The past week or two have been rough ones for me … and, when times get hard, I remember gratitude! We all have difficult days or periods in our life filled with challenges. Survivors of abuse and trauma may sometimes fall into old habits that do not work for us anymore. Or maybe life starts to seem like one big challenge after another when you add the healing journey and the pain that entails. Yet, the healing path also contains joy and freedom. Sometimes we do not notice the positives; or, if we do notice, we push them gently aside as not so important. Also, there are times when dealing with the pain is a positive in itself! Going through the hard times, the pain, and the challenges make us the strong, resilient, compassionate survivors that we are today.
The first time I gave serious thought to the subject of gratitude was when I began attending 12 step meetings for my alcohol problem in December, 2002. Gratitude and gratitude lists are important aspects of recovery. Believe me, when your thoughts are concerning your next drink and you are dealing with huge life stresses, gratitude may not be first on your list. Fortunately, I began to see the benefit of gratitude – even if at first, it was just taking my mind off my problems for a moment.
Thanksgiving and gratitude seem to go hand-in-hand. In October or November of 2003, I was homeschooling my daughter, Megan, who was nine years old. I started a tradition of posting a piece of paper on the refrigerator which became our gratitude list. Megan and I would write down whatever we happened to be grateful for that day. It was spontaneous. Sometimes I’d go to write something and find she had written something earlier that day. Each year in October or November, we would perform this healthy ritual. It was fun to reread the previous year’s gratitude list. (Unfortunately those lists were left in Germany in our apartment when I fled with Megan as a protective parent. The memories remain etched in my mind though – and I am grateful!)
To this day, when life gets hard (and many times when it is not hard), I find myself writing a mental gratitude list and/or a paper list. I find it helps … it lessens the difficulty for a moment … brings a smile … and often takes the edge off the hardness of life.
The gratitude lists Megan and I wrote contained deep subjects and light topics. I found I learned about my daughter from reading her additions to the list. Also, I learned what was important to me. Yes, I was thankful for ice cream! I was also thankful for my health … the day homeschooling my daughter … the laughter from a moment of joy ….
This week my mental gratitude list contained some of the usual ones as well as uniquely this week’s thoughts. Some of the items on my gratitude list included –
connecting with my daughter on the telephone as she opened her birthday gifts from me!
strength to continue the path in spite of difficulties
connecting with trusted people who shared their wisdom with me
the foggy, misty weather that reminded me of Germany
freedom from abusive relationships!
for shared tears with a friend
an e-mail from someone who attended my WINGS Conference workshop
for being present in my life
the fun I had writing this blog
and more …..
I never list items of gratitude in any specific order. There is not judgment attached to anything I write. Free flowing … thoughts of gratitude … sense of wonder at times … definite sense of comfort … affirming the goodness in the world and in my daily life …
There are many books written about gratitude. It is one subject I have not read extensively. Sometimes you just have to experience things for yourself … in your own way …
As I was thinking of writing this post, I did decide to spend a short amount of time researching gratitude. I discovered Robert Emmons and the Greater Good (The Science of a Meaningful Life) website.
This website contains many great ideas on how to cultivate gratitude and why it is beneficial. Whether you choose to read books or websites or find ways of your own to cultivate gratitude, I recommend giving it a try.
When gratitude fills my heart, my world is better and I am better for my world!