Of all the words I’ve ever learned, none have had the magnitude and impact as one simple phrase.
Saying thank you, and actually meaning it, doesn’t come naturally. At least it hasn’t always for me. Heck, it’s still a struggle at times. It is part of our nature to want more, to do more, to want to achieve more. Perhaps this is part of the American dream in us. Yet, this can leave us in a constant state of discontent if we focus too much on what we want and forget to cherish what we have.
As a child I was taught to say please and thank you as common courtesy, but it wasn’t until later in my life that I realized the impact gratitude – real heartfelt gratitude – could have on my life.
Through adversity we are reminded to cherish what we already have.
Many years ago I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder.” This didn’t sound so bad to me. After all, “generalized” sounds a lot like normal, right? I coasted along for several years trying a few different medications and therapists, and for a while I felt better, felt like I’d beat it.
Then, it happened. I became a mother. EEEK! This “generalized anxiety” thing went to a whole new level. I went to another counselor after my first daughter was born because the the fear had become overwhelmingly crippling. I spent my days playing out different scenarios in my head of the 1,000 plus ways my daughter was going to die a horrible death. It was terrifying and challenging.
The hardest thing about anxiety is knowing you are anxious for no reason, that the only thing causing your fear is your own imagination, and yet you still feel anxious. This made me feel helpless and inadequate.
After a particularly emotionally taxing episode, I realized I needed to try something different. I paused what I was doing and just gave thanks. I said thank you for every moment that I had spent with my daughter, husband, loved one. I thought about all the wonderful ways they had enriched my life. Flooded with happy memories, I gave thanks for every single moment including this fear-filled one. As I did so, I was overcome with love, gratitude and joy. Suddenly there was no room for the fear.
Do I wish I never had to deal with anxiety? Sure I do. Yet perhaps I am supposed to feel the fear sometimes to remember to be grateful. Difficulties are presented to help us grow and make us stronger, and if the fear made me more grateful, then I am thankful for it too. I think about what my life might be like without the anxiety. Would I cherish and appreciate it as much? Or would I take life for granted?
Whenever we are faced with a situation we don’t like, we have a choice. To wallow in it and wish things were different, or to give thanks and ask what we are supposed to learn. Even if it seems like there’s nothing to be grateful for, that the situation is too dire, I challenge you to consider this. No matter the adversity we face, someone out there is facing something worse, so there’s always something to be thankful for.
“I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Unknown
I’d love to hear from you. If you have a story of overcoming adversity through gratitude, please share it in the comments. Together, maybe we can make this world a better place, one story at a time.
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Copyright © 2016 Katherine J. Wheeler. All rights reserved.