Dear Viriditas Community,
Happy Thanksgiving! I just got myself settled on my living room couch. I am sipping my early morning cup of tea, a candle is lit and the Colorado wind is blowing the fallen leaves from the glorious maple tree in my back yard to and fro. It is in my heart this month to write about the power of gratitude in my life.
These last two years have been very challenging for me. In the fall of 2013 my former husband, Richard, became severely ill and it was not certain that he would live. I suddenly found myself called not only to fully take on the care of our two children (12 and 18 years old) but also to oversee their father’s medical and financial care. Day by day, I was given the Wisdom and the Strength to navigate the turbulent waters of our situation. My spiritual life and the incredible support of my current husband David as well as some dear friends kept me afloat. And the miracle happened. The right care was found and with enormous courage and hard word, Richard was able to pull through the illness and is now beginning a totally new phase of his life.
Then last Spring I started developing excruciating pelvic pain. A six month quest to heal resulted in a hysterectomy at the end of October. I was being called to slow way down and to reconnect with my spiritual life in an even deeper way. In some ways I (like Richard) am now beginning a totally new phase of my life.
So how does gratitude come in?
When Richard first got sick I knew I needed powerful and consistent spiritual support. It felt like a tidal wave had hit and I was surely going to drown. I instinctively turned to basic prayer. “God, help me!” And the help came…. “Ask and you shall receive”. It never fails. I found a morning prayer and meditation group on the phone. First thing every morning I would get on the phone with these precious men and women and we would pray and meditate together. Soon after starting this practice, this quote from Meister Echhart came to mind. The “gratitude magic” then started to happen. One of the women on the phone group asked me if I would be her “gratitude buddy”. I immediately said, “yes!” and we started texting each other a list of things we were grateful for every day.
Initially I kept my lists very simple and positive… I would write things like “This morning I am grateful for the beautiful sunny day”…. Or “I am grateful for the pool at my gym.” Then I started having the courage to include things that were more intimate, always staying with the positive focus… “I am grateful for the poem my daughter sent me.” Or “ I am grateful for the strength to bike to and from the Trident Café.”
And then one day I found the following text in one of my daily meditation books:
“Flying down a hill on a bicycle, I always feel tremendously alive, in a perfect balance… (I want to) balance my life as if it were a ride on a bike and carry that vitality into each day —
…I try to embrace whatever life brings, with all its joys and sorrows, for it all has something to offer me. I made that discovery one night when a friend asked, “What would happen if I started thanking God when problems occurred?” At first I had to force myself to say, “ Thank you, God,” through clenched teeth. By and by, my teeth unlocked and I replaced self-pity with gratitude. I truly began to live…
I want the very best for those I love. I am growing to appreciate the joy of fully participating in life. And I choose to allow others to enjoy this sometimes difficult but rewarding blessing of learning from all of their experiences…” (Anonymous)
I took in these powerful words and started asking myself: “What would happen if I started thanking God for Richard’s illness.” As I kept asking this question, I could feel my attitude shift regarding Richard’s illness. Instead of focusing on how hard it was for me to show up for him and for our children, I started seeing the beauty and potential for good in the situation. My texts to my gratitude buddy started looking like this:
“I am grateful my children and I are getting closer.” “I am grateful my children are getting to know their step-father and step-siblings in a new way.” “I am grateful my children are appreciating more deeply what their own father has given them.” “I am grateful my children and I are developing a capacity to take care of ourselves more than ever before.” “I am grateful I am realizing how much I still love my former husband.” “I am grateful for how much my former husband has given me over all the years.” “I am grateful for the potential that this illness could help my former husband grow and heal in ways that would bring him greater joy and peace in his life.” As I started focusing on these gifts of Richard’s illness, my trust in the Divine grew.
With this renewed trust I have now been able to begin to ask the really big question: “What would happen if I started thanking God for my pelvic pain?” I will be honest, I am still in the “clenched teeth phase” with this one. One thing I have come to know, is that sometimes I have to keep asking the same question again and again and be oh so patient as I wait for the answer to come. I do trust that if I keep asking the question, the answer will eventually come. And for this faith I am grateful.
I will close with this first paragraph from the introduction of the book Living Life As A Thank You: The Transformative Power Of Daily Gratitude by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons:
“Imagine living as if each day were a gift. Imagine that everywhere you went people smiled and said, “thank you,” and you in turn were filled with joy and gratitude from the moment you woke up until you hit the pillow at night, your heart filled with joy, your mind still and calm. Just imagine, a world without grumbling, a world where everyone is happy and grateful for where they are.”
I have always loved the Thanksgiving Holiday. This year I invite you to bring Gratitude into your daily life in the year ahead. Let’s make every day Thanksgiving Day!
In gratitude for you,