Gratitude leads happiness in a dance
Gratitude is a funny thing. When I am feeling down and need its healing power, it is elusive. When I’m feeling good, I can easily name all that I am grateful for. I can bounce back and forth between these high and low states, wondering why my level of gratitude doesn’t match pace with my mood. Or maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. It could be that gratitude leads, rather than follows. Maybe it is a feeling of being grateful which lifts my mood and makes me think I am happy for no particular reason?
Over the past couple of months, I have been wrestling with negative emotions. Some big events have triggered a debauchery of bad feelings. I felt like an anchor had been tied around one leg, tethering me to a place I would rather have sailed on from. I didn’t want to conjure up my defensive response. Fighting my way out of things has proven to be effective, but leaves me feeling worse for wear, over all. I simply had to let it all wash over me.
I also find that fear is tied closely with negativity, maybe even being a root cause. What happens to me, in a state of fear, is hyper attention towards everything in my life which is challenging. I feel the need to root out negativity in every situation. I gloss over the bright side and remain on high alert for what could be or is already wrong. In this kind of state, I can’t let anything be. I over analyze, criticize, or even outright dismiss what I don’t care for. These efforts send the spiral of emotions deeper into despair.
Writing this all down, after the fact, makes my pattern of emotions seem rather silly. I’m a fairly smart person. Why am I so easily manipulated by myself? Why do I find it so difficult to find the positive or kind way of looking at my situation? There will be circumstances in life which will take our breath away and that is OK. There may even be a crisis which will bring us to our knees. The trick is to feel those emotions in all their fury and then eventually get back up again. Hopefully we have built up some coping mechanisms and even a degree of resilience that allows a transition back to a better day.
My recent bout of low emotions left me feeling like I had got too close to a flame. I have walked away without suffering a major burn, but there were little bits of me that got singed. I’ll recover fully, but I won’t be quite the same. That is life, unfortunately. There is a platitude about what does not kill you makes you stronger. How true. But, now that the events have passed, it is time to honour the many ways I am grateful.
Sometimes we find that the ordinary days in life can be made much better by life’s big events, like a wedding or a graduation, but the opposite can also be true. Good and bad stuff will comingle, all in the same day! I’ve also been so incredibly lucky in my life that when it’s my turn to experience what many others face on a regular basis; I am a little taken aback. I had become complacent and taken my luck for granted, like it was a given.
“It’s hard to detect good luck – it looks so much like something you’ve earned.” -Frank A. Clark
The winds have shifted in my favor once again. Now it is time to level set my expectations. That is not to say I should expect the worst, but just be more accepting of what comes. Wishing for perfection is as bad as dress rehearsing for tragedy. Those two extremes may or may not come true, there is little one can do about it either way.
I started this year of working full time with a single thought as I rode into the city on the bus, “what good can I do today?” Somewhere along the way, this idea and many other good intentions fell by the wayside. Fear, anger, resentment and all the other negative emotions which cause stress and poor health; had seeped into my mind uninvited. Time for a little Spring cleaning of the mind. All those uninvited negative emotional guests can pipe down and wait for the right time to speak.
There is a time and a place for everything. I felt real and true fear twice in our travel year. When the kids came down with Bali belly and we had to call a doctor into our hotel room, I felt fear. As we accidentally drove our rental car through a township and then a settlement on the way to the airport in Cape Town, I felt more fear than I ever have in my life. In both instances, we stayed calm and picked our way through, one step after another until we were in the clear.
By experiencing real fear, the kind of situation where a life is actually in danger, I came to realize how often I had felt inappropriate fear. Missing an airplane, a business deal which collapses or having a difficult conversation at work, these are not situations where fear belongs. Disappointment and apprehension maybe, but not fear.
The only thing to do is get back to basics. Victor Frankl wrote that even in the camps, it was important to remember that it could always be worse. Imagine that? From the depths of human depravity, there were concrete things to be grateful for. Somebody had it worse. I was afraid to read, ‘Man’s Search For Meaning”, thinking it would make my poor mood even worse. Of course, I have felt the opposite as the pages fall away. It feels selfish beyond belief to think that my little problems in life compare to what so many others are dealing with.
Next time I think about how bad my life is, I need to turn the frown upside down. Really. If I take my list of grievances and layer all my gratitude on top, the picture comes clear.
“Thank you – is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” -Alice Walker
If you feel inclined to travel and experience the start of fall here in my hometown, stay-tuned to dailycreatives. I am preparing for the first CreaSpaTreat September 20-22, 2019.
CreaSpaTreat is an immersive, retreat experience. Treat yourself to practice creativity in this beautiful setting. Enter a unique space, without life’s regular distractions. Ten like-minded women will gather in Crescent Beach & White Rock to share, learn, socialize and exercise our hearts and minds.