“Gratitude is the intention to count your blessings every day, every minute, while avoiding, whenever possible, the belief that you need or deserve different circumstances.” (Timothy Miller)
For me the challenge is not in feeling grateful for all that I have and love, it is in maintaining that feeling when things don’t go my way. I usually have a picture in my mind of how I want my life to be, how I want my children or grandchildren to behave and grow, and I am very willing to be grateful for all that! It is when things don’t go according to plan that my attitude of gratitude suffers.
Recently my four year old grandson, Jordan, has developed a resistance to any transition during his day. When his mother tries to get him ready to come to my house in the mornings so that she can go to work, he is likely to have a tantrum saying that he wants to stay home. When it is time for me to take him to school in the afternoon, he will hide and cry and say he hates school and doesn’t want to go. When it’s time to pick him up from school he will run away from me – sometimes into the parking lot where cars are coming and going – saying he doesn’t want to leave school. And when his mother comes after work to take him home from my house he will refuse to leave my side. I realize that he has to face a lot of different places each day, but in each place he is loved and cared for and always ends up having a good time.
I have to go through Jordan’s resistance each time a transition comes up. I try and approach it with patience and firmness, but never have I thought of it as something to be grateful for, to be warm and happy about. Rather I see it as something we must all get through and something that I do NOT look forward to in any way.
“Growth means change, and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.” (George Shinn)
For Jordan, each time he leaves whatever safe haven he is in means stepping from the known to the unknown. He must take the leap of faith that Nana’s house will be safe and fun and that school will be safe and fun and that home will be safe and fun, over and over in his young life.
Is it possible to feel safe and scared at the same time? Is it possible to feel grateful and resentful at the same time? I think so. Perhaps it is the higher self and lower self battling it out. Jordan’s higher self says “You will be safe and happy wherever you are and whoever you are with,” while his lower self says. “I like it fine where I am. I don’t want to go anywhere else, take any risks. Let me stay here where I know it’s safe.” My higher self says “Every moment is a gift, every challenge an opportunity to practice gratitude,” while my lower self says “I deserve more – more money, more time, more cooperation from Jordan.
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”(Albert Einstein)
Seen in this light, it is miracle that Jordan works through his resistance each and every day and takes the leap into the relative unknown of my house, of school and of home again. It is a miracle that we are alive and aware and able to choose feeling grateful rather than feeling resentful and full of self-pity. It is a miracle that we have another day, another hour, another minute of life in which to contemplate the miraculous.
We all lead very busy lives, full of schedules for work and school and household chores. The list goes on and on. We wake up and hit the floor running with no time to remember the dreams we had during the night. We rush through our days making sure we get to most of the things on our “To Do” list only to fall back into bed too exhausted to feel much of anything let alone contemplate how miraculous life is and how grateful we are to be alive! Seen through the lens of all that we must accomplish in a day it is truly a miracle that we can get through each day only to rise to meet another full of more things that must be done.
Trying to stay with the awareness of life as a miracle from moment to moment is as difficult as maintaining an attitude of gratitude, but it is much the same. Being grateful forces us to stay in the moment, in the NOW, because we must look at our life as it is this moment and feel happy to be alive. To view everything as a miracle is one step further into the moment if such a thing is possible. First we are grateful about who we are and where we are and what we are doing and then we realize what a miracle it is that we are alive and able to contemplate the miracle of it all. And then the baby cries or your toddler refuses to go to Nana’s or your boss emails you for an update on the project that is due tomorrow and the contemplation of miracles or gratitude flies out the window.Perhaps the trick is not to stay in the moment full of gratitude, but to remember to return to it again and again throughout our busy lives. I know this sounds like just one more thing to add to an already overflowing list of things to do in a day. But it is really a “stop and take a breath” kind of thing, a moment in which I look into my grandson’s eyes and realize what a gift he is and how much I love him and how I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or be anyone else. And then the tantrum becomes a miracle.