I lay the kibble in the palm of my hand and waited for the 14-foot Rothschild giraffe to amble over. On a long-delayed family trip, we were at Giraffe Manor on the first stop of our Kenyan tour. We were now vaccinated and more than able and willing to step onto another continent. The preserve/hotel was relatively deserted save an influencer or two preening with the resident giraffes.
Giraffes have incredibly acrobatic, slimy tongues, and my giraffe friend--Daisy--gobbled up her treats like a pro. Then the guide gave me permission to stroke her elegant neck. So I did and burst into tears. Earlier this year, I finished cancer treatment, and for months I struggled with the infamous radiation fog, the textbook situational depression, and the loneliness that comes with serious illness. But above all, I grappled with fear--fear that cancer would prematurely sweep me away like it did my sister and my mother.
I cried because that simple touch delivered a jolt of electricity and released me from a state of suspension. But, most of all, I wept because I was overwhelmed by Daisy's beauty, grace, and our connection. I was grateful to belong to that moment and our crazy planet. As for Daisy, she nudged me for her next treat.
Gratitude is the buzzword of the season. The wellness community urges us to journal and meditate about gratitude to reach a higher spiritual threshold. Conventional wisdom dictates how much more meaningful our lives are when we show love and appreciation. In addition, research maintains that feeling and expressing gratitude help us live longer. So it's a good impulse, even if it's a social media hashtag. But being thankful is not always an easy destination. It's much harder for those enslaved by circumstance, terrorized by their mental wiring, or just looking for the next meal or shelter to feel grateful for their lives. And yet, many still are despite adverse circumstances. And those who appear to have it all are often too distracted by the noise of wealth or status to pause and take stock of their blessings.
In my case, I let illness keep me from celebrating that I still get to be here, with places and people I hold dear. I hadn't realized how detached I'd become until Daisy snapped me back to that place of awe and wonder. Any experience that reminds us of the importance of presence and the insignificance of our ego is a gift. You don't need a passport, just a garden-variety connection to beauty and a willingness to open up, to shift. And in my case, I needed a lanky life coach. Thank you, Daisy.