Today is my 3-year kidney donation anniversary! It’s fitting to me that I got to donate a kidney as an act of gratitude, during a week that is culturally all about gratitude (thanks-giving). That’s just cool from any angle you look at it, and the timing, so incredibly perfect. I love 11/22 in the sense that it’s a good stopping point to look back for a second and appreciate all of the different aspects of this journey. Sometimes you can’t see progress or growth until you pause, turn around, and acknowledge the milestones behind you. Someone smart said “only spend 20% of your time looking back, and 80% of your time looking forward.” Thanksgiving week is when I use up part of my 20% of looking backwards, and I focus on truly living in gratitude.
On the other end of my emotion spectrum, if I am honest with myself, there is a feeling of longing and sadness this week of thanks-giving. The happy, strong, “Polly Positive” side of me doesn’t like to admit or acknowledge this at all. Polly calls me weak, over-emotional and ungrateful when I spend time reflecting on feelings or emotions that have a low vibrational energy. Sometimes I have to tell Polly to fuck off, and just let me be with feelings, but she’s traditionally a hard bitch for me to stand up to. I am a positive person, I am grateful for this experience exactly as it has played out, AND on my donor anniversary, one of the many things I experience is a little sadness.
Over pillow talk with Rob this morning, we were talking about anniversaries. You have personal ones, and ones that you share with another human or group of humans. A personal one might be someone celebrating a year of sobriety, or a job anniversary. Then you have the anniversaries specific to an event you shared with another person. Like a wedding anniversary, or a Facebook friendiversary (haha). For me, today’s anniversary falls into the second category- one you share with another person. It’s an anniversary I share with my kidney recipient. It’s our special day! BUT, all I know about the recipient is that they were doing well 6 months after transplant, and that they have chosen to remain anonymous, and not connect. I assume they are alive, but don’t really know that either. So, if today is comparable to a wedding anniversary for example, it kind of feels like the other person in the equation forgot to show up to the anniversary dinner. I feel like I am missing out on an opportunity to connect with someone important (my recipient), about something really important (our shared experience).
This year, when I take stock, what makes me feel happy, hopeful, motivated, and proud, is the forward momentum of Transplant Village. This past spring I got to help launch a program called the Kidney Champion Program at Northwestern. It’s something my dad and I have wanted to do for years, and it’s finally come to fruition. It’s a once a month 2.5-hour workshop at Northwestern where we teach people in need of a living donor, strategies on how to find a living donor by effectively sharing their story and leveraging their spheres of influence to communicate their need for a donor. When you can do this, a donor comes forward like magic. Version 1.0 of the program is already helping people and making an impact. It’s not rocket science; I believe anyone in need of kidney willing to do the hard work can find a living kidney donor using our strategies.
So many people who come to the workshop are frozen and don’t know where to start. We give them the big picture on how to approach the challenge of finding a kidney, but then they get home, they feel overwhelmed, freeze up, and don’t do anything at all to change their situation. It’s been eye-opening, and shocking really, to see how many people who have come to our workshop keep their sickness and need for a transplant a secret from everyone in their life, including their families. That makes me so sad! Over the next few months I am working on making a “boot camp” email campaign for people who go to our workshop. It will break our workshop strategies up into daily or weekly task-oriented challenges for the person in need of a kidney to tackle one day at a time. I want to see what happens if we can guide them through the process with not-so-scary baby steps, so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
I have a million ideas in my head about what we can do to help people through this program, and a lot of freedom to put the creative ideas into action. It’s exciting stuff and I feel positioned and supported to succeed. It’s all about empowering people, and I know we can do that. We have a great team behind this program (Dad, Harvey, Marilyn, Dr. Shetty, Dr. Christopher, Ali, and Bethany- that’s you!). So much of the success of these things depends on getting the right people to the table, and I know we have that. We are a a great team. Stay tuned for exciting and inspirational developments! This is my 80% of looking forward that feels pretty damn good and meaningful.
That’s it for this 11/22 day, thanks for reading and may your 11/22 be as nice as mine!