Nearly four years ago my life took a bit of a tumble. My “series of unfortunate events” began in September of 2010 with the death of my father and continued through the ending of a seven-year relationship, the loss of a job, and a move from a home I’d shared with my partner for nearly six years. I found myself dazed and for a time completely at a loss as to what had happened to me and why and how to move forward in this strange new reality in which I had landed. How on earth did I get here? What am I going to do? What will happen to me? What will happen to my children? So many questions, so few answers at the time.
Somewhere through the fog of confused incredulity, a light slowly began to dawn and I realized that I couldn’t sit around asking myself why all these bad things happened to me all at once. I needed to do something. Having suffered from depression and been on medication for a number of years, I recognized that I would have to do something to keep my spirits up. When I had lost my job, I also lost my health insurance and could no longer afford the antidepressants that had kept me afloat for such a long time. I would have to develop other strategies for battling depression. It seemed daunting at the time; I had no idea if I could actually manage my emotions in the midst of such difficulties.
In those first weeks after I’d moved with my son into a condo complex a dozen miles from our earlier habitation I floundered a bit. Surrounded by boxes my life felt cluttered and chaotic. I took several important steps that over the course of time turned my life around:
- I began volunteering at the Berkeley food pantry. I didn’t have a job, but I knew I needed to get out of the house and doing something useful. So once per week I drove those dozen miles a few towns over to offer my time, my muscles, and my energy to serving people in my community.
- At the encouraging of my therapist I began participating in a weekly meditation gathering at the East Bay Meditation Center. I had heard about the place years before but had never gone. Through my participation in the weekly gathering, the occasional daylong retreats, and classes on various aspects of mindfulness meditation and Buddhist principles, I became connected to a community that offered me a quiet space to begin healing.
- And on June 30, 2011 I posted the first entry in Lessons in Gratitude.
Having created a daily, intentional space for recalling and expressing my gratitude for the many blessings i have in my life has in itself been a blessing. In the midst of trauma and feelings of sadness, grief, and suffering this blog has allowed me to seek and without fail find the good things present in my life. Yes, I was struggling through some difficulties but I rarely lost sight of how very many good things I experienced on a daily basis. I called this blog “Lessons in Gratitude” because not only was I grateful for the tangible things I could see, hear, feel, and experience but also for the intangibles, for the lessons I learned about forgiveness, perseverance, grief, letting go, and so many other deeply valuable, life-affirming lessons.
Now it is approaching midnight here on the East coast. Within a few moments it will be Christmas morning. I didn’t intend to reach the 1,000th day on this particular night/day and yet here it is. I have no clue what I will do next. Will there be a 1,001st day or will I leave it at 1,000? Will I continue my daily writing practice in a different form? At this moment all is possible, all is uncertain. We shall see what happens next when it happens. In the meantime, I remain grateful to everyone who has at one time or another found your way to this little blog. It has meant more to me than I can say to have flung my words, thoughts, and insights “out there” to the world to see who might be touched, moved to express their own gratitude to the Universe for all the blessings in your lives. They are many and all around us should we choose to look for them. As for me, I trip over them every day they are so abundant.
A thousand days is a nice, round number–the kind my sister Ruth approves of. She would think it terribly messy for me to keep writing until the end of 2014 and have an untidy number like 1007 days, but we shall see. I have a tendency to be untidy about such things. I can say this for sure: I never would have made it to 100 days let alone 1,000 if it hadn’t been for some really special people in my life. These include my family–my siblings and my children (and even my four-legged sidekick)–who kept me going emotionally, spiritually, financially, and so many immeasurable ways; my small circle of close friends who linked arms and caught me when I fell and held me up til I could stand again; a wonderfully patient and supportive therapist who met with me nearly every week for nearly two years even when I could not afford to pay her; coworkers who let me learn how to be a leader with them and discovered the depth of their own leadership in the process. So many people to whom and for whom I am grateful.
I will close by sharing this piece from Lessons in Gratitude Day One:
I am facing some challenges in my life right now but those challenges are far outweighed by the number of things I am grateful for. So, I am challenging myself to write every day about at least one thing I am grateful for. Not a list of things, but one thing (or more) that I’m grateful for and why. I’m not sure how long I can sustain it, or if I’ll write a public blog every day or simply write it in my journal. But, I am challenging myself nonetheless. All those people who recommend doing this can’t be wrong. There’s simply nothing to lose by doing this.
Indeed there hasn’t been anything to lose and so very much to gain. Thank you for being with me on this journey of 1,000 days. May you find gratitude flowing in and from you each day and may it find expression in a form that is meaningful to you. As for me, I will continue offering gratitude every day in some form or other for as long as I am able. For the strength and ability to do so I am most exceedingly grateful. And so it is.