Gratitude….it’s a hot topic right now. People are making lists, writing books, buying signs at Hobby Lobby, just about anything, to remind themselves to give constant thanks-and I’m right there with them, of course! Thanksgiving (the verb, not the holiday) has a miraculous way of changing our perception into something positive. But here’s the thing I’m not an advocate for: saying thanks just to say it, because we’re being told that it will heal all our hurts, all our losses and all our pains.
Here’s the truth: gratitude doesn’t clear the mud away from our circumstances. The person we love will still be sick. The bank account will still dwindle. Life will still feel overwhelming; and putting a Thanksgiving sticker on it (ok this time holiday…) won’t make those circumstances go away or even change them in the slightest. But, here’s the thing, gratitude can change our perception from complete distress to embracing the moment placed in front of us.I don’t want to look back in ten years and see that stress is what shaped my relationship with my daughters. And chanting “I’m grateful for her terrible two tantrums” isn’t going to alleviate that stress by any means; but what may is the understanding that this tantrum (hers or mine) will pass. This moment, this hardship, this illness, this heartache, whatever is your story right now, will pass. It won’t last forever. This wave will not run an everlasting course-it will eventually crash, and your feet will be back on the sand. And that’s something to be grateful for.
I can’t pretend that I love hearing Frozen in the background while I work for the ninth time today, or that I always greet my spouse with an enthusiastic smile. I can’t, and I won’t, pretend that life is without hardship, because that’s when relationships and our minds become vague. I can, however, remind myself on the daily that this hardship, this season, this heartache or illness will pass. It will come to an end. It won’t last forever, and I can make it. Gratitude reminds me that I can make it. And maybe it’s just taking a moment to enjoy the really really small things, like a festive fir candle you lit, the coffee cup in your hand, or that one special snack you hide in your secret spot (Justin’s peanut butter cups, anyone?). Create an environment that you can look past the dirty dishes and cluttered inbox and savor just one small thing. That might just be enough to get through the day.
I get heartache. I really do. And I get what it feels like to read about gratitude or joy or all the fuzzy feelings and feel nauseas. Positivity was a natural repellant to me for years after experiencing a devastating loss. I get it if you’re reading this and rolling your eyes.But my hope, my plea, is that this week, for the sake of Turkey Day coming up, you will take on the challenge to create a little secret gratitude kit. Whether it’s a candle, a picture, a book or magazine, or a treat, once a day sneak away from the crazy and embrace something that reminds you that your feet are indeed still on the ground, you are still standing, and there’s something to be grateful for in this moment.
Our circumstances aren’t always the most delightful, and being thankful actually takes work-there’s no formula for a truly grateful mindset. But reminding ourselves in the moment that there is breath in our lungs, and we are indeed breathing (even when we feel like we’re drowning), gratitude might just be what we need to carry on.