Practicing Gratefulness


Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something we could be grateful for.- Barry Neil Kaufman

When you have destroyed your life to the point of what you think is unrepairable, where do you go? How do you even begin? What steps do you begin to take? Desperation drove me to do ‘whatever’ was suggested is my story. Even making gratitude lists!!! I’ve heard of these, what I would have referred to in the past, “stupid lists” since I arrived at AA in 2004. But never would I have thought these fluffy, psychobabble, silly things would be helpful. I’ve been such a cynic. I have called myself a realist, but in truth I have been a pessimist. I prepared for the worst because it WAS coming, nothing good was coming….. that happened to other people.

So when my sponsor suggested that I make a daily list and send it to her and she’d send me hers, in this new journey in sobriety…..I could have rolled my eyes all the way down the street. I was so damn annoyed!!! But when you are as beat as I was… you just do it anyway. Her lists were nothing short of amazing and wonder. Mine, on the other hand, coffee, my astringent (they were afraid I was gonna drink the crap in rehab so I just got it back), my pillow, and talking to my son. At least I could see something.

But it did get better, I got better. Lots of stuff happened and that would be entirely too dang long for this particular blog but I began to see things. I began to actually look for things throughout the day to be grateful for. A call from a friend. A beautiful sunset. A day without a migraine. A patient not cussing me out or hitting me (I worked in a fully locked unit so let’s just say my patients were a trip and sometimes I was the ride). A day without a fight with my husband. God’s grace. Becoming conscious of His Power, hell becoming conscious. My eyes were beginning to open to the wonder of life through the eyes of gratitude, from these little lists. That’s not all of course but I do believe now in hindsight they were a game changer for me.

Then the bottom dropped out about the time I thought I was catching my stride. After a month and half of inpatient rehab and 5 1/2 months in sober living I was going to move back home closer to my son and husband but into my own apartment. But like I said, what do you do when you have damaged your life beyond repair? What happened to me is I was handed divorce papers. I was heart broken. But I changed nothing in my daily routine. I continued to pray, meditate, talk to others that I trusted and most of all I continued to look for things everyday to be grateful for. Just like the quote says, “no matter what is going on outside of us, there is always something to be grateful for”.

I became grateful for God’s plan for my life. That all I had to ‘do’ was the moment that I was actually ‘doing’ at the present second, and knew that I could handle that. I couldn’t possibly handle everything I was going through, so I just didn’t. I just breathed it out. I focused on just what was good. Not what I messed up, not what I could no longer fix, not what I could have done differently in the past, not what was going to happen in the future, not what I wanted or thought I needed…… I focused on the moment I was in, mindfulness and being grateful. Grateful for everything that I had been through, the lessons I had learned, the mistakes I had made and the truth I had learned from them, the memories that we had shared good and bad because that energy was always and forever expended between the two of us, for who holds the future because it is far better off in His hands that it would ever be in mine. There were dark moments, sad moments, hard moments, and painful moments but they were all temporary although they didn’t ‘feel’ that way at the time.

“No matter how hard you try, you cannot get rid of darkness because it does not exist. It is nothing but the absence of light. In order to effect darkness you must do something with light, because the light is the only thing that actually exists.” -Teal

Developing the practice of gratitude in my daily life, for me, was one of the many things that brought light into my darkness. Not just the list though, that’s way too simple. Being grateful for something is more than just an attitude towards something, it takes action, awareness, care, concern, compassion, responsibility, respect, attentiveness….. get my drift??? It has paid huge dividends for me by bringing light into my darkness. I had no idea that gratitude could be such a game changer or at least it has been for me. It has immensely helped me and 4 months later after I thought I might just die without “him” I am once again whole. Completely grateful for the entire journey and hopeful for what is to come.

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude. – A.A. Milne

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Home


“Home is the place where we can be ourselves and accept ourselves as both good and bad, beast and angel, saint and sinner. Home is the place where we can laugh and cry, where we can find some peace within all the chaos and confusion, where we are accepted and, indeed, cherished by others precisely because of our very mixed-upedness. Home is that place where we belong, where we fit precisely because of our very unfittingness. Humility allows us to find the fittingness in our own imperfection.”- Ernest Kurtz

302 Prairie- I can remember the peeling wallpaper and cloth backing, the mix matched carpet, the lime green kitchen, the smell of the hardwood floors, the creakiness of the porch, speaking of the porch…. the old porch swing. I remember all of it, as if I was just there. This is all before the remodel and I remember all of that too. But it was Home for the first 30 years of my life. Sounds odd, because I moved 19 times from 1995-2007. By that time I had not lived there in 12 years, one failed marriage, many geographical changes but Home was always 302 Prairie. It was never just an address, it was where I felt safe, loved, accepted, encouraged, and most of all it had my heart. But isn’t that why we call it home?

I never called another place home until 2007. This place too had my heart and all those things that Ernest Kurtz spoke of: laughter, tears, a place I found peace…. I belonged. I remember the day I realized I was no longer calling my childhood home “Home” anymore. It was a big realization for me that I had found a new place to “be”. Be me, faults and all, good qualities and bad. I remember being shocked because I would call my old home by it’s rightful owners “Mom and Dad’s”. In finding a place to be, you find out a lot about yourself along the journey of life. Deep fears and insecurities, character flaws that show when only the “safe” people are around, it can become this protective little bubble of your internal world. At least mine did. But what happens when that place is no longer home anymore?

I can remember the day I moved to this town playing “I’m Moving On” by Rascal Flats on repeat. Although, I am not playing that song on repeat, that is what I am doing with my life. Those reasons I had to call that place “Home”  no longer exist. They are fond memories that no one can ever take from me, but yet they are still just memories. Even the hard memories, the tragic ones, the difficult times, and even the memory I have when I realized it was no longer “Home”.

I said it earlier, I found a place to “be”. I’m not sure that place has to have an address attached to it. Maybe an internal condition of being ok with who and what I am, what I have done and what has been done, seeing the past for what it is, the future as full of possibilities and my present is where I exist with everyone and everything that is in my presence. What I have come to learn is that my “ok-ness” doesn’t have to come from the acceptance of another nor do I need to be cherished, so I guess I am in disagreement with that part of the quote. I can have the things Ernest spoke of right here where I am sitting, wherever that happens to be. I can have love and laughter, I can have peace inside the confusion and chaos of life, I can have an acceptance for my mixed-upness and it doesn’t have to come from another person and in fact it shouldn’t. I can fit precisely where I am sitting because I have an Inner Resource that gives me all of these intangibles and more. What I am saying is, My definition of “Home” has changed.

Home is where I am.

 

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