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Gratitude in Adversity

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GRATITUDE IN ADVERSITY:

In the room — it doesn’t much matter which room — there is pain.

There is the woman whose middle child died four months ago today. She doesn’t say boy or girl, adolescent or adult, just that her “middle child” has died.

“Thanks for sharing,” we say. Thanks for sharing your pain.

“The good thing is,” she says, “my husband and I are finally seeing a counselor, something he’s been promising to do for years.”

“My child has died . . . the good thing is” — who says that?

A younger woman flushes ruby-red with emotion as she tells us that her ‘tween daughter has been in and out of the hospital for two years since a virus invaded her heart and caused brain damage. “I just got fired from my job for missing too much work,” she says. “But I have my priorities.” She straightens her back. “I’m grateful to have so much extra time with her while I’m job hunting,” she says. “It’s a gift.”

“Thanks for sharing,” we say.

A man holds his wife’s veiny hand and says he’s proud of himself for not giving in to obsessive worrying about her newly diagnosed immunodeficiency disorder that might cause permanent blindness or stroke. “I’m just grateful she finally got properly diagnosed and is home from the hospital where I can take care of her,” he says.

His wife gently retrieves her hand and places it on her heart, her other hand on her throat. (Later she tells me that she was doing Reiki on herself. I didn’t even know that was possible.) “I’m grateful that B put up a hummingbird feeder on the porch with the little overhang so I can sit out there on rainy mornings and do my meditation and watch the birds.”

“Thanks for sharing,” we all say.

A woman who was almost killed when she was hit by a car three years ago says the accident put her on “an emotional and spiritual healing path to joy I never dreamed of.” Then she laughs and says how appropriate it was that our group leader randomly chose the discussion topic of “gratitude in the face of adversity.”

We all laugh with her.

“We are survivors,” she says.

♥♥♥

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

— Rev. John Watson (pen name Ian Maclaren)

Grateful for Gratitude

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I know I need to write about Orange Man — I know I do. But words fail me. I just can’t do it yet. I felt genuine terror yesterday when I read that our security agencies are about to brief him on highly sensitive matters.

“Don’t tell him anything!” I wailed, right out loud. There’s simply no regulator on his tongue, and his only allegiance is to his own bloated ego, which is getting more and more inflated like some giant dirigible full of toxins that’s casting a huge shadow over my country and it’s going to burst and cover all of us with his Orange Poison of Hate.

So, you see, I’m not ready to write about what the Republican voters have done.

I also considered writing about my father, who passed away forty-one years ago tomorrow, while I was at my college orientation. I hadn’t wanted to go, but Mom said he would want me to, and she was right. But thinking about my Dad dying from alcoholism at just fifty-eight makes me sad, especially when I worry about other loved ones possibly be headed for the same fate. (If you wonder about yourself, I urge you to consider getting help.)

I’d like to write about the lovely spring weather and flowers and such, but it’s been raining for a week straight. My pansies have been flooded out. Plus, I’ve lost my umbrella.

DSCN4932

In case you haven’t guessed, I woke up a bit low this morning.

So I made a gratitude list in my journal, and I’ve decided that’s the best thing to share with you today. Here’s an excerpt:

My father being a kind man. My mother, my brother, my sister. My cats. My teal bedroom and the new matching quilt. Avocados. Cookbooks.The Bible. Books!! My drum. Airplanes. Candles. Music. Turtles. Cheese. Cheese pizza. Elephants. Rain forests. Brightly colored frogs. Having health care. The beach. Hummingbirds! Having an African-American president. Lilacs. The scent of vanilla. Fireflies. Stars. Prayer. Tea. Thank you!!

There you have it. I highly recommend the practice of gratitude. How can you be grumpy when you’re pondering brightly colored frogs?

Have an awesome weekend, my friends.

Four Ways to Cultivate Gratitude for Thanksgiving

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A guy told me yesterday that he was jealous of me. Not in the traditional sense of the word, like he didn’t want me talking to other guys. Lord knows, I’ve had enough of that in my life.

No, this guy said he was jealous of me because I “treasure things up” in my heart. We had been at a retreat where a scripture was read about Mary, the mother of Jesus, treasuring and pondering things in her heart.

“You obviously live life in the present moment and pay attention and embrace it,” he said. “You treasure and ponder what’s happening in your life.”

Well, being the imperfect person that I am, my first response was muddied with pride, as if somehow I had something to do with this. I tried to look all humble, while thinking “Yeah, he’s right; I am pretty cool.”

Then reality tapped me on the shoulder, and I remembered that this gift of mine is truly just that — a gift. What he was talking about, though he didn’t name it, was gratitude. I’ve always had it, but I realized the extent of it a few years ago when I was getting out of the car and cracked my head on the door. It hurt like hell, and my first response – really – was to say to myself, “Thank God I have a skull.”

I was born with the gift of gratitude, which can’t help but lead to joy. Could there be a better gift?

Isn't it Good to be Alive?

Isn’t it Good to be Alive?

It’s hard for me to remember that not everyone is like this. I can be impatient with people who tend to look at the dark side or who complain about their woeful lot in life. I lack compassion in this area. I often think, “Just get over it. Why can’t you look at the bright side?” Does that sound mean-spirited? Sorry. I said I was grateful, not necessarily nice.

What Do You Bring to the Table?

Thanksgiving week is a good time to take a look at the gifts you’ve been given — not just the abundant food and roof-over-your-head type of gifts, but your inner gifts. The stuff you’re made of.

What “default traits” are you grateful for? Do you have inner gifts you were born with or that you have learned or cultivated?

I have friends who laugh easily. People naturally want to be around them. I have a friend who listens really intently. People seek her out for counsel and comfort. Another friend is endlessly curious. She reads voraciously and loves to talk about just about anything. She exudes enthusiasm and energy. I have another friend who always sees both sides of a situation. She’s the type who says, “Well, think of it this way…” and then you feel guilty for being judgmental. I think you might call that the gift of mercy. And what about the people who have the gift of hospitality? They just open their homes to you spontaneously. What a gift!

Maybe you have the gift of dignity, which I wrote about recently — we need more examples of people who value themselves and treat themselves with respect. Same with animals and the planet – do you have a respect for creation that can help others see the sacred all around them? Share that gift; the world sorely needs it!

Four Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

My gift is gratitude, so I’ll share that gift with you for Thanksgiving. Here are four things you can do to cultivate gratitude in your own life:

  • See above. What do you bring to the table? What are your inner gifts? Make a list of all the parts of your character that you like. This is your list of building materials, the things that when cultivated will help you be grateful for who you are. Reflect on these assets — treasure them in your heart.

“I’m learning to treat myself as if I am valuable. I find that when I practice long enough, I begin to believe it.” Anonymous

  • Make a nightly gratitude list. It doesn’t have to be long. Just make a list of all the things that come to mind for which you are grateful on that particular day. Smells, meals, a smile from a stranger. I’m willing to bet that if you do this every day for a week, you will be a happier person. You’ll start looking for things to be grateful for throughout the day.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart

  • If you find yourself obsessing about something negative or troublesome, as we all do from time to time, ask yourself, “how important is it?” Really. In the big scheme of things. Practice letting go of the thoughts and consciously substituting grateful and positive thoughts.

“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” Chinese proverb

  • Are you harboring resentment? I’ve heard it said that resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Try looking at the narrative you’ve constructed about that person or situation. How might you look at it differently? Can you consider how that resentment might be an opportunity for you to grow spiritually or challenge yourself to break old assumptions or patterns? What are you learning from the situation, where is the hidden gift in the mire?

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” Richard Bach

“Nothing is either good or bad. It’s thinking that makes it so.”

William Shakespeare

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Every Day Disasters

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The wind is picking up. The red and gold leaves seem to have surrendered quickly to the hurricane, dropping overnight in the introductory rain. People don’t surrender that easily. Here in the mid-Atlantic region, we’re dug in.

Since there seems very little chance of us having power for the next few days, we’ve stocked our cupboards with PB & J, our freezers are filled with ice, and we have bags of batteries placed next to our flashlights and candles.

“People are Going to Die in this Storm”

Our governor has ordered people off the roads for the next 36 hours, saying, “People are going to die in this storm.” (Thanks for that, Gov.) Apparently, Sandy intensified overnight, so the winds and flooding from the Chesapeake’s tributaries will be worse than predicted, which was bad enough.

My cats evacuated their beds and took shelter in the hall closet hours ago. They must feel the pressure dropping.

Oh No, Oh No!

I feel afraid. Of what?  Floods, trees through the roof, friends or family being hurt, damage to my new screened porch.

And there are the inconveniences. I contemplate not having electricity to boil my tea water for a few days, and the lack of a hot shower. Maybe having to throw away a lot of food.

Since the sewage treatment plants will likely flood and contaminate the drinking supply, I’ve filled all my plant-watering jugs with fresh water. What happens if the sewage system backs up? Do I have enough toilet paper? Oh no, oh no.

And then I remember:

  • 2.6 billion people in the world don’t have a toilet
  • One-quarter of the world’s population does not have electricity
  • 780 million people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water – 2 ½ times the population of the U.S.
  • 870 million people in the world don’t have enough to eat, and 1 in 6 in America know hunger.

This is every day. Every. Day.

Gratitude and Prayer

Today I’m grateful for my roof, my refrigerator, my toilet, my cats. Did you know there are 50 million stray cats in the U.S.? I am glad that mine have a closet to hide in.

I just blogged on this, but I’ll mention it again, as we await the impending chaos here in our Nation’s Capitol. How come our leaders aren’t talking about climate change? It’s here, my friends.

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/hey-you-guys-with-the-microphones-fire/

I didn’t mean for this post to be a downer. I hope that if you, like me, are sitting and waiting for Sandy, you’ll take a few moments to be grateful and to say a prayer for the people in the world who struggle to simply stay alive. Every day.

Stay safe, fellow East-coasters. Talk to you on the other side of the power outages.

 

Here’s what people in Times Square have to say about their impending disaster:

On Pollinators, Pain, Gay Guys, and Gratitude

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This morning I sat on a bee, which is troublesome since I’m looking at a 10-hour drive tomorrow. As I stood in the kitchen smearing baking soda paste on my posterior, I thought of Ferdinand the Bull. Do you know him? Ferdinand is the children’s story of a gentle bull who didn’t want to leave his wildflower meadow to compete in bullfights. All the other bulls would snort and kick around, putting on a show for scouts on the lookout for fierce fighting bulls. But Ferdinand just liked to sit in the meadow and smell the flowers. Then one day, he sat on a bee and went rampaging across the field and so ended up at a bullfight where he wouldn’t participate, no matter how much they abused him. (Read an interview of a bullfighter turned animal rights activist http://www.vice.com/read/bullfighter-152-v15n10) This being a children’s story, he was brought back to his wildflower meadow in a cart and lived out his days sitting peacefully beneath a tree.

Ferdinand at Peace

I loved the story of Ferdinand, and my Dad loved to read it to me. The story is a metaphor for so many things. I don’t wonder that might father treasured it. He was a gentle man, born with a withered arm that left him unable to work on the family farm or fight with the other men in World War II. Instead, he became a college English professor and then spent the war years as a cryptanalyst, pondering and puzzling over words (it’s in my blood).

The story of Ferdinand also brings to mind a gay friend of mine who was forced to charge around the athletic fields with the other guys instead of taking drama class and then was beaten up in the showers for his efforts. And it makes me think of the lure of simplicity and the fruits of a contemplative lifestyle – I’ll no doubt be going there soon on my page, The Spiritual Life.

This morning, though, my mental meandering leads me to contemplate gratitude, a huge gift of the spirit as I see it. One you can cultivate through various spiritual practices, like fasting (makes you grateful for french fries!) or spending time in nature. Unless you are in a deep clinical depression, it’s hard not to feel gratitude if you are paying any attention at all to a natural setting. Colors, cloud shapes, a deep breath of air. All so simple, yet so complex.

I was born with a grateful bent, so I don’t have to cultivate it as much as some people do. Gratitude as a default setting is a tremendous gift, because it makes one prone to joy, as well. I’m also prone to the downward spiral, but that’s part of living life to the full – I’ve worked hard to escape my denial of childhood wounds and the resulting adult dysfunctions. I want to feel all those emotions, high and low. They’re mine. So I can even feel gratitude when I’m “down in the dumps,” as my Mom used to call her depressed days. Even a bee sting on the butt can offer food for thought and growth.

What I’ve learned from this little inconvenience is that blogging can be a spiritual practice. Just as I see pain and suffering as opportunities to look at things from the broader perspective of the spiritual realm, so, too, is blogging such an opportunity. If I’d gotten a bee sting on my butt two weeks ago before I began this blog, I doubt my response would have been a reflection on gentleness and gratitude. So thanks, God, for this blogging experience and for Ferdinand and for my Dad. And for bees and the meadows of wildflowers they pollinate. Amen.

Best Not Sat Upon

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