When Jen asked me to write a post about gratitude in unlikely places I was thrilled and nervous. Thank you, analytical self for directing me towards the meaning and root of the word. Gratitude has so many synonyms: gratefulness, thankfulness, appreciation, acknowledgement, and credit. The words grace and gratitude share a common root, the Latin word gratus meaning, “pleasing” or “thankful”. It has been said when you are in a deep state of gratitude you will feel the presence of grace…powerful!
If you were to write a list of things you were grateful for what would that list look like? A year ago, my list consisted of happy moments such as my husband, children, family, and friends, maybe an occasional something that happened in my day. I was deep in yoga training, reading an assigned book when it broached the subject of gratitude. It spoke about the practice of gratitude, whether the situation is positive or, let’s just say negative for lack of a better word. It sparked something deep within me. If I could cultivate gratitude for the happy moments, could I cultivate gratitude for the challenging moments as well? Find the light within the shadow? Let me clear, I am not talking about pretending something is positive when it is indeed anything but. I am talking about the lesson (light) to be learned from the challenge. Challenge is just another road to opportunity.
My youngest child and I were at a Doctor’s appointment to check her hearing for the 3rd time. The kind lady at the front desk handed me a bill from the last visit. Never mind I was trying not to think (who am I kidding *worry*) about the test itself but now, here was another costly bill. Before I started my downward spiral, I made a conscious choice to practice gratitude. Who wouldn’t be grateful for having an amazing doctor who has been with us since day one? Or for a child who sat on that exam table with a huge smile (a gift I am grateful for everyday)?
That was the “easy” list. Now for the harder cultivation (practice)…I am so grateful for the money we put into savings to fix her teeth because even though its not her teeth that need our attention now, the money is available to us when we need it. I am grateful for the stark realization that she may not be ignoring my words or not listening - she may truly not be able to hear me (insert tears for all the times I was irritated). What else have I been upset or mad about without thinking of the why (that’s a whole other post J)? At that very moment I softened to the process, to the moment, to life and what is in store for us. She happened to be looking at a book about a clam and saw a pearl in the clam’s mouth. She said, “Is that real?” It couldn’t have been more surreal: a piece of dirt trapped in a clam’s mouth and the clam turns an irritation into a beautiful pearl. Wow, does HE have good timing – a lesson I might not have caught had I been downward spiraling. I will admit I have an attraction to pearls and now every time I wear one, let it be a reminder.
In my opinion, it is easy to cultivate gratitude for the happy moments. It is less easy to cultivate gratitude in the challenging moments. To pull ourselves out of the drudgery of life and see the pearl emerge from irritation. I have been working on celebrating my kid’s mistakes (knowing all the while this the true teacher), the times they take risks (knowing this is what helps them build confidence and humility), and the challenges they face as just another opportunity to learn and grow. It is so hard. I have found that by practicing gratitude in challenging times and sharing my discoveries with my family it has made the experience so much more profound than if I had preached it. ( I heard someone say once stop preaching start communicating – ummmm brilliant!)