A Taste of the Truth
I often think about gratitude in my recovery work. I have read many books and articles that discuss the importance of gratitude in healing. And I get it intellectually. It makes so much sense. How can you build on a shaky foundation? The current life has to reside in my heart. There has to be a love for what is if I want to take what is to the next level. I have made my list of all the things I am grateful for. I have even listed five things in a journal every night before going to sleep. My children list their five things every night before they go to bed too (the pets have no idea how lucky they are).
And while I am truly grateful for everything on my list, there is something missing. I know it intellectually, but I don't feel it in my heart. I don't feel that joy of gratitude for what I have been blessed with. How do I know? I know because I have felt it for brief moments. Recently, I had fifteen minutes of pure joy and gratitude for what I have. What did I do with it? I cleaned my stove. I have never been so happy to clean my stove. And that stove was thoroughly cleaned. I didn't even want to use it again it looked so good. But it was different from my manic cleaning. I was completely present throughout the entire process.
That's the thing about that level of joy. It can make anything a positive experience. Of course, it is a feeling I want back. I pray to have it every day. When I pray for something, the feelings blocking that abundance float to the surface to be processed. I have learned that. So I only pray when I am ready to do the work. But I have also learned that when those feelings are processed, I get the joy that lives underneath. So I am willing.
The Practice of Awareness
And those emotions have shown me those parts that don't really feel grateful. It has been an enlightening experience. I have come face-to-face with this part of me that doesn't feel one ounce of gratitude. She firmly believes that everything in her life is because of her. She knows what happened when she wasn't in control, when she was a child. She lived a horrible life. So she is absolutely convinced that her own will and current control over her environment have saved her from continued disaster. And she doesn't need to have gratitude for what she has created.
It makes sense that she feels that way. When she was a helpless child, her life was not full of joy. Her life was a nightmare. No matter what she did, no matter how good she tried to be, it never changed. So she took control as soon as she could. She made her life happen on her terms. She blocked out the help from others and the universe. She did it all herself. And while life was not perfect and she was filled with anxiety, she no longer suffered horrific abuse. So it did look like she had done it all herself.
But there were things working below the surface. There were powerful forces at work to prepare me for a different life, a life without abuse, a purpose-filled life with joy and love. There was a chance to go to college for several degrees. There was the birth of two angels that would remind me of the work I had to do. There was the manifestation of an exceptional therapist who would guide me exactly where I needed to go. There was help along the way as I parented without a partner or extended family. The wake-up call came early enough to save another generation from trauma. And lately, there has been support and coaching available to help me start my purpose-filled business.
While that part of me might argue she did it all on her own, I know that is not possible. There are too many “coincidences” and seeming serendipitous experiences. There were too many people who came in to my life at the right moment. There were too many early learning experiences that taught me exactly what I needed to know in this phase of my life. There were too many preparations that I did not consciously make.
It is only a matter of time before my inner part makes this connection too. I know she is already connecting the dots. But gratitude requires faith. And she has a ton of reasons to have none of it. I continue to relentlessly pursue gratitude. I look for the signs of help everywhere. I notice the small signs that I am being supported. I sometimes miss them, but I see them more than I used to. I continue to process the emotions of hopelessness and futility as they come up. I explain to my inner part that she is not alone and why that is a good thing.
Slowly it shifts. I feel myself moving toward a more permanent feeling of gratitude. I think about how my inner world can finally match my outer world in beauty and abundance. And I think about how clean my stove will be.