Tendrils of Growing Gratitude

glass fullI haven’t always been able to muster gratitude. In fact, gratitude was the last thing on my mind whenever I was wallowing in the quicksands of despair and depression. The concept of being grateful “for even this” was beyond my comprehension, and seemingly even beyond all possibility of achieving at the time.

And then I ran into a bunch of women in an online boomer women’s forum (Boomer Women Speak). My very first post was a desperate plea for help, because that day I was feeling utterly alone, lost, broken and the truth was that I wasn’t sure I could take even one more day of that excruciating despair and loneliness. I didn’t expect much in the way of response…I mean, who would want to touch my darkness with a 10 foot pole! But to my utter amazement, the responses began immediately – post after post, all speaking understanding, caring, kind patience and warm welcoming. This group of women from all around the world all put their loving arms around me, scooped me off the doorstep and brought me into their homes and hearts…and the rest is history.

From that moment, my life began to change direction…slowly but surely, their light began to filter through my darkness, their words of encouragement and wisdom began to break through my despair, and their love – tangible through their words and understanding  attentiveness – began to grow me back to life. It took a long time, and I often wonder how they were able to muster so much patience with me, but they stood by me through every step of my journey out of that dark place…teaching me how to laugh again, teaching me how to love myself (something I had never been able to do before), and teaching me how to celebrate life with gratitude and joy.

They loved me back to light and life. And for that, for them, for me, I now live my life steeped in gratitude. Genuine gladness and heart-deep joy to be alive.

Living a life steeped in gratitude really does make a difference. Suddenly, there’s beauty where I could never have noticed it before. Suddenly, my eyes and mind can see another side to just about any patch of darkness…and while that ability to see differently does NOT take away the pain and suffering from going through these circumstances, it does add that paradoxical peace and joy that defies all logic and ordinary understanding. So that I can be weeping in grief, yet still see glimpses of reasons to celebrate and be grateful.

I wanted to share just a few examples of how those tendrils of gratitude have grown so much inside of me that they now sneak into – and out of – everyday circumstances, even the seemingly difficult and frustrating ones. To give proper perspective, I have to go all the way back to the beginning, to those early years at BWS, where this whole gratitude thing began with crawling out of bed, looking out my window and whispering a quiet “thank you” for the new day…and let me say here and now, that even that was difficult to do in the beginning, when I still wasn’t sure I even wanted to wake up. But I was resolute, and so I persevered, freely admitting that it was pure lip-service at first. To my amazement, it soon began to come from my heart…I actually FELT the joy in waking up and the flicker of anticipation at that first glimpse out at the new day’s sky…eventually, through perseverance and constant nurturing, that reluctant “thank you” grew into heartfelt joy at being alive.

As I then stretched myself further into actually living (not just surviving) each new day and dared to keep moving deeper into that gratitude attitude, my “gratitude vision” expanded and encompassed more and more things and situations. Until one day I realized that gratitude WAS my life now, and that even the things that I used to take for granted had become transformed into gifts and blessings that I truly celebrate and feel profound grateful for.

A sampling of those everyday blessings that many of us take for granted:

1. During the weeks that I sat by my brother’s bedside in the hospital, one of the “simple” things that really struck me was how many people were not able to get up and go the bathroom by themselves – and how many would NEVER be able to get up and go to the bathroom by themselves again. Out of that observation came a huge sense of gratitude for not only being healthy, but for being able to get out of bed, or my chair, or anywhere, to go to the bathroom by myself…not having to wait for someone to take me there, or having to change an overflowing bag, is a far greater gift than most of us would ever ordinarily think about – I think about it every single day now. And heave a huge sigh of “thank you” and gratitude for my physical freedom and mobility!

2. My brother’s death at 42 taught me that life is fragile and too short to wait to do the things you really want to do. So we began to travel. I simply began booking trips to places that I had always wanted to go, and once that ticket was booked, we would arrange our  budget accordingly, so that the money would be there when we needed it. It worked. And we went. And we saw so many places I had always dreamed about but never really believed I’d ever visit in my lifetime. I’ve loved every trip we’ve taken, and am so grateful for having learned that lesson and for daring to reach for what I want while I still can. This traveling is one of my favourite gifts that I took away from Gary’s death, and I will be forever grateful for “waking up” to literally smell the roses in those far-away lands!

3. Traveling to many of these places has also opened my eyes to just how very fortunate we are here in so many seemingly simple ways. Just a few more examples of the things we used to take for granted, but no longer do because of the places we’ve visited where these things were hard, if not impossible, to find: Cuba – toilet paper; Cuba – enough food to eat; Cuba – being able to go into a store and buy pretty much anything you want (especially meat!); China – clean drinking water; China – freedom, freedom to go where we want to when we want to, freedom to speak our opinions, freedom to worship, freedom right across the entire spectrum; Budapest – clean public toilets (honestly, this was just before I had been diagnosed with uterine cancer, and so had symptoms that required frequent trips to the bathroom – not easy to find there!); Bratislava – plain non-carbonated drinking water (otherwise an unexpectedly beautiful city, one of our all-time favourites now!); Gilbralter – sunshine (because it poured rain the whole time we were there, it really made us appreciate the sun when we finally saw it again); Morocco – our car – everytime we go to the mall or grocery store in our car, we recall seeing how the people in Morocco (and other places we’ve visited) have to fetch water (and/or transport just about everything they want and need) by donkeys and bicycles. All of our travels have opened our eyes to how easy we have it compared to so many people elsewhere!

There are so many more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. This will be my last post for awhile, as we’re going to be out and about in the world and I want to keep my eyes and heart open to what’s waiting out there for me to embrace and enjoy. Then when I come back, I’ll have more stuff to celebrate with you! And won’t you be grateful for that!

There are so many neat little quote-things that I wanted to post here, but couldn’t pick which one…so I’m posting the link to the whole collection on my Pinterest page…something to peruse while y’all wait for my return. 🙂

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
This entry was posted in brain training, coping, determination, empowerment, gratitude, hope, inspiration, joy, meaning, mental health, Peace, positive, self help, wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tendrils of Growing Gratitude

  1. Wow, yes, you have come along way! I love who you have become; a person who is willing to share with the rest of us, and that in itself is an inspiration. Have a safe trip!!

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    • Sharon says:

      Thank you, Ruth. the generosity of heart and the sharings of so many women who had “been there, done that (and this is how I got out)” really made the difference in my life. I would not be this person today without each and every one of them (you included). I too like this person I’ve become…it’s the first time in my entire life that I’ve been able to say that and mean it. I love waking up to a new day now. How thrilling it is to be in this good mind-space!!! I’m not able to not share…perhaps it’s a “paying forward’ of all that my BWS sisters so generously gave to me. Perhaps it’s the Light wanting to ripple and dance onward and outward now that it has broken me out of my prison of darkness. Whatever it is, I hope that sharing helps even just one other person the way that so many helped me. xoxo

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