Some time ago I joined an online Gratitude group. We are a group of mothers with chronic pain. We don’t talk about diagnosis, pain, medication or the impact it has on our lives. We agree not to seek sympathy or offer advice. We simply write why we are grateful.
I started keeping a gratitude diary where I write something new that I am grateful for each day. This is easy when I’m feeling good, being naturally enthusiastic I can find good in most things, there is much to celebrate in my life. When I’m feeling ill and miserable it’s harder, negative events from the past, present and the ones I’ve predicted for the future cloud my judgement. Over time listing the good has helped me to stop looking at other people’s lives through jealous eyes. Even on rainy days I can look for the sunshine. For me this is the difference between grateful thinking and positive thinking.
Gratitude isn’t about kidding yourself everything is great as it is, it’s about noticing that everything isn’t terrible.
When I first started writing it all down, I wrote that I wondered if my Lupus wolf (I think she needs a name, suggestions welcome ?) was trying to teach me something. I think that something is appreciation. I’ve always been hungry for more, what’s next? what else can I do? what can I create today? where shall we go? But find it hard to sit back and enjoy things just as they are. When my eldest daughter was a baby I found myself constantly reading about the ‘next stage’ rather than enjoying her for how she was in that moment. I made a conscious effort not to do that the second time round and enjoyed it all much more.
One of the greatest things that’s happened since I started telling the truth and got rid of the ‘I’m fine’ party line, is that other people reached out too. Friends I hadn’t seen in years made contact, I’ve reconnected with friends I’d not seen for a while, people I see often invited me for lunch dates, tea and catch ups. I started regularly walking with other friends and our dogs. All of which has helped me let go of the frustrations of the things I can’t do right now. This experience reminded me of the essential goodness of the people I know, that our connections are so much greater than our individual achievements. So many people have wanted to hear and truly listen to my story and in turn told me theirs.
While I can’t pretend to be and can’t ever imagine being grateful for my body going rogue or the adjustments to the plan i’ve had to make I am grateful for the lessons its taught me. I’m grateful for slowing down, i’m grateful to be able to spend more time with my children and husband where we just are, we’re just beings not doings. I’m grateful to let go of all the irrelevant stuff I no longer have energy or headspace for and notice the small things , like the owl that talks to me when I freeze outside in the dark rounding up my chickens and rabbits at night.
Most recently I am grateful to sit in relative silence (I say relative, because this person causes me to talk more than anyone else) in beautiful peaceful surroundings eating chunks of marzipan with one of the people I love most. It was bliss. I am grateful to a friend of my husbands who although i’ve never met managed to point out many of my favourite parts of my life so succinctly. And I am grateful to have this time to write and tell those I love that I am grateful for them.
So today on Valentines day i’ll not bother with buying chocolates (if I can’t eat them, nor can anyone else!!) or cards, but instead i’ll be grateful that the people I love also love me.