I have been practicing an Attitude of Gratitude, because in my dark days in November, when I was ill and shattered, my soul-sister Carlie told me that happy people have Attitude of Gratitude. I did not think I have much to be grateful for, but I let her words ruminate.
A day later, I went for a walk with the cardiologist along the Embankment. It was a cold, damp day and the Thames looked grey and sluggish. I could not even walk without my heart doing little flips.
“I am so unhappy,” I told him with tears in my eyes.
He was genuinely, genuinely surprised. “Why, Jac? I was just thinking, it is such a perfect moment.” He put his arm round my shoulders and pointed at something on the River. He told me what he saw. Houseboats and a future. Life and stillness. Yoga and books. Love.
In that one moment, I started feeling glimmers of light even though my future was as cold and grey as the day. Because, in the words of the cardiologist, “You are alive, what more do we want?” And being alive, I CAN craft my future.
I began feeling grateful for what I have in my life. Even for the bad experiences, because in darkness, I discovered new light. In loss, I discovered new meaning. And the minute I felt grateful, more blessings came my way.
Someone posted the meme on the lifeGO Facebook wall that said,
Successful people have a sense of gratitude;
unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.
One of the lifeGO members dropped me a line to ask me to explain the second part, so here it is:
There was once an emotionally damaged husband who took for granted that his wife would never leave him no matter what he said or do to her. She was the doormat sort of woman who devoted her entire life to him. She did not even have a job. Her whole life was centered around him. He needed lots of caring and that left her very little time to build her own dreams: he was deeply insecure and nervous, and she had to constantly reassure him, bolster his fragile self-esteem, act as his cheerleader, soothe him, etc. He had thrown her out of the house in the middle of the night, yet she had allowed him to come to her in her borrowed apartment, allowed him to come back into her life. He had repeated this again a few months later, when he told her he did not want her in his life anymore, yet she had allowed herself to be pulled back to serving and supporting him.
Rather than having an Attitude of Gratitude for having such a devoted life-partner, this man used his wife to act out the deep-buried pain (from childhood and previous relationships) in him. He needed to, because the pain – however deeply buried – requires an outlet. And he was not brave enough to face up to the pain honestly. The pain manifests itself as frequent, uncalled-for unkindness to his wife throughout their relationship. He lashed out at her as an expression of his insecurity, bewilderment and frustration of his present situation.He, the (emotionally) abused, became the abuser when he found someone who loved him unconditionally.
One day, the wife couldn’t take the emotional abuse anymore. She left him. A secure future became further away from him than ever without her in his life, without her giving him a comforting love to come home to. For in her ‘nothingness’, she was the one protecting him, cheering him on, helping him, supporting him and loving him – she was his partner in his success, in his happiness.
A second example: I never forgot a teacher at my old college who was not particularly nice to his wife, who was also a teacher at the school (my children’s father was friends with them). One day, when their youngest child left for college, the wife packed her bags and left home too. This guy was totally shocked by her actions (because she took his abuse silently for many years). Their kids, who had watched him emotionally abused their mother for years, cut themselves off him. Over Christmas, my children’s father and I ran into him, and he was a bewildered old man shuffling around Chichester town centre on his own, though he was the same age as my children’s father. He was desperate for company, and though we were in a rush, we stopped for coffee with him.
He kept on saying, “If only I could turn the clock back, I would have done things differently.”