Monday night I went to yoga and the teacher started talking about "gratitude, since thanksgiving is next week." WHAT?! --yeah, I audibly yelled that in yoga class. How the hell did Thanksgiving sneak up on us? (No, no, i know how; please don't bring that up.) After that class, I began reflecting on my gratitude practice. I've gone through different stages of keeping gratitude diaries and finding lessons I can be grateful for in each life experience.
The gratitude experience that stuck out in my mind was probably the first time I actively used gratitude in a difficult situation: I was having a break-up conversation with someone I didn't want to break up with--he was the initiator. Instead of reacting when he accused me of things, I silently reminded myself that I was grateful he was even talking to me, and then responded from a calm place. When he called me a liar, I reminded myself that I was grateful he had overcome his fears about coming over, and responded with grace.
The gratitude I silently washed that conversation with changed the trajectory of that morning and of my future relationship with that individual. We moved forward as friends, for which I was grateful.
Shifting to an attitude of gratitude does have the power to change our experiences. After contemplating that for the past few days, I incorporated a gratitude shifting practice into the yoga classes I taught this morning. Leaving class, I was feeling grounded and ready to tackle the day.
As part of my grab-my-day-by-the-horns, I texted someone and told them I needed them to do some healing before I could spend more time with them. It was a very hard text to write/conclusion to come to, mainly because I care about the person, but also because I'm not great at boundaries: I often let other people's needs outweigh my own. I had to protect myself in this situation, even though I didn't want to.
I felt a pain at letting this person go, even if only temporarily. But I also felt grateful that I had the strength to set that boundary for myself. Coincidentally (or, perhaps, cosmically), I found something moments after sending the text that I had copied for myself months ago from a friend's friend's blog (written by Rosie Rees):
You have attracted this person, relationship and situation into your life to GROW through it. They are mirroring back shadow elements of ourselves that we have not claimed. It is NOT your responsibility or duty to change them. They need to do that themselves.
Let me just point out that I think the above statement is always true, which is why I tucked it aside for myself, but you know how some days some things just ring like SUPER TRUE? (yes, "super true" is definitely a phrase you should be using now.)
I needed to be reminded that it wasn't my responsibility to help this person through all of their difficulties, especially when they weren't asking that of me. But what was most helpful to me was being reminded that I was seeing a reflection of myself in this person: I was watching him cope with his life difficulties by sliding back into alcohol/drug use. Moreover, I observed this as I was testing out not using any type of numbing agents.
He was the first person I went on a sober first date with--just a week into my original 40 day experiment. So as I was learning that I didn't need excessive alcohol in my life, my lessons were even more crystallized by the fact that he was experiencing negative ramifications from his own use.
I hope that he continues to grow and heal, but I know it isn't my job to arrange that. However, it is up to me to decide how I feel now, after sending that text this morning. And instead of being sad for losing him, I choose to be grateful for his appearance in my life at this time.
So just as I challenged my yoga classes this morning, see what you can shift by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. We can be grateful for even the seemingly worst aspects of our lives. There are several instances in my life that I could point to and say "that really sucked," but flipping that around is actually equally easy, and much more fulfilling.
I am grateful for my husband leaving our home; I was able to grow and heal in ways I would not have been able to without that impetus. I am grateful for my struggle with bulimia; it has taught me more about myself and my relationships than another avoidance mechanism that I could have more easily blended into society's allowances.
I am grateful I have learned to set boundaries for myself. I am grateful I can choose to see gratitude in each moment.