What do a) spilt milk, b) a parking ticket, c) Brussel sprouts d) Nits have in common? Pretty hard to be grateful for!
A little while ago I wrote a post about practising gratitude for ‘the love of it’ – not just because it’s something you feel you should do (like eating greens). I spoke of gratitude as being something that is better felt spontaneously rather than practised diligently.
I believe this to be true (although any kind of gratitude is good), but I also believe it runs deeper.
I spoke of a woman, with Stage 4 cancer, who had decided to simply (or NOT) surrender into gratitude for her cancer – not just its lessons but the very presence of the disease in her life in that moment she chose to surrender – WOW.
Having done some more reflecting since then, I’ve come up with a list of the hardest things in my life that I’m grateful f for. This is the sort of difficult, but hugely liberating gratitude, that only comes by letting go.
1. Infertility – In experiencing infertility I’ve become the person I am today (not perfect by any stretch, but infertility has given me strength of character). I would never have known how strong I could be without infertility. It tested, yet ultimately strengthened our marriage. Infertility strengthened my desire to be a Mum and paved the way for the alternative path we would take to parenthood – we would not have known the joys of adopting our children without having experienced infertility. When I think like this, I can’t imagine a greater gift. I can still feel a sense of loss over never having given birth, but I can be grateful regardless.
2. Missed career opportunities – I’ve been feeling angry lately about how infertility conspired, (with my own choices), to rob me of the sort of career I once imagined for myself. Without the ability to control my fertility, I couldn’t progress in any sort of planned way and I’ve certainly compromised to be with my much-wanted children. I’m moving into gratitude now through realising that my hodgepodge career has prepared me to see different possibilities for the kind of work that enables me to contribute – I haven’t been stuck on some corporate ‘climb to the top’ track. Infertility made me realise that career isn’t everything and shaped my decisions that reflected this philosophy – and ego aside, this is the philosophy that feels right for me.
3. Having no genetic link to my children – Of course we accepted this in choosing to adopt, and most times it’s not hard at all to be thankful – I don’t think our daughter’s dance ability would be quite the same had she been a product of our genes (she might have had two left feet) – her natural-born talent and grace that shines through. I’m always grateful for her beauty that has nothing to do with my DNA – our son’s cuteness the product of his own genes. And as our daughter really starts to assert her personality, and we find ourselves clashing more, I’m trying to be grateful for the differences (that may or may not be genetic) and for the lesson in accepting those traits that I find difficult to understand.
4. An ageing, frumpy, flabby body – I’m not saying I’m happy with what age, too much wine and not always eating and exercising right has done to my body. I do want (need) to lose some weight. I’m conscious that I don’t have the excuse of pregnancy for the squishiness around my stomach. I know I can feel better about myself, but I am also trying NOT to feel frumpy or old. I don’t dress frumpy and I feel strong, fit (and somewhat flexible) in my hot yoga practice. I care less about the ideals of beauty than I did when I was younger (and thinner) – I came across a funny meme recently – ‘I wish I was as fat as the first time I thought I was fat’. You either realise that appearance is skin deep, and learn to really appreciate all the other things you are below the surface, or you resist the ‘ravages of age’ and make yourself miserable in the process. I’m grateful when I can view my body from a place of acceptance and gratitude for my good health, even whilst seeking to be fitter and healthier.
5. A family legacy of guilt – this is a hard one because guilt seldom serves me well. It’s my default emotion, passed down Irish Catholic generations. But guilt comes with a sense of compassion – you don’t feel guilty if you don’t care. And in trying to pull myself up on my irrational patterns of guilty thinking I’ve learned to be mindful and more caring. The mindfulness I’ve learned has also helped me deal with fear and other emotions that don’t serve me well either. I’m grateful for that.
6. My ectopic pregnancy – this is wrapped up in the whole horrible experience of infertility but is a loss that stands out so starkly on its own. It’s a loss that made me stronger, that changed me forever – I truly understood what it is to lose. Now I choose to directly relate this loss to the adoption of our son. We may still have adopted our daughter had I given birth to the baby we lost. But there’s no way that with two children we would have waited out the long and painful process to adopt our son so many years later. For him, every day, I am most incredibly grateful.
7. Missing the first part of my children’s lives – this is by far the hardest thing for me to be grateful for. They were orphans, living in foster care (our daughter) and in the orphanage (our son) – it’s so hard to be grateful for that. Yet neither was aware of their circumstances. For that I am most grateful. Both were brought into this world by mothers who cared enough to give birth to them. For that I am forever grateful. I missed out on their first months and all the milestones that come with newborn development – I grieve this, yet I am also more thankful than I might otherwise be, for all the experiences we’ve shared since – their toddler years are magnified in significance because I did not get to experience their newborn months. I have to pull myself up sometimes to truly appreciate all that I have, yet I know that my experience is the richer for what I have missed out on.
So that’s it, gratitude through surrender.
I’d love to know if there is something you are grateful for, even though it is hard. And what of the above four things (spilt milk, parking ticket, Brussel sprouts and nits) do you find hardest to be grateful for?
Linking up with Grace for FYBF.