The Art Of Thankfulness
What if you woke up one morning and found that the only things you had in your life were the things that you had thanked God for, or had expressed appreciation for? My fiance posed that question to me the other day and I thought it was a profound way of looking at life. It fits in perfectly with my way of looking at life.
I have been through an an awful lot in my forty-something years. Friends have wondered how I made it through and turned out so normal and happy. OK, well not completely normal. I do have an eccentric streak and a crazy sense of humor but that is part of my resilience. I don't know how anyone can survive without a sense of humor.
I had a hectic childhood and moved so much that I lost count after 20 different schools, my mother was far from the best parent. Many people might have used such a childhood as an excuse for their failures, or continued those bad patterns with their own child.
But I survived by telling myself that my life would not always be like that, and from my mother's bad parenting I learned how NOT to be. Her cruelty helped me develop an acute sense of empathy The fact that she often hit me made me vow that I would never hit my own children and I never did. I raised a child that could be talked to and listened. It would have been nice if I had a better childhood but I learned valuable things from my childhood and I am thankful for that. It made me into a better parent and a better elementary school teacher because I knew how children felt when they were treated badly by adults.
Yes, my childhood was very bad at times but it makes me more thankful for the life that I have now. I may have had to learn things the hard way, but at least I learned from it. I didn't give up and throw a lifelong pity party.
Then came early adulthood and that wasn't always easy either. My mother refused to help me one bit with college and tried to stop me from going. It only made me more determined to go and I became the first college graduate in my family. I went into teaching and loved it. But many years later, I became severely ill and had a surgery that was so badly botched that I almost died and I was never able to go back to teaching.
Along came hurricane Katrina and she proceeded to destroy most of my worldly possessions. Well, that really sucked, but at least I was alive. As for my possessions, well, I had always wanted to simplify my life and I really did have too much stuff. Whether I cried over it or I just accepted it and got on with life, it was gone either way. There were thousands of people worse off than me.
Then the best thing ever (besides my child) happened because of Katrina. Thanks to Katrina, I ran into the man who would become my fiance and soul mate. He lost everything in Katrina too, but we were both so happy in love with each other that we gained more than we lost. He was a firefighter with a heart of gold. He adored me, spoiled me and loved me unconditionally. We loved taking care of each other. He loved cooking for me, caring for me and bringing me gifts.
Falling in love with him made up for all that I had been through with my illness and my divorce. It was all of those bad things that set the course of my life to meet up with him. If not for the bad things, I never would have ended up with him. He was my "happily ever after" and made up for everything I had ever gone through.
But two years later he died suddenly, and I was left all alone in the world and on my own. I won't lie, I was utterly devastated and it just about killed me to lose him. But even in the midst of my grief, I also knew how lucky was to have had him and to be loved as much as he loved me. I still feel his love to this day. His unconditional love tacked my self esteem firmly in place and gave me the strength to go on.
So I picked myself up and moved away from where we lived because it was too painful to live there and constantly be reminded of his absence in all of the places we loved. I had enough of city life and wanted to move to the country and live a quiet, simple life in a little place of my own.
I grieved heavily for a year. But as he had always told me, life goes on. I eventually became friends with someone (by coincidence, yet another firefighter) and by our 3rd date, there was a hurricane headed our way. Yes, another hurricane and another firefighter, are you seeing a pattern?
He asked me to evacuate to his small town because he lived further north, and with the hurricane and the aftermath, he might not be able to contact me or see me for weeks. So he came and picked me up and brought me to his small rural hometown and I have been there ever since.
I write this as I sit in our small house, content with the path that my life has taken. I have lost a lot but I have also learned a lot and loved a lot. I don't have any interest in regrets or bitterness because of the things I have lost or the wrongs that have been done against me. I don't curse the gods for the misfortunes and injustices that I have experienced.
Everyone has times in their lives when they go through hard times, disappointments or painful losses. Learning how to deal with those times is important because it will affect the rest of your life. If you hold on too tightly to the pains of the past, then you will have no room to embrace the joys of your present life and your future.
That's where being thankful and appreciating what you have is a skill that can change the course of your life. That's when you need to realize that the bad things in your life have also led you to experience some of the best things in your life that couldn't have happened otherwise.
Even when someone breaks your heart or does something wrong against you, one of your best responses is "One day I will thank you for this". Say it, believe it and one day it will come to pass.
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