Thursday, November 28, 2013

The State of Gratitude

It's the time of year when everyone across America intentionally acknowledges who and what they're thankful for. Today, at the end of my work meeting, we were asked to do a round table reflection on what we were thankful for this year. Since I've been walking around like a hunchback this week, my answer went something like, "I'm thankful I can walk into work..." 

For me, the challenge is maintaining a daily state of gratitude in the mundane and ordinary. A few years ago my New Year's resolution was to hunt for the blessings in my life every day. I'm a naturally negative person; always focusing on what's going wrong, what I didn't have, what I haven't accomplished, and what prayer wasn't answered. I've blamed it on my upbringing but I didn't have to remain in a victim mindset. My brain needed a drastic reprogramming. 

They say it takes 30 days to break a habit so I challenged myself to look for the daily blessings---big and small---until it came naturally. The first few days I felt as if I walked around cross-eyed from jumbling my thought patterns out of their comfort zone. 

It wasn't until I added mindfulness and meditation to my prayers that I eventually reached a constant state of gratitude. This Thanksgiving I'm not going to enumerate the things and people I'm thankful for because it's become my daily habit. But I can sit and reflect on the richness that makes life interesting. 

My life doesn't look how I envisioned it and I'm sure several members of my family believe I've royally screwed up. But that's okay. I'm alive, healthy, and surrounded by parents, siblings, children, grandchild, nieces and nephews. Talk about a treasure trove of love. 

Every day I'm propelled by purpose and motivated by the calling that fuels me---fighting against human trafficking. How can I complain and grumble about the lack in my life when I'm busy defending the voiceless? 

Although I'm buried in debt I still have a full-time job that pays my bills, feeds me, clothes me, and entertains me. And despite the full-time job, I manage to do the things I'm passionate about: writing, photography, and fitness. 

I live with the stigma of a divorcee, judged and criticized by people because I don't fit their mold of what's acceptable. Yet, for the past five years, I've been in a relationship with the boy I fell in love with when I was 15 years old. He's shown me that I could be loved through my mess and craziness. His love cancels the vitriol of unhappy people. 

The older I get the smaller my circle of friends become but I'm down with that. The caliber of people in that small circle sustains me through my tough times and moments when I lose my sanity. 

When things don't go my way or the wait for answered prayers seems interminable I tweak my thoughts to remind me that gratitude isn't reserved just for good times. To maintain a state of gratitude I must remember that difficult times strengthen and enlighten me. 

While you savor your Thanksgiving dinner today think about the first Thanksgiving and how it lasted three days. May I challenge you to give thanks 365 days?