Although my first marriage only lasted 4 ½ years due to the untimely death of my husband, it lasted long enough for me to begin to learn some important life lessons.
JG was a good man. He worked hard, loved his job, turned his pay over to me and never questioned how I spent it, was home every night by 5:30 (unless he had to pick up equipment for repair from Bakersfield or somewhere far away.) He thought he was getting a sweet, young woman who would complete his life. I thought I was getting someone who would fill my insatiable need for reassurance, affection and attention.
We were both wrong.
He worked all day, six days a week and we spent most of the seventh day at church. Several times every month I would complain, beg, nag and pout about how little attention I was getting from him. Why couldn’t he take an occasional day off? Why didn’t he tell me he loved me more often? The only relief were our occasional vacations where I got to be with him 24/7. But for 50 weeks out of 52 I was unhappy and made sure he knew it.
I didn’t like the results. We were both unhappy most of the time. Not the marriage either of us had envisioned!
I was finally desperate enough to tell God, “I’ll do anything to make this marriage better. I’m even willing to change if you’ll just tell me how!” (I’m sure God breathed a sigh of relief!) There were no lightening bolts or voices out of the heavens, but the first little whisper of an idea came shortly after. “Instead of complaining about how little time you have together, how about being grateful for any time you DO HAVE?” Hmmm…
So, every evening when his truck pulled into our driveway, I said a prayer of thanks. “Thank you that he’s home safely. Thank you that he comes home faithfully. Thank you for the next few hours that we have together.” And then greeted him warmly when he came through the door.
A few weeks later, as he was leaving for work one Saturday morning, he said, “I’m planning on coming home at noon today. Is there anything you’d like to do?” Shock. Wow. I didn’t even know what to say. If my memory serves, we had lunch, went for a drive, got an ice cream cone…all without any discord…peacefully, lovingly…time that nurtured my need for his attention.
That lesson…being grateful for what is, rather than unhappy about what isn’t…has continued to be a life-lesson theme for me. This lesson repeatedly calls me back to what Ekhart Tolle calls “the present moment” in his book, The Power of Now. In this moment I am safe. In this moment the main bills are paid. In this moment I have food for myself, my chickens and my dogs. Living in the moment, and being grateful for what is RIGHT NOW, is a powerful spiritual practice that continues to challenge and enrich my life.
Being grateful for what is good NOW seems to go against our natural inclination to worry about the future, fret about how a bill will be paid, focus on our partner’s failings, create imaginary scenarios in which we fail, or are disappointed.
But the payoff for gratitude is a more peaceful life, more peaceful relationships, a quieter mind, an opening that seems to attract more miracles like JG’s offer to come home at noon, or unexpected income, or help such as the woman who offered to help me transfer groceries from my loaded cart into the trunk of my car this week. Gratitude seems to grow the good in my life. Will you take the challenge?
What is true about your life NOW for which you can be grateful? Are you willing to join me in the discipline of pulling our attention back to RIGHT NOW and being grateful for the good that is ours in this moment? You have my respect and support if you answer “Yes!” and my compassion and understanding if you refuse… It’s hard. It’s not a once and it’s done event. It is a practice, a journey, a calling that must be answered over and over again, moment by moment.
All I can add is that the practice of gratitude, although certainly not done perfectly, has brought many more blessings and miracles into my life than I couldn’t have gotten by complaining and nagging!