Gratitude Gets Me Through

Gratitude gets me through.

I’m now old enough to say: I’ve been through some ups and downs in life. Some higher ups and some lower downs than I had expected to experience. And an attitude of gratitude ALWAYS gets me through.

For that reason, I take my gratitude practice seriously.

To find the start, I have to dig back to the late 90’s. This was before gratitude was trendy. Before it was written on t-shirts and splattered on Facebook in a sparkle of unicorns. And it was certainly before the idea of ‘privilege’ made gratitude suspiciously and exclusively a buzz word for the upper-middle class, college educated etc., etc. (We know who we are.)

I was newly separated with two little kids. My life was sad and angry and very messy as transitions can be. There was a free new age magazine offered in the Cleveland area that provided a glimpse of goodness and offered a flicker of light into my dark. I picked it up at Marcs every month. In that rag, there was a short story. And if you wrote it, I apologize. I don’t know the author. It went something like this…

Long ago and far away there was a wise sage by the name of Sono. Although Sono lived high on a mountain top, she was known by the villagers to be a wise and a powerful healer. Folks traveled from afar to seek her blessing and counsel. And to each, she gave the same advice. “Repeat this mantra daily: Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.” Realizing that everyone received the same advice, many people grumbled and complained. But those who took Sono’s advice to heart and practiced the mantra received many blessings, were free from affliction and found joy beyond their expectations.

I cut the story out of the magazine and tacked the little piece of paper to my bulletin board. I read it every day. I figured that since I didn’t even have to climb the mountain to get the advice, it might be worth a try. I repeated the mantra: Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.

What started as an experiment has over the years become a committed practice. 

Gratitude became my go-to, my life raft, my oxygen, my saving grace…and sometimes my desperate plea for help.

Here are a few snapshots:

I was carrying my kids into a friend’s house after a long day at work.  We had come for dinner but my exhaustion laced my delight with regret. Snowsuits, boots and grumpy weighed them heavy and awkward in my arms. State of being: overwhelmed. As I stepped around the car, something caught my attention and I stopped. A little grey mouse scampering across the snow. I could see that he left the tiniest little mouse footprints in the snow. Precious. I stood speechless and spellbound. No longer feeling my daughter sliding from my arms, my heart opened. Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever. Gratitude saved the day.

The kids and I had driven south for a camping trip. We drove down in my trusty little Chevy Malibu. The one who had given us its best years and now offered no air conditioning and, we would soon learn, scant radiator. The car died in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly in Buford, South Carolina with fluid running from its belly and steam from its chest. State of being: despair. (Me, not the car.) After hiring a local man to fix the car and having the radiator burst (yes) a second time, the kids and I found ourselves hanging out at the local Chevy dealer with no recourse but to purchase a new used car in order to return home. After a long, tiring and pricey day, we pulled out of the dealership in our new car with the AC blasting. I saw my trusty old Malibu in the rear view mirror. I was grateful for its service and yet also grateful to be driving home safe and secure in its replacement. Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever. Gratitude is the blessing within a blessing.

And this happened one day not long after leaving my full-time job. You know, the ‘real’ job with benefits and retirement. The job that I left to teach yoga…no benefits, no retirement…and at this point, no paycheck. State of being: fear. Little else to do, I stopped to take some fresh air at the park. I gripped my pen in one hand and my journal in the other hand. I forced myself to write a list of ten things for which I felt gratitude. One…two…three…written in black and white but feeling nothing. Four…five…six….okay, nice. Seven…eight…nine…and thank you! By ten…Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever. Gratitude for the win!

Over the years, I’ve experimented and I’ve practiced. And I’m convinced. Gratitude gets me through.

Now, to be fair, I will say this: the practice of gratitude is a privilege. It’s a privilege to live in a day and age when I’m awake to the idea that my attitude can influence my experiences. It’s a privilege to understand that a practice such as gratitude can have a meaningful impact on my life. And, through my awareness and my practice of gratitude, I honor my blessings.  

Looking ahead at another holiday season, I’m quite certain that I will experience the full array of holiday-ness. It will be merry and bright. It will be busy and stressful. I will feel willing and I will feel defeated. Grief, disappointment, bitterness, delight, love and joy are all likely to make an appearance. And I’ll know exactly what to say: Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.

There’s no need to climb the mountain. Simply take Sono’s advice.

Experiment. Practice. Gratitude will get you through.