Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's Easy To Be Thankful For The Good Things

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder

I'm starting to feel that this is what I
look like most of the time.
I had a particularly tough day with my children yesterday. It started out well, but ended up with me being really frustrated, angry and feeling completely and totally taken for granted. I sat down to write a post which quickly became a long list of everything I do in a single day that no one gives me thanks for. Thankfully I didn't publish it because upon re-reading it I realized it was simply a long litany of complaints. 

And then I felt guilty. How can I complain about my life? Of course there are days that are really hard and I feel pushed to the limit. There are days when I feel massive disappointment. There are days when I don't know how I am going to get through the next 10 minutes let alone the next few hours. There are days when I am mean and grumpy and selfish and self-sabotaging. But in between those moments there are spaces (and sometimes long stretches) when I have clarity. That clarity usually takes the form of noticing wonderful parts of my life. So yes, I am able to get out of my way and be thankful for all that is good in my life. But what about the things that aren't so good? I wondered to myself: can I be thankful for those things as well? 

Were I able to be thankful for everything I experience, even those things one might automatically label as "bad", how much happier would I be? I came across this poem today. It shook me out of my bah humbug mood.

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

~ Author Unknown

When I'm in that grumpy state, I tend to get caught up in feeling that my children are not being thankful for all I do or all they have. I often wonder how I can best model gratitude for them. This poem was a real wake up call for me. Of course I don't want things to be difficult, but we all know that it is through overcoming difficulty that we have our biggest emotional and spiritual growth. I have never learned as much about myself and what I was made of than surviving the end of my first marriage. I look back at that dismal time as the greatest blessing I was ever given.

Byron Katie, founder of The Work.
It keeps coming back into my life.
Perhaps I need to pay attention.
So what is the difference, for example, in seeing my children whining and fighting as a nuisance or as something to be thankful for? The answer is simply: my thoughts. Well, simple, but not so simple. I think I truly believe that their fighting is something that needs to stop. And because I can't make it stop, I am unhappy. While I was stewing on this, I recalled something I was interested in a number of years ago called The Work
"I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always." — Byron Katie 
Like a brick hitting my head, I realized what believing my own thoughts was creating and I saw how I was judging my children. As I began to fill out Katie's worksheets in my mind, I started to see how I behave exactly as I think my children do: I don't listen, I am disrespectful, I am only concerned with what I want and not what they want. There is so much more work for me to do on this matter, but now instead of being angry about my children's behavior I am sitting here thankful for the struggles we have. Without it, I wouldn't have such a rich opportunity to improve my parenting, my character, my connection with my children and my understanding of myself. This is going to get interesting.
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