Halfway through this challenge, and I have to pause to be grateful for gratitude itself. I began a gratitude journaling practice years before my marriage ended, and had made it a habit to focus on what was going well in my marriage, so I was shocked when my husband announced it was over. Turns out he had been doing the opposite, focusing on what I did that annoyed him. Although I pleaded with him to step back and look at the good in our lives, he had made up his mind that I was the worst wife ever and there was nothing I could do about that. I continued to write in my gratitude journal as my life fell apart at the seams. I continued writing in my journal even as the voices in my head told me I’d be better off dead. I continued writing in my journal as I weathered storm after storm after storm. I have learned perseverance, strength, discipline, will, resilience. I have learned how to put things into perspective. I have learned that I don’t need a man to feel worthy— I am worthy because I exist. I survived. And I attribute a large part of my success to the mindset I developed while practicing gratitude. Thank you gratitude!
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
—Marcus Aurelius, 121-180 c.e.
I sit down to write and feel blocked because my open and honest expression might be twisted and used as evidence by the one I formerly trusted with my heart that there is something wrong with me. (That something wrong being that I’m a human going through a particularly tough time.) And so I embrace a sort of forced positivity, which cannot be all bad, right? I mean, for God’s sake, I have clean drinking water, on demand, water to bathe with, a toilet inside my house… This puts me in the top 20% of the world’s population. I have voting rights. I have my health. I have my mind. I have a college education. I have work that I love and two beautiful children and an opportunity to start over fresh every single blessed day. In essence, I’m being blocked from complaining, and this impediment to complaints advances my ability to celebrate what is working. This open and honest expression might also be twisted and used as evidence that there is someting wrong with me, but if this is the case, then it only reveals what is wrong with the reasoning faculties of the person doing the twisting and judging. Therefore, thank you, dear soul, for giving me cause to pause and go on a negativity diet. I shall grow fat with gratitude and grace.
It occurred to me that I was fixating on what could go wrong instead of dreaming about what could go right. I had been taught to do this, programmed by those who had been programmed by the ones before them, and on and on and on going back to my very first ancestors who were worried about surviving. It occurred to me that I didn’t have to live this way any more. It occurred to me that I could envision my future and summon good thoughts and ideas about the possibilities that lie before me… It occurred to me that this way of thinking was at least equally as valid as the doomsday thinking I had been taught. It occurred to me that I have a choice. It occurred to me to make the choice to feel good inside myself no matter what the external conditions of my life. It occurred to me that happiness is within. Love is within. Abundance is within. Health is within. Connection is within. Spirit is within. It occurred to me that I am free. I’m so grateful for all of these occurrences.
This afternoon I was really wallowing in self-pity. (Hey, at least I can see it.) I was feeling sorry for myself, lonely, listless, lethargic, worthless, abandoned, powerless, broken. And it finally struck me… If this is my rock bottom, then I’m doing pretty well. I mean… I’m safe, warm and dry in a home (even if it’s going into foreclosure and I have no idea how much longer I’ll be here). I have plenty of food available, electricity, running water, a car that works. I love my work as a yoga teacher (even if I am not currently being paid enough to support myself and my two children). I have so many books chock full of information right at my fingertips; I can read and learn. I can write. I can reach out to a friend (even if Depression lies to me and tells me that no one cares). And I realized that this is all about focus. Which thoughts am I focusing on and believing? And can I focus on thoughts that will help? I can try to shift my mind (even if I have tried and tried a million times and I keep ending up back here). I can put one foot in front of the other. I can breathe. (even if I doubt this will ever change). Clearly, I need to focus on facts and ignore the parenthetical nonsense (even if it seems impossible in this moment).
How long it will be
before the new paradigm is established
and I can truly be free of the thoughts,
words, and actions that have held me back?
I keep reminding myself that I am fine,
that I have always been fine
and I will always be fine…
but my poor, neurotic mind
simply cannot accept this.
It dutifully attempts to dredge up proof
that I will not be okay.
It wants to let me know I’ll run out of money,
I won’t find a way,
I’ll be lonely and homeless
without a friend in the world.
And all this because it wants me to be safe.
But the fear, doubt and worry
make me feel unsafe.
So I have to train this poor mind
to search for proof
that I will definitely be okay.
And then I keep exerting tremendous force,
really wanting this positive outlook
to be where I live most of the time.
This mighty war raging inside of me
I want a nap.
But somehow I must find a way to keep going,
until my mind knows
I AM OKAY.
The depression and the despair
creep up and try to settle in;
I know them well
and I know where this is going.
It occurs to me to not go there,
not this time. This time, I tell myself, I’ll remember that I can choose.
I am not the screen,
nor the images projected upon it,
neither am I the projector–
I am the one who stands behind it,
watching the movie being played.
I am the one who chooses the reels.
I can choose a beautiful story,
a joyful, delightful, healing story.
Meditation gives me this choice.
Let me remember who I really am.
I am not this sad story
of grief and loss, not this time.
This time I am strength,
resilience, freedom, forgiveness.
I am creativity, inspiration,
May I remember my power.
May I choose wisely.