“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Melody Beattie
“Thank you is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, and understanding.” –Alice Walker
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero
November seems to be the month when many of my Facebook friends are inspired to post one thing they are grateful for each day. I think it’s good to focus on gratitude, even if it’s only one month out of the year. Focusing on gratitude shifts our eyes outward instead of inward, and it helps us see the beauty instead of all the things going wrong in the world. It also makes me happier to focus on things for which I’m grateful.
One day I was talking with some friends and I mentioned the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets I can enjoy from my home. One of the people sneered and said, “Yes, all that beautiful red is caused by the chemicals and particulates in the air. Who wants to be grateful for that.” I felt sad for her, because she almost never sees the beauty in anything. What a sad life she must live, not to be grateful for anything good that comes her way. That’s why sometime in 2013, I decided to dedicate an entire journal to gratitude. Each day I write three or four things for which I’m grateful and it’s been quite a life changing experiment.
Today, I awoke before sunrise and was blessed with the beauty of the sun turning the thin layer of clouds red, pink and gold. I remembered what that woman had said about what caused the colors, and I decided to take pictures of them and use them in today’s post. I’m grateful for the beauty of the earth. It’s one of the most simple blessings we have, yet most of the time we’re too busy to notice.
Anyway, after taking the pictures, my thought processes went from how some people have a hard time being grateful, to the time in my own life when I was extremely serious and closed off. I was wound up pretty tight, not wanting to make any mistakes. You see, I didn’t like myself very much and I thought that if I was as perfect as possible, no one would notice the flaws I knew lurked deep inside. I was pessimistic and cynical most of the time, just like the woman I mentioned above. Life was a chore for me then and not much fun. But little by little, I began to unwind the tight control I had on myself.
The first thing I did that helped was to dedicate myself to a year of volunteer service through a program sponsored by my church. Talents that I didn’t know I had emerged. That made me feel better about myself, and I began to feel the smallest bit of gratitude that I wasn’t such a terrible creature after all.
As the years rolled by, I found more things for which I was grateful. When I began keeping a journal at the age of twenty-four, I got the idea to end my entries thanking God for all the love and support that was guiding me along my life journey. This opened my eyes to a larger world of things for which I could be grateful.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but eventually I realized that I liked who I’d become. I wasn’t perfect. I’d made plenty of mistakes throughout my life, but practicing gratitude allowed me to stop focusing so much on myself and my mistakes. What’s more, I noticed that everyone has some burden to bear, and dark places within that need healing. No one is perfect and trying to pretend that you are is exhausting.
A few months ago, one of my spiritual teachers challenged his readers to write three things that we were grateful for every day for two or three weeks. We had to pick three completely new things each day, no repeats were allowed. I took up the challenge, because, even though I was writing in my gratitude journal every day, I noticed that I was repeating myself quite a bit. My practice needed some revitalization.
Doing that was a shot in the arm for my personal growth. There are so many things big and small that we’re blessed with everyday. Noticing them leads us to lots of other wonderful things. For example, gratitude leads us to self-love, healing and finding our purpose. It leads us out of the dark times, or helps us cope with them when they come. Gratitude helps us discover new talents we didn’t know we possessed. It lightens our load and helps us have more fun.
I’m grateful that I let go of my cynicism, self-hatred and fear of being discovered. My life now is so much richer and happier. And when challenges present themselves, instead of yelling at God, I look for the lesson being presented to me.
What are the hidden things you can be grateful for throughout the holiday season, and beyond?
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014