Do you love gratitude for its own sake, or do you practice it like you might have practised piano to escape the wrath of a stern teacher with an evil eye when you were a kid?
Do you ‘do’ gratitude, like it’s a duty, in the same way we sometimes forgive more out of self-righteousness than understanding?
Do you fake it until you make it? I know I do.
And could there ever be any room for gratitude in cancer?
So many wonderful words have been written about the power of gratitude and tools to cultivate it – gratitude boards, lists, daily diaries and other ways of making it a routine that nourishes your life and the lives of those around you (who you are going to much more grateful for).
Even though I know (and love) its benefits, I’m still working on being grateful ENOUGH. And that, I have to admit, is part of the problem.
Without wanting to rain on the gratitude parade, it seems to me that it needs to be much more felt spontaneously, like joy, and much less practiced diligently, like patience.
Gratitude, to a word lover like me, is simply short for ‘great attitude’. We need to (try to) bring this attitude everywhere we go, every day, rather than making it a scheduled routine, or even a habit, that we still have to think about in order to practise or only acknowledge in hindsight.
Now I know this is easier said than done and I’m grateful that you have read this far, since I am sounding kinda preachy.
Believe me, I am the first to acknowledge that not only do I not ‘DO’ gratitude as well as I should, but I jump to judge myself against the successes and fortunes of others (comparison – the antithesis of gratitude), I indulge in martyrdom (which means I compare my suffering self-righteously with others) and sometimes I even do showy gratitude (to make myself look good or as some kind of recompense to make myself feel better).
I don’t think you can truly be grateful when it is only in comparison to others.
I don’t think shows of gratitude really count. It has to come from the heart, from love.
Gratitude should be our natural state that springs from the same geyser that joy spouts from – joy and gratitude pretty much flow simultaneously together and we just need to hold still in that moment and truly experience it.
I know its gratitude when I catch myself mesmerised in my son’s eyes and I can’t believe that he’s mine, or when I watch my daughter dance and marvel at how she has given grace movement. Gratitude is found in wonder and awe at nature, a welling of love at a thoughtful act of a spouse. The geyser flows and I am both grateful and joyous.
And then sometimes, we come to gratitude only through the grace of surrender. We let it flow out of us – we open the valve to let out a trickle and maybe it turns into a flood.
I read a post last week by an American woman whose blog and journey I follow as she lives with Stage 4 rectal cancer. Needless to say her insights are beyond inspiring. And the other day she spoke of reaching a point where she simply surrendered – where she became grateful for the cancer – not only the lessons it had taught her, the perspective it had given her, the strength she had found within herself, but its very presence in her life in that moment in which she had started bleeding again and could only wonder – what next?
She sat with herself in that moment and made the choice to be grateful for being alive in that very second, living with cancer. Grateful not just for the good stuff in her life, but for the cancer. And that, to me, was profound. The way she wrote it seemed she had truly fallen in unconditional love with gratitude.
OMG this is yinyang balance – to truly experience gratitude in moments of joy and to surrender to it, to ‘lean in’, as Cheryl Sandburg might say, to the pain that suddenly feels so much less painful when you are grateful for it.
Gratitude allows us to balance out the ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
Much inspired, I am working on (and I know that according to my theory it should just come naturally, blah, blah, blah) being grateful for my infertility.
Of course I’m immensely grateful for having adopted our children and I’m thankful for the lessons I learned through infertility, the perspective it gave me, the strength I gained. And I think I am getting close to simply feeling grateful for it. Full stop.
This requires genuine surrender to the loss and regrets, but it seems so much easier when compared to being grateful for living with a grave cancer that is threatening your life right now. Surely I can do it?
If gratitude is a great attitude to practice, and if it is joyous when we experience it spontaneously, imagine how truly powerful it can be when we surrender to it, simply for the love of it.
In fact what’s the hardest things you could be grateful for? I worked my way there and I reckon you can too.