Gratitude Need Not Only Come When Compelled by Comparison
You’ve heard the saying “You have to know the bad to know the good?” The idea of contrast as a teacher is nothing new, particularly when it comes to gratitude. The moments when the soundtrack on our lives intensifies because the trauma and drama is about to get amplified is not when we are thinking “Oh yay! I’m about to learn something important.” But, with pain comes the other side of the coin, which is the appreciation for when pain is not present. Let me tell you a story.
When I met death and he stood close enough that his breath was hot on my face, I was left somehow different. With his retreat, he took me, with his bony fingers, past the point of the invincibility of youth. I arrived at a place of realization, a state of understanding limits in a way that had previously escaped me. As I lay, unable to move from the pain of broken ribs and punctured lung, fractured skull, deep puncture wounds in my arm, knee, scalp, a broken ankle, and fingers, suddenly I was excruciatingly aware of the blessing of a whole body.
I used to rock climb multiple times a week finding a deep fulfillment in disciplining my mind and body to take me one step further than I’d gone before; to feel the rock, sometimes cold, sometimes hot, the finger pockets, the ledges, my aching legs and forearms, the chalk on my fingers and the sweat soaking through it – the adrenalin, the now. You trust your belay partner or you wouldn’t climb with them, so I never imagined I’d lie at the bottom of a cliff victim of human error, ambulance racing to my broken body. These are not the things we plan for.
I had weeks to lay and wait for the world and time to pass me by as my body tried to piece itself back together after the 100-foot fall. This provided thinking time and a profound understanding of a few things I took for granted.
Not being able to lie down or breathe well from the injuries, my head swimming with vertigo when I tilted it back on a pillow, not being able to hold by son because of broken fingers and a broken hand; not being able to stand or walk well due to a broken ankle stripped of ligaments, made so much sweeter the chance to dance, when I finally could, to shower myself, to drive, to walk, to get up off the couch without help. This trauma taught me how much I love my body – how grateful I am for it. I learned that when whole and healthy it functions smooth and beautiful and that I love to breathe.
While contrast, knowing the bad so we can fully appreciate the good, is one way to become grateful, I’m going to suggest that gratitude can become a habitual way of thinking and need not only come when compelled through comparison.
At its core, abundant living and gratitude is a way of seeing the world. It’s picking the good things out of our stories instead of the bad. I have learned that when we do this, we see and we create more good things! It’s a little like magic.
My story of my climbing accident could focus on the trauma. I could relive and relish telling about the pain and long recovery. I could focus on the belayer who dropped me from the top of the climb and the betrayal and incompetence shown. I could get lost in blame. I could focus on the scars, or I can focus on what I learned. My body has always been a loyal, healthy, beautiful, smoothly functioning friend. It has and continues to serve me well and takes me to physicals heights of exhaustion, ecstasy, and everything in between. I get to focus my story on how I really learned to appreciate the gift of a healthy, functioning body.
I challenge you to find those abundant gifts you take for granted every day and celebrate them! Gratitude – real gratitude as a way of living every day is the key to happiness. It sets you out on the road in the morning feeling supported, grateful, and abundant. That’s a nice road to start out on, and it leads to some pretty nice places.