“Let us rise up and be thankful; for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” –Buddha
Sometimes an unwelcome piece of advice can be the catalyst for life change. I had just moved back to Oklahoma City from Albuquerque after a protracted painful split with my fiancé. Broke and broken, I was heart sick that my dreams had turned from promising to improbable. I was also learning to live with Lupus when I sustained a rather serious back injury. I was off work for four months; lying in the floor flat on my back, taking Loritab each day and crying much of the time. I was single, living alone and the nearest family member was four hours away. It didn’t help that the man I was dating at the time expected me to keep a big smile on my face 24/7, not exactly a model of empathy. Every movement I made was excruciating and with no one to help everything was a struggle.
By that time I had been in spiritual direction about three years and met with my spiritual guide, Pat once a week. She knew I was not only struggling physically, but that my emotional state was really at the lowest ebb of my life. We were discussing my struggle one day when she suggested “If I were you I would focus on gratefulness at this time.” I couldn’t breathe much less respond to her. I said nothing, but I remember thinking that Pat was one egg roll short of a Pu Pu Platter. How could she suggest that I be grateful at this time? Grateful for what?
But I trusted Pat, so I started a “grateful journal” and began listing ten or so things I was grateful for each day. They didn’t have to be monumental; in fact, entries like warm socks, chocolate chip cookies, a good book, or a week without having to pick dog poop off the floor made the list repeatedly. As months and years went by the items on my list morphed into gratefulness for my sweet little pets, for feeling well enough to walk a mile, for the presence of my parents in my life, for a deepening spiritual life and for the fortitude to tell that stupiddamnshitty boyfriend to go take a long walk off a short pier!
I came to see that a grateful heart helps you walk through the door to a deepened spiritual life, to grow up spiritually. Once you walk through this door you cannot go back. This journey is the journey home and God consistently beckons us to wake up our soul and leave behind what no longer serves us. Although there was some grief in this, it was soon replaced with wonder. It certainly was not happiness that made me grateful, I was very unhappy at the time. It was gratefulness that finally made me happy.
“Awful things happen to an awful lot of us and it’s a happy moment when you start noticing some kind of payoff. Cancer survivors for example, notice that they’re breathing in a way other people don’t. And because they are breathing they are grateful in a way a lot of people aren’t. And grateful is a good place to wind up in life. It beats poor me.” ―Betty Rollins