I live in gratitude, and it has changed my life.
Me in B.C., where I began to truly live in gratitude, with intention. (Hadi Dadashian photo)
I begin and end every day with a prayer of gratitude.
I burst into inner song — trust me, I sing better in silence — all through the day in gratitude.
Because I am grateful for every moment, even the tough stuff.
I am grateful for every healthy motion my muscles can manage. I am grateful for good mental health, and for the freedom to live in hope.
I am most grateful for love, and I know that not everyone has that. I try to follow the example of people I admire most, and spread love.
I live in gratitude because my life is filled with joy.
This wasn’t always so.
Deciding to live in gratitude instead of despair
The moment that I decided to live in gratitude instead of despair was a flash in a day of great physical and psychological pain.
I was immobile in a hospital bed, dependent on others for every single thing. I feared that my body wouldn’t work again, and that my brain would never heal. I was so afraid that I stopped sleeping at night for months. My days were shrouded in anxiety and fear.
Faith and great love lifted me from that.
A dash of gratitude each day helped me build on that foundation, and helped me heal, in body, mind, and soul.
It took some time before I learned to replace fear with hope, to transcend suffering with gratitude.
Gratitude is hope.
Once I replaced angst with gratitude, the whole world seemed brighter. True, I still endured more surgeries and more prodding and poking by doctors than I ever wanted to suffer again, but I discovered gratitude — whether uttered aloud, sung in silence, or offered in prayer and meditation — eased my physical and mental pain.
It took years to fully appreciate how this transformed my life.
We are all surrounded by negativity, and the suffering of others. It can hurt when this touches our lives, yet there is a way to share hope if you feel it — listen, truly listen, and show compassion.
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, Try to understand the pain of others.
Following the wisdom of Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist whose family died in Nazi concentration camps, advised us that he survived the horror, the near-starvation, and the near-death, by seizing on happy memories, and holding on to purpose in life.
His example filled my grad school years, and helped inspire me and many other counselors who work with people with disabilities.
A friend writes on Facebook that she won’t let herself to be drowned in others’ negativity, and she won’t apologize for being happy.
Another friend posts a graphic advising us that we would all be happier if we just shut all negative people out of our lives.
We’re surrounded by negative energy, from the morning news online to the evening news on TV. (I cover my eyes when they show that tape of the speeding train derailing in Spain … seeing trauma over and over again only retraumatizes viewers.)
Perhaps there’s negativity in your home, your workplace, your community, the neighborhood cafe.
Ahhhhh … remember the Beatles’ lyric, “Let it be.”
I live in gratitude because I refuse to be lost again. I refuse to let the shadow of others’ negativity darken my days.
But I try to understand the darkness plaguing others; I try to listen to others’ fears in the most selfless and non-judgmental way that I can. This is not always easy, and it’s often a test of my skills and training as a counselor.
I live in gratitude, because I want others to see it’s possible to be lifted up.
I live in gratitude because I know its power to transform lives.
Gratitude transformed my life, and this morning, I am quietly thankful for that.
With gratitude to the professors who taught me about Viktor Frankl, and to AC, the counselor who shows all of us how to live by his example.