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!
I’ve always been a sensitive person, wanting to understand myself, my world, who I am, why I’m here. I’m glad I found my way to my journals; I didn’t always have someone readily available to hold space as I explored the contents of my mind. This ability to tune into my thoughts and feelings and put them to words enabled me to also articulate them clearly to another. When I can share who I know myself to be with you, and you can share who you know yourself to be with me, then we create a space for authentic relationship, whether we are friends, family, colleagues or intimate partners. These days I am only interested in authentic connection, with you, with me, with this world. Self-awareness made this connection possible. I am grateful to my teachers who led me to this space of self-exploration through meditation, therapy, contemplation, writing, being. I am grateful to know that my Self is bigger than this woman I am, in this body as it is, with this mind, with this identify. Self-awareness taught me that I am this world, I am you, I am this universe. Only gratitude now, as the self within me reminds me that nothing more needs to be said.
Eight years. Eight years of pausing, sitting still, closing my eyes and going within. I remember well the day eight years ago, when, pregnant, feeling sick, overwhelmed by my responsibilities as wife and mother, I called out to the void I’m going crazy! I’m losing it! Help me! What should I do? And the Voice said You must meditate. And I thought, Of course. I had a regular practice before I met my husband, but (and maybe you can relate) self-care always fell to the bottom of the list when I was in a relationship with someone else. The Voice said Meditate and I remembered that this was an option, and I sat. I started small, just five minutes a session, but I quickly worked my way up to thirty minutes a day. Eight years and I haven’t missed a day. Eight years…I have shown up for myself. My ex said You meditate too much when he gave me the list of reasons he was leaving our marriage. That was two years ago, and he’s gone now, but I’m still meditating. Eight years I’ve said to myself I matter. This matters. I’m going to keep showing up. And I will, for eight more years, and eight more and eight more after that. I’ll show up every single day, rain or shine, in sickness or in health, for richer or for poorer, until death closes my body’s eyes and opens the eyes of my soul. Then, there will be no surprises, because in meditation I have seen it all.
I’m discovering that I need people to be happy. I’m noticing that when I’m around people I feel good. I eat. I laugh. I feel happy. But when I’m by myself, I become depressed. I don’t eat. I feel worthless. I’m trying to bring more meaningful connection into my life, but connection takes time and energy. And motivation. How do I find the energy and motivation to connect when I’ve been alone for so long that I’m feeling heavy and depressed? What came first…the loneliness or the depression? I sense that I’ve had this feeling for a long, long time. Even as a child some part of me knew I needed deep, meaningful connection, and when I was made to be in groups where only superficial connection was taking place, I felt drained, listless. I decided that I was better off by myself. I labeled myself as an introvert, and I’ve spent a lot of my life just wanting to be away from people. But now I see a distinction to be made. Connection is so much more than being with someone for the sake of not being alone… It’s being together with a sense of purpose, engaging in co-evolution, exploration, sharing, growth. Relating heart to heart, mind to mind, soul to soul— this is what I yearn for.
I woke up in a daze still intoxicated from our conversation. Everything flowed from the openness created when I was finally seen. It’s as if I didn’t exist before now, and the blaze in your eyes called me forth into being. Your fire is that strong.
Wide awake in the middle of the night,
head buzzing with the latest fears, doubts and anxieties,
I decided to dive deep into the ocean of myself.
I discovered stories I had told about myself
I saw the ways that I had unconsciously trained
my husband to perpetuate the stories,
and how desperately I was seeking
love, attention and approval
even in the midst of my beliefs of unworthiness.
Wide awake in the middle of the night
I experienced a profound reckoning,
a chance, a choice to stop telling those stories
once and for all,
to witness and know and hold my goodness
in the vast space of my tender heart—
and to see the innocence in all of us.
Five hours passed as I underwent this reckoning.
The next morning I was sleep deprived
and most likely looked like a zombie…
but awakening to the truth at the core of myself
was worth it!
Because everything I see
is a projection of my mind
I cannot separate my judgments of you
from my self.
What I see in you
must also be in me…
Otherwise, how could I know
what it is I’m seeing?
To see goodness in you
it must be alive in me,
to see a flaw in you,
that too must exist in me.
I want peace.
I want harmony.
I must begin my work
where these qualities exist–
inside of my own mind.
If I ever start criticizing you,
just hold a mirror up in front of my face.
Maybe I’ll remember
that it’s not you I’m criticizing
As I love you with all my heart,
let me look into the mirror of your eyes.
Maybe I’ll remember
that it’s not you I’m loving,
And as I deepen my understanding
I’ll remember that the labels I and you
are convenient simplifications
of the reality we share.
I’ll remember that there are no distinct lines
between us and there aren’t
two separate selves.
There is one self,
through many beings all at once.