing. I started praying a few years ago and it feels good. Usually my prayers involve recognition and thanks for such a blessed life. Sometimes, I just repeat a Greek Orthodox prayer, over and over, like a mantra. Lately, though, my prayers ask for a bit more: they are not solely whispers of gratitude. I ask for this person to be walking, talking, and playing with his children again soon. I want his wife to be at home, not sleeping on a cot in a hospital every night. I request that his wife wake up on their matrimonial bed beside a husband who can get up on his own. And if she has to give him a bit of help, that’s fine. I pray for the family to be reunited with an excellent father and a loving husband. I want them to enjoy every moment again, and not just because they were given such a test.

Another family member said: “I try to pray correctly, not to ask for too much.” My philosophy is pray in honesty, one does not need to be diplomatic with God. If He’s somewhere and is listening, He already knows everything that is in one’s head. But that’s just me talking. I’ve struggled with religion for years, and after forty-four years, I have found what works for me. I don’t proselytize; but prayer, mantra, meditation, whatever you want to call it, is said to do all sorts of great things for one’s health. So I have become a woman who finds calm and clarity in prayer.

I have spent most of the past eleven years consciously working on being a better person: I smile more, I try to remember to always say “please” and “thank you,” I try to listen to my students, look them in their eyes rather than putting stuff in my bag and jetting out. I try. I make mistakes. I still want things. I still have superficial desires, but I am also so cognizant of every moment and so grateful for this beautiful life.

And, I would be even more grateful if in a few months I’m having a beer with my family member on his balcony on a hot summer night as his wife laughs and the children play.