One of the biggest lessons I learned through all that I’ve been through is to live with gratitude. Today seems like an apt day to discuss it.
I’ve mentioned before that I am deeply inspired by the Dalai Lama, and I think one of his quotes is apt here.
Everyday, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.
I try to have that gratitude in my life as much as I can. It isn’t always easy; I’ve got a red-hot Irish temper and a sassy mouth. I am impulsive, impatient and always in a rush to the next thing. I am in a constant race with myself, and if there’s any way I can be competing, I’m totally competing (even if it’s all in my head, which it often is.) Choosing gratitude and compassion (for the two are deeply entwined) is just that: a choice.
I can look at my life and be frustrated and angry and dissatisfied. I can see unpaid medical bills from the son I lost. I can wish we had a second car, a third bedroom, or a kitchen that had enough room for two people to work in without literally bumping in to each other. I can hate having a constant coating of sticky stuff, cracker crumbs and toys all over the floor. I can rave that my husband has lost the ability to put things away or rinse his dishes since I became a hausfrau. I can be ashamed that I was homeless for years, and in a cult. I can be angry over my losses and hurt by harsh words.
Or I can turn that over in my heart and look at the reverse. I can be grateful for our cozy home that is full of laughter. I can be grateful that our kitchen has power, clean water and enough food that I can feed my family healthy, tasty meals. I can be grateful that we have one car that works just fine, and that we are able to share it without too much hassle. I can be grateful that I have a son with a sturdy, healthy body and chubby, sticky hands with all ten fingers to grasp and throw and play. I can be grateful that I have a husband who is loyal, faithful, fun and funny, who works his ass off to give us the best life possible. I can learn from my mistakes and share them with an open heart.<img class="size-medium wp-image-1432" title="<3" src="https://kumquatwriter.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/heartheands.jpg?w=300" alt="
Sometimes I have to force myself to find it in me. Sometimes I want to dig in my heels and say FUCK this Pollyanna bullshit, this sucks! And sometimes it does. But again it is my choice to set anger, frustration and grudges aside and seek something higher. To use another quote from His Holiness,
It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.
Living like this every day makes me deeply happy. When you look around and count the good things (and I am lucky enough that, right now, they outweigh the bad), you can release some of the more painful, draining feelings like resentment, hate and anger. Those emotions absolutely have their place, but cherishing them eats away at you. If I could give you gratitude as a gift, I would, and I would like to challenge you to try each day to turn over one frustration, one shortcoming, one resentment into gratitude.
And in that vein, I would like to share a few things that I am especially grateful for on this day. Do not think that this is a complete list, because there is no complete list. It is ever-changing, moment by moment, day by day. No matter how huge or how tiny, living with this attitude of gratitude is the secret to my joy. Or, to use one more Dalai Lama quote, “The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.”
I am thankful for my family and framily; this crazy, beautiful, supportive, chaotic mix of adults and children that holds me up, pulls be back, cracks me up and cries with me. I would be nothing without my village, and there are no words to express how it feels to raise my son surrounded by love and challenge like this.
I am thankful for my body; it is the home for my soul and my mind. It carries me where I want to go, feels good when I treat it well. It cradles my heart and created my children, and it is my imperfect, beautiful home.
I am thankful for my living son, that bright sunbeam of joy and chaos rocketing through my life and reminding me of simple pleasures like puddle-walks, soggy leaves and bathtime splashes. His little arms around my neck, the stains on all my clothes, the triumphant AH-HAH every time he does something that pleases him.
I am thankful for my lost son, who taught me how deep pain can go, but also showed me how correspondingly rich joy could be.
I am thankful for my husband, who has seen every shade in my spectrum of fucked up and loves me twice as much because of it, who is always tender and loving, and yet who challenges me constantly to go higher, further, better. He gives me no slack but endless support, and he made me realize that a marriage is a team.
I am thankful for the supportive, caring response I’ve had from so many people as I’ve shared my experiences. I was so afraid that people would judge me even more harshly than they had when I was silent, and instead I find kindness, openness and interest. I am thankful for every person who comments or emails to say they believe, they understand, or that they care. Thank you, all of you.
I am thankful that I have been able to repair so many friendships that I thought were lost forever. Every moment I have with them I cherish. I am deeply grateful for their forgiveness.
I am thankful that by coming forward, I am able to help others come to terms with their own pain. Particularly those who were hurt by the same person I was, or who I hurt myself.