So it’s the time of year when our American friends take some time to sit back, reflect on their lives and notice what they’re grateful for (and consume copious amounts of turkey and indulgent food as well!)
As you may have seen from previous articles, I love the idea of thanksgiving…a day every year to just stop and focus on what you’re thankful for. For me, I try and keep an attitude of gratitude the whole year through, but I think it’s still nice to have a reminder from time to time.
Now the thing with gratitude is, it’s easy to do when everything’s fine and dandy…but what about when things don’t appear to be going so well?
When things haven’t turned out the way you expected, or planned for, how do you respond? Do you smile and find something to be grateful for, or do you have a little strop / sulk instead?
Am I saying you should always be grateful, no matter what?
Now, this has the potential to be one of those annoying articles that suggests that when everything appears to be crumbling around you all that is required is a deep breath and a Zen attitude and it will instantly make everything perfect.
…but it’s not.
Because in reality we all have moments where we want to stomp our feet and throw our toys out of the pram because everything seems to have ‘gone wrong’…and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Goodness knows I have my moments!
But the one thing that I have learned on my incredibly interesting journey, is that the times when things appeared to be going ‘wrong’…they were actually working out FOR me…I just couldn’t see it yet.
Just a few examples of the times when it appeared that things were on a downward spiral, but in fact were just a little loop-the-loop on this rollercoaster called life:
- The numerous heartbreaks along the way – without them, I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I now do, and I love my work more than anything I’ve ever done before.
- The time I was hospitalised after being trampled at a big event in London…the compensation for my injuries were to go to an event that quite literally changed my life.
- The time when my Mum appeared to have a very annoying medical condition…which actually led us to learn about a much more serious condition that was then caught and dealt with before it ever became a real problem.
If we stay so rigid to our perception of how we think life “should” turn out…we actually cut off a whole range of possibilities and opportunities that would make life so much easier, better and more enjoyable!
When we’re able to see the big picture, it can totally change our perspective on what’s happening,…and it sometimes takes some time for the big picture to become clear.
Can you be grateful in the face of major challenges?
A great example of this is earlier this year when my Mum faced some major medical challenges.
We were waiting for the results of some tests that she had been given and there were three possible outcomes. Option 1 was that she was going to need major surgery by one surgeon, option 2 was that she was going to require major surgery by a different surgeon and option 3 was that there was another outcome that we weren’t yet aware of.
The difference between options 1 and 2 were that surgery with surgeon 1 meant that her ‘risk factor’ of it being something much more serious was significantly lower than it would be if she needed to be seen by surgeon 2.
I remember sitting with her in the specialist’s office as he delivered the results.
She was going to need major surgery.
…with surgeon number 1.
I watched her breathe a sign of relief as a smile spread across her face, and we both broke into relieved laughter.
When she called my Dad to tell him the news, he was stunned. “I’ve never heard anyone sound so relieved that they’ve got to have major surgery!”, he said.
That’s what made me realise that it was our ability to see the big picture that enabled us to be grateful for something that for most people would have seemed like a big concern.
Having to have major surgery seems like a pretty big bump in the road…unless you know that the alternative route involves jumping your car across a ravine!
How can you be grateful when things are going ‘wrong’?
We were all so grateful for Mum’s surgery, as it almost certainly saved her life.
It was yet another example for me of how in life you get three things:
- What you want
- What you need
- Or something better…
Did Mum want surgery? Not particularly…I don’t know many people who actively want to go under the knife.
Did she need surgery? Yes…and within a few weeks of us first becoming aware of the problem, she was on the road to recovery.
Did it stop us from being scared and worried while we were going through the process? Not at all…
But it did remind me yet again to trust that life is working out exactly the way it’s supposed to. Even if I can’t see it yet, I know that there will be something to be grateful for.
Now I’m not saying don’t be afraid, don’t be frustrated, don’t be angry, don’t be sad when these road bumps (both minor and major) come along. You’re entitled to feel that way.
What I’m encouraging you to do is to keep at the back of your mind that there will be something to be grateful for, even if you can’t yet see it.
…and the earlier you can move from feeling whatever comes up first, to feeling grateful for what you’re experiencing, the easier and more enjoyable life becomes for you.
So this week I encourage you to look for the gratitude in those situations you’ve experienced in the past that felt like ‘problems’ at the time….because when you can see them looking back, it makes you easier to trust in the fact that they will be there in the future too.
P.S. As I’ve said several times in the past, vulnerability is one of the keys to opening up your femininity…so I’m now going to be really vulnerable. Not long after finishing this article, I had a little bump in the road come up. I was sat there in tears talking to my partner trying to figure out what to do when suddenly it hit me. This was exactly what I’d just finished writing about. “Oh s@&t!, this is exactly what I’ve just been writing about”, I said as I put my head in my hands. In that moment I got to feel really miffed that I was living what I’d literally just finished writing about…then I smiled…and then I got to realise that the gratitude is on it’s way. It doesn’t stop me being upset or frustrated with the situation…but it does allow me to breathe easy and let go of worrying about it knowing it’ll all come good in the end. It’s not always easy…but it is worth it, I promise x