Thanksgiving is upon us once again. This past month, I've noted a number of Facebook friends posting their gratitude lists on their FB feeds. It's inspiring to read all the many experiences, people and things for which they are grateful. I believe in the power of gratitude. In the past six years, there were times when a sense of gratitude carried me through really difficult emotional times. Recalling all the wonderful, positive aspects of my life has a calming effect when I'm anxious. Making a gratitude list changes my thought stream from the "Life sucks!" channel every time.
But if I really want to dig deep and find perspective, I have to look beyond the pleasant, happy gifts I've received in my life to some not so obvious ones. So, for the record, here's a different kind of gratitude list that's more honest and inclusive:
I am grateful for ....
1. Losing my job six years ago. If I continued working 40+ hours a week, I would have also continued ignoring things about my life and my choices that really needed attention.
2. Becoming sad, angry and disillusioned enough to go through a (second) divorce. Had I stayed married, I would not have taken care of myself and sought this spiritual path.
3. All the jobs I've applied for — and didn't land. If I had been hired for those positions, I would not have written all the stories I have written, nor met the people I've met while writing those stories, etc.
4. The really awful editorial job I did land for where I was overworked and underpaid. That job sustained me for a while and helped show me that I am much happier as a freelance writer.
5. Income Tax Return filing, because it means I have an income to report.
6. The holidays and other times when I felt very, very alone. Without those times I would not appreciate all the wonderful people I have in my life today.
7.The times when I had colds and infections and felt like crap. Without those illnesses, I would not fully appreciate the majority of the times when I am well.
8. The sorrow I've felt when friends have died too soon. The loss of friends creates a void in my life, but it also serves to immortalize them in my heart.
9. The many rejection notices I've received for my writing submissions. Yes, each one is a disappointment, but they also server to reset my professional compass. As a writer, I've never been sure in which direction to go, so eliminating options is one way to find a truer course.
10. The times I've felt slighted, left out, or looked over. I am a more compassionate, more inclusive person today because of these experiences.
12. Young, carefree, beautiful people who never seem to worry and cause me to feel old and neurotic. Seeing youth reminds me that I was that way once, and I can choose to have that youthful optimism again, if I lighten up. (It also makes me appreciate the wisdom I've gathered along the way. I really would not want to be 20 or 25 or even 30 again!)
13. The aches and pains I sometimes feel in my knees and elbows. Yes, I'm aging but these discomforts remind me that I'm still alive and active and trying to remain that way.
14. Menopause ... Um, well at least my own mood swings help me relate to my teenage son (see #15).
15. A son who is going through puberty. Yes, he acts like a jerk at times, but I appreciate that this is part of the process of his growth and maturity and I am forever grateful to have him in my life and have the privilege of watching him grow up. (Hormonal outbursts are also a wonderful opportunity for me to practice compassion and patience.)
16. The lines on my face and the extra padding on my thighs. Signs of age mean that I am alive. The alternate is not so comforting. And now that I'm older, I can let go of vanity and self-comparison and live more authentically.
17. Dirty dishes in the sink, dust on the bookshelves, and loads of laundry to fold. Housework means I have a home that's lived in and enjoyed, that I have food to prepare and people to prepare it for, and clothes to wear.
18. Sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration and every negative thought. My emotions help me see where I need to improve when responding to the realities of life.
19. Corrupt, disillusioned, selfish, cruel and ignorant people (aka assholes). They provide me with opportunities to practice compassion, forgiveness, patience and peaceful resolution.
20. Traffic. Being stuck behind a line of cars makes me slow down and consider all the nameless people driving on the road around me who I don't know but who are also on their journeys. It provides me with an opportunity to practice equanimity — we all want and deserve happiness.
This is not an exhaustive list but you get the idea. In fact, the very act of making this list provided me with a sense of peace. And after all, that is what this journey is all about? Finding peace in/with an imperfect world. I guess the best way to do that is to find "the good". If we can do that, then loss and heartache lose their sting, and suffering is no longer without meaning.
Yes, I am
grateful, so very grateful, for all I've been given.