Some of you may have wondered if we didn’t miss an anniversary party. Well, yes, we did.
On 17 August, I was in acute recovery, having undergone a significantly traumatic and life threatening episode with 4 surgeries/procedures in 3 different hospitals. I knew it was my 5th year anniversary of this powerful gratitude practice, and while I quietly and privately recognized the milestone, I was not able to have a celebration. Being alive and being grateful for my life was celebration enough.
Sure, I think it is unfortunate that the 5 year marker went without celebration. A year ago, I decided that I wanted to have a big marker for my 5th year anniversary. I was thinking of a big party or a podcast with contributors through the years. I wasn’t thinking of a near death experience and the natural gratitude and shift in attitude that this would bring. We put out our wishes into the universe, with our thoughts, but we don’t control the form in which our wishes are manifested.
Be Careful What You Wish For!
Gratitude is easy when things are going well. At my first anniversary party, someone expressed their frustration with their own inability to practice gratitude, because life had been so hard for them. I get it. It’s easy to be grateful when life is good. Easy, but perhaps, not profound. I honestly believe that it is in the darkest times where we uncover the acute beauty of gratitude. It is easy to ask “Why is this happening to me?” and to feel bitter about our circumstances. While I did not feel this way about my surgeries, on several occasions over these past 5 years (more so the last 4), I have fallen into self-pity over my unjust circumstances, and I’ve experienced a crisis of faith. Life experiences, even the worst experience, are opportunities for us to learn. I believe that we get these lessons with life challenges that offer us the opportunity to develop our characters. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. In the moment, it hurts. Sometimes, that pain is soul crushing in its intensity and the worse it hurts, the deeper is that wound. The way I see it, so too, is the greater our potential for healing and growth.
I call this post “5 Years Strong” not only because I am gradually healing, physically, or because I feel grounded, and strong in my spirit, following my hospital stay. I call it 5 Years Strong because getting to this 5 year milestone has taken more strength than I could have imagined I would be called to find within me, when I started this journey. The first year was a piece of cake. Sometimes I was actually grateful just for cake! But, as I moved deeper into this practice, I have found myself challenged to be grateful in the face of a series of life events that a friend characterized as a page from the book of Job. I made a major change in my life, only to find that I did so under false pretenses on the part of the other contracting party. And I had a relationship that I could characterize in much the same way, which ended with cruelty and brutality. My living situation and my financial security have been precarious throughout this time, as has been my health. Oh, yes, it has been hard to be grateful and to walk my life in Oneness, and service, living and celebrating moments of joy. Sometimes I have failed. It has sometimes been beyond my power to stay positive about life. In those moments, all I could do was find 3 things – 3 small and simple things – for which to be grateful, every day. Holding on to gratitude gave me a light, (sometimes the tiniest of candles) – even when I had lost my faith, or was in so much despair that I couldn’t see my way forward – to guide my way through the dark times.
As I stood on the threshold of my 5 year anniversary, looking back and forward, beyond that threshold, I felt that I’d come through hell, and survived. It is time to learn whatever this era in my life has offered to teach me, to complete this cycle and to move on to building a better life for myself and others.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself for my achievement, as the 5 year milestone approached. Maybe my lesson came in getting slapped down in a big enough way to learn that the practice is hindered with egoistic ideas about personal achievement. The practice is about surrendering to the deep humility and wonder of this incredible gift of life. I see where I need to improve my practice.
We’ve made it through great times and some tough times, together, in these past 5 years. We are as vulnerable as delicate Kintsugi pottery; and sometimes we’ve all failed at something or felt broken. In healing all the places where we are broken – in body, heart and spirit – our scar tissue makes these wounds stronger and they become an inseparable part of us, like a memory or a marker, on our journey, of the lessons we’ve learned that made us grow. Therein, lies the gold.
Welcome, year six.
For what are you most grateful, right now?