An Attitude of Gratitude is much espoused by spiritual communities everywhere. But for some reason, this year a piece of me is a little annoyed with that whole idea… not that anything is particularly wrong in my life, or that I don’t have lots to be grateful for, but I keep asking myself why I SHOULD be thankful for the struggles… why should I be happy to embrace the pain that has slowed me down so much in the past year? Why should I be happy to have a leaky roof and little hope for repairing it any time soon? Why can’t I just say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks, I’d rather not have the pain or the leaky roof. I’d prefer not to struggle, thanks you very much”?
Then I think of the thousands of children facing terminal illnesses, or the people who were pushed out of their homes in the past week, floodwaters having destroyed their homes and businesses, and I wonder how anyone could be arrogant enough to suggest that these people be grateful for their losses… yet so many are, for lives that were saved, suffering that was relieved, animals and treasured belongings that were recovered… something about human nature and our will to survive and thrive that drives us to be positive, to look for the good even in the midst of disaster.
I have often counselled clients to love their lives as they are, that it is from this place of love and acceptance that we are able to cope with our problems and ultimately remove the obstacles that prevent us from moving forward… and it is from this place of love that we learn from our pain and our sorrows…
So, I focus my thanks on the lessons learned… and encourage my clients to do the same, to see the purpose and value in all experience, happy as well as sad.
But I am tired of the lessons, and so I know, are so many of you. I am wondering if there is a limit to our ability to be thankful, to be positive and loving… somehow love dies when we feel defeated by our lives… what does being grateful do to help us rise up above the feelings of defeat that a lost child, home or business triggers in us? How can we feel loving and positive when everything seems to be so dark around us?
Why am I speaking so? I am usually all positive, looking on the upside, seeking the purpose and the meaning of a tragedy… but this year, I feel to be real about it… when life is dark and ugly, when the wolves are howling at the door, it’s pretty hard to see the bright side… Denying the truth of how we feel only makes us frustrated and angry in the end.
We must be strong to be grateful even in pain and defeat. It takes courage, real bravery, to acknowledge our feelings and move on despite the circumstances.
But, what if we could just say, thanks, but no thanks, we don’t need these experiences or the lessons that come from them. We want to learn, but not through pain and sorrow… Now we want to learn to create from a place of joy and excitement, love and enthusiasm… it is time, then, to call on the spiritual warrior within us. This is the energy that urges us to see hope and joy rising in and around us, the energy that pulls us up by our bootstraps and reminds us that, yes, we should be grateful, even for the setbacks… for this is what affirms our humanity and hones our souls…. for now… until the day comes when we can unite as an entire planet in Thanksgiving, creating in love and joy and harmony.
And so I close by saying that I am looking forward to that time… and in the meantime, I am grateful. I join all in the spirit of Thanksgiving this year, despite my questioning. I am grateful that my son has a job he enjoys, that we have good food on our table, and that I can speak my truth in this forum. I am grateful to all of the clients who support our work and I am grateful for the technology that makes it possible to communicate in this way. I am grateful to still be learning and growing, and for the people in my life who love me and give me a chance to express my love.
Whether you chow down on mac and cheese, or feast on turkey and all the trimmings, take a moment to give thanks, first for the food that nourishes you, however humble or lavish, and then to be happy – thankful – for the experience of living and the opportunity to love and learn.