When Dave died, I thought I would die. Literally. I was so shattered, devastated, empty, and frightened. The future was something I could not wrap my head around at all. I was a zombie. I woke up, tended my children, cried, tended my children some more and then crumbled into bed each night. I couldn’t feel anything but deep, unending sadness. In those early moments, when I felt like I couldn’t take another breath, I made a choice. It was a simple choice. I made myself do a simple gratitude exercise every night. As I collapsed into bed, I would lie crying and make myself consider five things I was grateful for in the day. They were very simple. Most often the first one was that I had survived another day.
Over the years, I kept it up. Many days, I really struggled to find the things I was grateful for that day. As the years progressed, those moments of gratitude turned into the life I now lead. When I couldn’t breathe, I could still find the things that were important me every day. It has helped me prioritize, set goals, achieve those goals and survive what I thought was unsurvivable.
The other day, one of my girlfriends asked me what I desired for myself. I was sharing some of the recent events in my life…and my gratitude for those events even if they hadn’t turned out how I had hoped…she caught me off guard. I told her I wanted to be happy. Of course, I have been thinking about that since our conversation. The more I think about it, the more I ponder what I desire, I keep coming back to gratitude, the gratitude that saved my life. I desire to be a person with a grateful heart. I’m not sure how that looks specifically, but that is who I desire to be.
Well, today on Thanksgiving, I am thinking again about what I am grateful for in my life. This year has been a year of abundant growth for me. I have become comfortable with my life. It is not perfect, but I have carved a life of joy out of a life of pain and loss. I have two beautiful, healthy, feisty boys, who fill my days with challenge and joy. I finished my masters, I am now a certified teacher and have work that I love, love, love every day. I have a home. I am healthy and well. I have beautiful friends whose presence in my life enriches me daily. My essays were published in several books. I even kissed a new fella and was able to care for and be cared for some one new. There have been many milestones and many things to be grateful for each day. My life has also had many challenges this year, not everything has worked out as I had hoped, but that doesn’t make me less grateful for what I have experienced.
Sprinkled throughout my years of loss and grief, I chose to be sad, I chose to let my heartbreak and loss sit beside with until they were ready to leave. I also chose to be loving, open hearted and grateful…even on the bad days. Every night, by myself, in my own mind my checklist of blessings continues. It will always remind me of how far I have come and how much love I have experienced in my life. Even with love lost, gratitude has always been in my heart. It has given me the strength to move forward into an uncertain future. It has given me the grace to continue life with a loving, soft heart instead of becoming shut off and having a heart of stone. Each was a possibility…truly…but most days I choose gratitude.
Today, I am grateful for that small spark of hope that gratitude brought me. I am grateful for all those around me who loved me through all the moments…good and bad. I am grateful to have survived and be here. When Dave died, I never imagined those words would find their way into my life again, but they have. I am grateful that I am on my way to the woman I desire to become…a woman with a grateful heart.