If someone had told me five years ago that I would ever be grateful for my tsunami divorce, I would have thought they were ignorant. Or cruel. Or, at the very least, utterly clueless and insensitive.
But, you know what?
They would have been right.
My divorce was a doozy: 16 years of what-I-thought-was wedded bliss suddenly amputated with a single text message. This was followed by the discovery of marital fraud and felony bigamy. In one instant, the life I had was gone and it was stolen by the man who had lovingly kissed me goodnight for my entire adult life.
I was inspired by the gratitude lists that circulate social media every fall. I love those lists. I enjoy reading how people are thankful for their families, their jobs and their health. I smile when I see, their pictures of cooing babies or mischievous puppies. I appreciate the renewed energy that spills from accounting one’s blessings.
Those lists are beautiful. Heart warming.
But I also think they’re a cop-out.
It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in your life. It’s easy to summon gratitude for the people and situations that bring us joy. Don’t get me wrong; it’s valuable to take the time to enumerate those things you appreciate.
But it’s even more valuable to find reasons to be thankful for those things that bring us pain or grief or anger.
When gratitude is your wrapping paper, everything is a gift.
Much like an oyster encapsulates an irritating bit of sand with glorious mother of pearl, you can choose to envelop the torments in your life with thankfulness.
And so that’s what I did. Every time I wrote a check to pay for the hidden debts that were left in my lap, I wrote a reason I was grateful for the opportunity. I composed a list of reasons I was thankful for my ex, effectively muffling the pain. I taught myself to recognize the negative emotions and, rather than try to stuff them down or ride them out, I actively wrapped them in gratitude.
And it turns out that gratitude was the key to releasing me from the prison of my past. It happened. It altered me. But it does not control me. You cannot always change your circumstances, but you can always change your response. Gratitude is a choice you can always make.
So, I leave you with a challenge: turn your greatest sufferings into your greatest gifts.
It won’t be easy. I call it radical gratitude for a reason. Radical because it’s intense. Difficult. Almost unthinkable. But also because it has the chance of being life changing.
Find that dark hole that bleeds you. That curse.
Maybe it’s an ex. Or an abusive parent. Perhaps it’s your job or lack thereof. Possibly, you face an illness that has stripped your body or had an accident that stole your health in one fell swoop. Maybe it’s not the presence of a person, but the loss of one.
Whatever it is, identify it.
And then be grateful for it. Create a list of ten reasons that you are thankful for your biggest challenge.
You can share it — here or elsewhere — or you can keep it to yourself.
But write it. Believe in it. And then release it.