(Picture Credit: Gabriella Fabbri)
Do you know of anybody who has so much to be grateful for, yet is not truly happy? In varying degrees, we may have our areas of discontent; this helps us strive and grow. But I’m talking about the kind of person who, if they could hear their discontent from the outside looking in, would see how disconnected they were from Gratitude – the warm-fuzzy part of peace and joy.
I had a friend, we’ll call him “Don,” who strove and was exalted by coworkers and peers for his seeming perfection. Don was always well-groomed, had an adoring wife and beautiful children, a finely decorated home in a friendly, closely-knit neighborhood, many admiring friends, and even the picket fence. He was intelligent, popular, and looked good for his age. His wife supported all his endeavors, kids did well in the myriad of activities they were involved in, the family ate out often and went on numerous vacations yearly, and he and his wife had a good social network as couples. But Don was unhappy, deep inside. His marriage was good, but not “perfect”—his wife was simple and not on cue with his emotions. He had had 2 years-long affairs, chasing this “last perfect brick,” and eventually sought counseling to deal with his issues.
When I think of all that Don has and look at my bare-essentials life, and how, as long as my family is well, happy, and together, I am satiated, I feel immensely fortunate to be able to connect with Gratitude. Don’t get me wrong – Don has acknowledged that he has a lot and is fortunate, and he would say he was grateful for all he had, but he intellectualized Gratitude – he understood that it made sense for him to be grateful, but he could not truly connect with it in his heart, where it is housed. This doesn’t mean that he was an ingrate, but that he was missing the point of it.
Gratitude says, “I am happy because of what Is.” It stops and revels in the glow of that joy. It feels full and asks for nothing more. It gives meaning to everything good, and goodness to all in its path.
I have started sharing 1 thing I’m grateful for daily on my personal Facebook page for this month, and I revel in that subject of gratitude of the day. I don’t think of any pressing concerns that “must be resolved before I can be happy” – Gratitude dissolves any such “musts”.
Granted, there are times that may require a call for action, particularly if there’s certain life or death involved, but most of the time in life, we have all we need to be grateful, where your soul feels the joy and celebrates the truth of the present. It disregards woes of the past or fears of the future. It asserts, “I am happy now because of what Is.”
When I was growing up, as my father worked hard every day, slowly building up his construction business, we moved often from one low-income home to another. There was one house in particular that I and my brothers refer to as “The Shack.” It was a pink, dilapidated shoe-box, built of what appeared to be wood slats. It was as if there was no insulation in that house as we walked around bundled up in the winter, and could see our breath, and the only heat came from an old, black, metal wood-burning stove in the middle of the living room. The floors slanted along the back length of the house, and there were what seemed like hundreds of large roaches that would scatter whenever we flicked on the light switch in the bathroom or kitchen at night. Soon after we moved from it, we learned that it was a condemned building which was immediately torn down.
I was maybe 12 or so when we lived in The Shack, and my brothers and I were happy. We played in the creek and woods, where we were wild and free, and came home to love, where we were warm and safe. We lived the unconscious stream of Gratitude – reveling in all the good things we had, and not in what we didn’t.
Between my friend, Don, and myself, our upbringings were quite opposite from each other’s. I cannot speak for him and what was not filled in childhood that may have affected his ability to fully connect with Gratitude amidst all his life’s treasures, but from my teenage years until not too long ago (20 years time), I’ve lived what many may consider an emotionally and spiritually taxing life myself. I could justify feeling too angry, bitter, entitled, whatever the excuse, to be grateful.
Gratitude is not just a choice, a chore – you can’t just say, “I am grateful,” and not stop to truly listen, see, understand its beauty. It would be like a spouse saying, “Sure, I love my wife,” but not taking the time to spend with her, look at her, listen to her, and see her and celebrate the person she is.
Gratitude requires full attention for true connection; only then can you reap the benefits that can salve many wounds and fill hollow spaces.
I started this blogging venture in big part due to Gratitude. And I am so grateful. I am here speaking to you about this and many things that I hope will help heal your heart and sharpen your senses, and I am so grateful for it all.
But how to be grateful when something is tugging your heart?
What is tugging your heart?
Is it the past? If so, be present in the truth of today: You are no longer there where the pain happened. Rejoice! You made it! You didn’t think you would, but you did! What victory! What a blessing!
If it’s anything else, use this formula:
“I am grateful that I am catching this now, AND* I will [course of action].”
*(Gratitude does not have space for “but.” To say, “I am grateful for x, but…” is like saying, “I love you, but…” – the first point immediately withers. Gratitude is independent joy.)
And be grateful for your ability to process a solution, or find help, or even have friends or family to talk to. Be grateful that you can read and research, that you can learn and reach out via so many avenues nowadays. Be grateful if you are healthy, and grateful if you are able to receive medical attention if you are not healthy, and grateful that you have a mind that is well enough to crave growth and learning – this is part of honoring yourself, those you love, the world – be grateful for these desires and connections.
Nothing can replace being connected to Gratitude for true peace and happiness. It is not required to be alive, but to feel alive…and worthy – Gratitude senses an ultimate source of goodness in the world, whether or not one is conscious or acknowledging of such a belief. Thank God for it.