Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #6

Radical Gratitude Challenge #6 – Ultimate Gratitude

Perhaps nothing leaves us feeling more helpless and vulnerable than watching a child suffer.  Whether it’s from illness, or injury, or from crazy, bad choices that kid is making, we are cut to the core.

My elder son, Steve, began sliding down the sleep, slippery slope of drug addiction when he was fifteen.  Poor grades.  Being expelled.  Arrested for fencing stolen property.  Counselors. Court appointed therapists. Being awakened at 2 a.m. (when I thought Steve was asleep in his room) and told to come bail him out of jail.  Cash missing.  Blame heaped on myself and by others for being a “bad” parent.  The nightmare seemed unending.

Although I wouldn’t wish this story on anyone, some of you have experienced this.  We could exchange horror stories.  If enough time has gone by, maybe we could even laugh together about the dreams surrendered…the lessons learned.

I’m not sure I was very grateful during those years.  I think it may have been all I could do to just hang on for the wild ride.  

Eventually Steve was hospitalized with congestive heart failure due to 15 years of “speed” and anything else he could get his hands on.  At first he was not expected to live through the night.  He lived. He came home to stay with us.  For two and one half years, I cared for a person still thinking crazy druggie thoughts.  I knew every day could be his last.  What good could come out of this, dear God?

And then a miracle.  He accepted that he was dying.  He decided the only way he could die with self-respect, was to die “clean.”  He quit everything.  Cold turkey.  And the Steve I once knew as kind and sweet returned to me.  We had almost four months of regaining the loving we had lost in the chaos before he died.  We each let go of things we couldn’t control and couldn’t change.  We surrendered judgment of ourselves and each other.

Without my recognizing it at the time, Steve was one of my most profound teachers. It may seem a small gift in exchange for his life, but my gift from Steve was a lifetime of lessons that are briefly shared in my book, Pungent Boundaries.   I learned what I had to do to disconnect from codependent behaviors.  I learned how to take care of myself, rather than always running to take care of him.  I learned a level of humility that was painful, and infinitely valuable as I coach others in similar circumstances.

Is there something so painful happening to you right now that you can barely breathe?  Does gratitude seem impossible to conjure up?  Is the tunnel so dark that even the thought of possible light ahead seems unrealistic?  This is when Gratitude can begin to work its magic in your soul.  Even just saying the words, while pounding a pillow, can open up space inside for a miracle…if not in the circumstances, then in you.  If you are blessed with a traditional Thanksgiving meal, or if you are not, I invite you to join me as I set aside that day to practice gratitude.  You can say, “Thank you, even though I hate this, thank you.”  I’ll say it with you… and send you my love as you stretch beyond what seems possible.

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Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #5

Radical Gratitude Challenge #5 – The Harvest of Gratitude

My first husband died when I was twenty-three years old.  We had two baby boys.  I was not very thankful.  It took about five years to pull out of the pit of depression and readjust my life around this new reality.

I wanted to remarry.  I didn’t want to be alone forever.  I heard a special speaker talk about being thankful for what we have even before it arrives…especially before it arrives!  So I made myself a lacy nightie and hung it in the closet, waiting for that special Someone who would be my lover and partner in life.

Years went by.  I occasionally thought of giving that nightie to the GoodWill with other items no longer of use to me.  But I just couldn’t let go of the dream. 

I met Jim.  We fell in love.  That magical night came when I told Jim the story of my Belief Nightie and wore it for him.

The perfect dream became a nightmare of conflict.  I speak a lot of this in other places, but it’s enough to say that I thought, at times, I’d made a terrible mistake.  Whenever I could, I summoned up the grit to be grateful for whatever good might come out of our pain.

We eventually found the help we needed.  We learned and practiced new communication skills.  We resolved our conflicts.  Our love returned.  And then we really FELT THANKFUL!

A few years later Jim suggested that we begin teaching classes to other couples who needed to know what we had learned.  How to Stay Married & Love It! was born!

And the rest, as is said, is history.  The dream of my childhood to have a happy, loving marriage was fulfilled.  The dreams of speaking and writing books to help others have happy, loving marriages has been, and is still being fulfilled.  

What circumstance are you experiencing right now that seems impossible for which to be thankful?  What really stinks about your marriage, your family, your health, your finances?  What if an amazing chapter is being written in your future that you can’t see right now?  Can you be grateful now, as an act of faith?  I believe you can…

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Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #4

Radical Gratitude Challenge: Week #4 – Where the Rubber Meets the Road!

It’s not hard to be grateful when something is going well.  This week while planning this challenge, many lost their homes to California wild fires.  I was grateful my son’s home in northern CA was spared.

He is a helicopter pilot.  I was especially grateful that he came home safely after finishing his all night shift rescuing people during 70 mph winds.

These are easy things for which to be thankful.  But can we stretch into gratitude for a home and all belongings burned in that fire? Or a child who has become drug addicted? Or a struggling marriage? Or a spouse who dies before his time? Or an illness that places harsh limits on your life?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

You may be asking, “What is the advantage to being thankful about hard, painful things?  Why should I?

Because gratitude opens the heart.  Being thankful for the hard stuff is the ultimate expression of faith.  You may not share my faith.  That’s no problem.  Whether you talk to your God, or the Universe, it hears you.  It responds to your open heart.

An open heart says, “I’m open to whatever good can come from this pain.  I’m open to see new opportunities brought to me by this disaster.  I’m open to learning new lessons that will benefit me in ways I can’t predict right now.  I’m open to a Wisdom that is beyond my limited vision.

And then you persevere.  You put one foot in front of the other. You ask for help.  You do your best to be grateful even while in pain, and waiting for the Grand Plan to reveal itself.  You find joy in small gifts…the companionship of a loyal animal, a neighbor who awkwardly expresses their sympathy, the hug of your spouse, a lost keepsake returned to you.

You may think, “Now she’s gone too far.  I don’t want to hear her preaching!”  This is not preaching.  It’s teaching a universal life lesson!  It’s expanding your consciousness of what may be possible!

Next week I’ll share a few of the hard, painful stuff for which I have been thankful, sometimes while pounding a pillow and screaming my pain…

Are you ready to try out this road with me?  To accept the challenge where the rubber meets the road?  I’d love to hear from you!

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