We have all heard the clichés about having an “attitude of gratitude,” we are encouraged to keep gratitude journals, we are reminded that we are “too blessed to be stressed,” and the list could go on infinitum. All these things/sayings are easier said than done, especially when life is throwing lemons your way. How do you rise up with an attitude of gratitude when you are feeling financial strife, facing a divorce, grieving the loss of a loved one or diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness?
Then I heard someone say, “Thank you is a prayer.” That simple concept moved me in a way that the other clichés had not. “Thank you.”
Who am I thanking and for what am I thanking them?
My mind starts playing a reel of the basics. Thank you for my health. Thank you for my kids. Thank you that my kids are healthy. Thank you for my career. Thank you for my partner and good relationships with his family. Thank you for my family. Thank you for my friends. Thank you for a roof over my head. Thank you for clean water and electricity. Thank you for my car. Thank you that just for today, my bills are paid. It is all good stuff.
What about the not–so-good stuff? Should I be thankful for the curveballs life has thrown me? Should I be thankful I chose to have children with a man who was incapable of helping me support them? Should I be thankful for my embarrassing failed marriage that I rushed into way too soon? Should I be thankful for mistakes I have made in my past? Should I be thankful for past struggles with alcoholism that caused humiliation and destruction to not only myself, but to others in my life? Should I be thankful for conflicts I have encountered with folks who have crossed my path in this journey of life?
The answer for me today is “Yes.”
Through every challenge I have learned more about myself. Through every obstacle I have stretched and grown. Through every hurdle I have gained something that allows me to help someone else. Today I can say “Thank you” to the God of my choice, whom I choose to call my Higher Power.
I am thankful that my children’s father gave me two beautiful babies (not really babies anymore). I thank him for forcing me to stand on my own two feet without relying on someone else to support us. I thank him for making me the lawyer I am today – armed with personal experience that makes me unique in my career.
I am thankful for my failed marriage because it showed me my own shortcomings. Through that humiliating experience, I realized I needed to start trusting my gut and paying attention to red flags. Through that hurtful experience, I learned I am capable of real forgiveness. After all, we are all human.
I learned my happiness starts with me. I cannot rely on someone else to do what is really an inside job. My dependence on God is the only thing solid. When I rely on another human being to do what only God can do for me, I am setting both myself and the other person up for failure.
Through my struggle with alcoholism, I learned that God put me right where I needed to be to help others who suffer, too. How rewarding it is when clients come into the office with that 2nd or 3rd DWI and I can humbly tell them there is a solution and then point them in the right direction, without judgment. What a God-thing that through my personal struggles and experience, I can speak a language that only one alcoholic can speak to another because we understand. We know. We have a perspective that those who are not alcoholic cannot comprehend. What a blessing for me and for the other person. Thank you.
With every conflict, I learn something new about myself. What role did I play in that conflict? Was I being selfish and self-centered? Was my ego threatened? Was I being driven by fear or insecurities? Thankfully today I have the ability to stop and take a good look at myself and do a self-appraisal, an inventory. Thank you.
We have also heard the saying “This too shall pass.” That does not just apply to the bad stuff, but the good stuff, too. Life is continuously an ebb and flow or cycle of highs and lows. How we navigate through them is when our character really shows.
Today I am thankful for the struggles that have made me useful to others. When a woman comes to me in confidence with a sensitive issue, I want her to know I listen without judgment because after all, who am I to judge? We are all God’s children just trying to do the best we know how to do in this journey of life. If she is like me, she is probably her worse critic so what good does it do to look down upon someone who is already wallowing in her own shame? Non-judgmental love is the answer. This is what the folks who helped me have taught me. It is my turn to pass along what was so freely given to me by those who showed me out of the darkness and into the light at a time when I was full of shame, embarrassment and humiliation. Thank you.