“Gratitude is a divine emotion: it fills the heart, but not to bursting; it warms it, but not to fever.” – Charlotte Bronte
*Cue the self help Instagram posts and love and light references.*
As the holiday season approaches, starting with Thanksgiving, most carbon based human beings reflect on the past year going into the winter months. As children, we trace hand turkeys and list what we are grateful for. I find this is truly only the set up gratitude cannot necessarily be practiced in my opinion but it must be felt. Through connection and the presence of self, it is found in the least likely of places. A concept I am afraid we are losing by the day due to constant distractions. Though difficult to shed the mundane process that is life in today’s technological influenced world, profit margins will never support true gratitude because the distractions which profit need to be abandoned to understand the concept of a gift.
A salmon swimming upstream is easily fatigued with the journey to spawning and abundance knowing demise is a condition of the process yet continues to persist, despite uncertainty. If anyone has woken up to a new day over the past 2 years, we know that tumultuous feeling shared with the salmon. Gratitude blooms when we realize that it is that fact that we are exposed to the struggle that promises better. As a therapist in my waking life, this was something that always led to inner conflict. People reach out in their darkest of nights, frozen in fear and self abandonment with the sole hope that they will be “seen” by a perfect stranger. Pretty significant perspective for a Wednesday, No? Let’s face it, baptism by fire is mandatory when taking on a trade to this depth when in your early to mid 20’s and your peers are traveling to Cancun for a week’s worth of youth fueled debauchery. (No judgement at all here, make sure to have a shot for me at happy hours). Sometimes gratitude helps us to see life in a new perspective. A framework for increased understanding and self acceptance. However, what the yoga guru does not tell you, is gratitude can only truly be found in the darkest of places and it is in this experience, gratitude becomes prevalent. For one to authentically experience gratitude it is not sugar plumb fairies and fuzziness.
Similar to most chapters in my life, I use the street knowledge the school of hard knocks to apply the lessons presented in the world of “adulting.” When reflecting on gratitude, I recall my travels in college. I had the privilege of sacrificing a winter break to travel to Ecuador and to live among the locals. The culture was richest I have seen, yet materialism was non existent. Children with old water bottles tied to their feet replaced the extravagant Air Jordan’s. Joy was the contents of the overflowing well of daily living manifested in an after school “football” (soccer) game.
Now flash forward- 2020-2022. Road rage ensues amongst suburban residents at the local department store precipitated by a shortage of hand sanitizer. Brother turns on brother due to source of each party’s “news” source. When we deny our fear it owns us. When we accept our fear, pain, uncertainty, we find joy. The more we attempt to change the circumstances before us the more we lose ourselves. However, in that loss we come home to ourselves.
The secret is to hold fast to that moment of homecoming. Do not minimize the pain. Do not give power to denial. Stand tall and if nothing else remember who you are. Who you were when a game of soccer or manhunt have you life. It is in the sorrow that joy follows. Joy becomes an impenetrable freight train once we are honest with our shadow and with that joy we find gratitude. Gratitude for another day. Gratitude for holding on one more time when everything said give up. Gratitude for the small moments. Gratitude that you lived to heal the scars. Gratitude that tomorrow is not guaranteed but you have a today. Gratitude for laughter in the dark.
As long as there is breath, there are adventures to be had….. and for me that is enough to rest my head for one more day.