When finding gratitude for the present moment is too difficult
I am acutely aware of this concept. Last week was my birthday. The day I came into the world. It's an important day for me. It is a chance I have every year to understand what a gift I have been given to be here. And this year, more than ever, I needed a framework to understand that as a gift. This year has already been one of my hardest so far. My son, who has DMD, has lost his ability to walk and with that comes much grief and fear of the future. I am wrestling with so much (we could write a few posts about that!). And in fact, on the day before my birthday, I spent an entire Sunday at our Children's hospital for a convening of DMD families with physicians and scientists to review clinical guidelines and research. Not the best way to go into your birthday if you want to be in the mood to celebrate.
But that's exactly why it's so important to look at this day through the lens of gratitude and not through the lens of our expectations. We expect to be elated, festive and happy on our birthday. We don't expect to be grieving, sad, or fearful. No, these are not really fun emotions for the birthday girl.
But what if we let our expectations go?
What if instead we find gratitude in whatever arises for us?
I was fortunately forced to do this because the way I was feeling was so not what I wanted. Instead, I reflected for myself that day as I often do, what in this pain can I be grateful for? (My TEDx talk explains this concept in more detail.) And I have to be honest, it wasn't so obvious that day. It isn't always immediately obvious. Sometimes it just feels like pain. So that day, I realized my gratitude was, believe it or not, that I was actually feeling pain. My ability to feel all my emotions, those that are welcome and those that are challenging, is in fact the gift of being alive. It is the gift of being human. All of us will face pain but what we can do is offer ourselves compassion in that moment, an understanding that what we experience is so universal.
We are human. We will have pain. Many times, that pain will feel overwhelming and insurmountable. But we always have the opportunity to sit in that moment and fully experience what arises. We then have the opportunity to offer ourselves compassion and love as we witness our own suffering. This is poignant, yet it is a gift.
This year, on my birthday, I was grateful for my pain, for my birth, for my life. All of it. For who I am and who I am becoming. This one beautiful life is what it is because of my pain, not despite my pain.
Gratitude gave me a lens through which I could accept that my birthday could still be celebrated even through this pain. Gratitude gave me a framework to be in the moment and not swept up in the expectations that I may have had.
This year, I am grateful for my life. My entire beautiful, painful and exhilarating life. And for all of you on your own journeys, I am grateful in the ways we will learn and grow together.