From My Gratitude Journal: Reflections
The more thankful I am, the more abundance I receive
Being grateful when we get what we wish for is easy. But counting our blessings when things are not going the way we hoped is hard. It is probably because even though we are aware we should be thankful for what we have, the turmoil in our heads creates a cloud that hides this awareness. In that moment of anger/disappointment/frustration, we fail to notice the silver linings.
I was no different. I was not averse to being grateful but when my mom encouraged me to write a gratitude journal, I laughed it off. I did pray occasionally and I did readily say my thank yous. But there were times when it was really tough for me to breathe and realize how blessed I was, especially when it came to tough times.
The turning point
My mom was diagnosed with a chronic health issue (idiopathic interstitial lung disease) in 1997 and in the months preceding the diagnosis, went through several tests and procedures before the doctors arrived at the diagnosis.
The treatment was painful and difficult and she was in and out of the hospital. In 2007, however, she was really sick and her hemoglobin came down to 3 (the normal value is 11.6 to 15 grams per deciliter). She could barely breathe and we rushed her to the hospital where she was in the ICU for two weeks. She had developed a fever that just refused to come down in spite of all that the doctor did.
Finally, at the end of two weeks, and several platelet transfusions, they decided she was better and moved her out of the ICU before discharging her four days later.
We returned home, relieved.
That night, her fever rose. The hospital refused to connect us to her doctor. Frantic, we tried to talk to our GP who gave us advice.
I remember holding my mom’s hand that night and sobbing in frustration. And yes, the profanity flowed. When I paused for a moment, my mom simply laughed and told me to take a deep breath and feel grateful.
For what? I asked her.
That we’re at home with access to medical care and what’s more, being able to afford it, she said.
That you’re healthy, your son’s health, and Sury’s well, she said.
That we all love each other and are openly affectionate towards each other, she said.
That we all have a sense of humor, she said.
Well, she went on, but you get the idea.
As her words sank in, I continued to sob. She smiled at me gently and held my hand, letting me cry my heart out.
Finally, I stopped and wiped the tears.
She said, promise me you will always see the silver lining, and no matter what the situation, find something to be grateful for.
I promised, albeit half-heartedly. Well, I’d try my best, wouldn’t I?
Practising being thankful
Being the very good teacher that she was, Mom made a game out of it after that. It became an “if (negative thing) then (a positive thing)”.
- Oh, we’ve run out of coffee. (But we have fresh water to drink!)
- There’s a power shutdown! (But we’re at home and capable of using a hand fan)
- It is a no-water day without warning! (But what fun to skip a shower today!)
- Got a tummyache (But we have a yummy home remedy!)
You see where that’s going?
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. (Source)
She made us practice gratitude in the most fun way. And because we roped in my then 10-year-old son, it became even more fun. I am grateful to him for keeping me cheerful, no matter what.
Also, when we lit the lamp in the morning and prayed, we’d come up with silly things like:
- Thankful for that fart that came out easily!
- Thankful for a clock that tells us the time
- Thankful for that movie we watched together yesterday
And suddenly it wasn’t so silly when we said, thank you for fresh air, and thank you for a brand new day.
When she unexpectedly passed away in Feb 2010, I had to try really hard to practice gratitude through my grief. I did. I had a brainwave. I started a blog to honor her memories. And it was so therapeutic. And yes, as I became more grateful, I had more abundance in my life. I didn’t have to make a big effort.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.- Melody Beattie.
I found that quote in one of my mom’s notebooks and understood what she meant.
I am thankful.
Wednesday Wisdom is a series with short bursts of easy-to-consume wisdom in the form of inspiring stories, verses, quotes, anecdotes, reflections, easy meditation, thought-provoking questions, and humor. Oh yeah, some days are not so short.