Gratitude in the Midst of Challenge

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for everything
that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. 
And because all of these things have contributed to your advancement,
you should include all things in your gratitude.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This last week has been a bit tough for me.  I have received, it seems at every turn, news of a death, a disease or mental illness diagnosis, a divorce or an estranged relationship.  This journey we call life is not an easy one.

In our culture we seem to place such a great emphasis on the importance of being happy that when we hit these challenges, many of us can become completely derailed.  Do we somehow believe we can out run the hard times?  Have we forgotten that there is always dark and light?

We ask, “how can this have happened?”  We have cultivated what seems to be an all or nothing attitude.  “This horrible thing happened and now my life is ruined.” 

Suffering, challenges, loss – they are hard.  They bring about feelings of sadness, deep burning emotional pain, feelings of hopelessness and despair.  These are feelings.  And they are real and poignant.  And yet over time the sting of a traumatic event lessens it’s grip and we are able to step back into our lives and find moments again of joy, peace, ease or even happiness.

Be grateful for the changes – the easy ones and the difficult ones.

So the question for me is this – who can I choose to be in the midst of challenge?  I want to feel the emotion or pain, and yet I also want to be present in my life and continue to live and move forward.  I want to recognize the suffering and I also desire to move through it.

I have found gratitude to be such an incredible and strong tool in these moments.  That statement might feel counter-intuitive. How can one be grateful when they have just experienced a great loss or been diagnosed with an illness? For me, even in the darkest moments of our lives there is light. I believe that when we choose to recognize both the lightness and the dark we receive grace, in even the most difficult of times.

The light in the darkness

In the passing of a person close to us we can focus on the gifts they brought to our lives.  In illness, we may discover inner strength we had never tapped into before, we can be grateful for the love that surrounds us.  Even in those most sudden, most devastating moments, we can find a nugget of gratitude.

Please do not think I am saying not to feel the pain or not to experience the darkness. Not at all. My request is for us to be inside the pain and at the same time count our blessings. To find the gifts and know we have the strength to move through and move on. To know that joy can be found in sadness and peace can be found through pain.  We can grow in our suffering.

Gratitude is a gift!

Imagine the gift you give to another when they are able to ease their pain because you found a gift in yours.

Gratitude for all the parts and pieces of our lives brings depth and hope to our experiences.  It connects us.  It offers us a life raft in the fiercest storm and lights our way through the tunnel of darkness.

May you seek and find the light of gratitude in 2019.  And may you spread that light far and wide.

Live Well. Live Alive.