I was asked again recently how and when I began listing my gratitude statements. I decided to dust off this old blog post for those who may not know the history of the “thankful posts”.
I walked into a counselor’s office several years ago and waited for her to tell me something wise, comforting; ultimately waiting for her to tell me what to do. I had lost my husband to cancer a few years prior and my best friend a couple years after that. As far as I could tell there was only one way and that way was up. I sat in her office for what seemed like an eternity hoping for those life-giving words. In one session I was determined to find out all I needed to know to move on, to move up and to step out with my new attitude. It didn’t happen that way. It took several months of questioning and trying to make sense of it all. The counselor didn’t give me any answers. In fact, she made me answer my own questions. She was only a sounding board and a very good one at that. But there was one session that was pivotal for me. The holidays were nearing and the intensity of my pain and loneliness was suddenly overwhelming. I walked in to her office that day and said, “I hate the holidays”. She grinned and said, “what did the holidays do to make you hate them so much?” That was it, I knew my counselor had not one ounce of mercy or compassion. And for the first time I became angry; verbally and visibly angry. It turns out that is just what I needed to do.
She asked me that day, for the rest of the hour, to begin naming things that I was thankful for. For several minutes the only thing heard in that room were the faint voices of people from down the hall and the occasional squeaking gears of the printer. Finally I began, with tear-filled eyes, to whisper one by one things for which I was thankful. I started with naming my little dog and continued to name things for the next ten minutes or so. I stopped and looked up as the counselor placed in my hand a piece of paper with a list of all the things I had mentioned. She told me to take that with me wherever I went and when I started to feel sorry for myself I was to keep adding to that list. This seemed like a crazy idea but it is the single thing that I have carried with me all these years. It seems as though gratitude was just what the doctor ordered. My sadness didn’t end overnight and it wasn’t an easy climb out. Giving thanks, though, changed my perspective and gave me a reason to keep moving forward.
Sometimes, still, I get caught up in thinking about the things I have lost, the friendships that have faded with time and distance and those things that I wish I had. When I do, it takes less time to get back on track than it did back then.
When I wake up in the morning, I am ultimately focused on finding at least one thing that I will be able to give thanks for at the end of the day.
This, my friends, is why and when I began my gratitude lists…
So how about you?