Giving Thanks When You Would Rather Tell The Universe To Go Eff Itself
If there was ever a lesson that needed to be learned...
It's the power of gratitude.
Isn't it weird how we forget to be grateful for our lives and circumstances even though life sucks? I for one forgot to remember this over the past year. Being grateful had gotten me through one of the worst times of my lives...
But I quickly forgot about it's power when I quit reminding myself of it.
Back in 2011, I was sentenced to 120 days in the Impact Incarceration Program, or IIP as it's most commonly known for a financial crime I had committed in 2006 and another incident I had fucked up my probation with in 2009. The crown jewel in the "How to mess your life up 176 different ways in five years" collection.
Bootcamp. Where they shave your head and you have to go through some of the most brutal physical training that would probably make a Marine weep. Or maybe I'm just being dramatic. The only time you get to sit down is when you're eating or sleeping. You're not allowed to talk, you're only allowed to write two letters a week and have one ten minute phone call home a week, and no visitors for your first month.
All while there's an officer in your face screaming about what a maggot you are. Which, yeah, you fucked up your life and wound up in bootcamp with your head shaved, so yep. You're a maggot. Message received.
I had a really hard time in Bootcamp, which is kind of the idea, obviously. While it didn't break me at all physically, it broke me emotionally, which needed to happen, and I was a hot ass mess. When you're not working or exercising, you're standing at attention, staring at a wall for hours on end. You get to know yourself and what landed you in this situation rather intimately.
I don't know when it happened, but I remembered something I heard on Oprah a hundred years ago about how writing five things you were grateful for a day could get you through anything. So I started doing that. I wasn't allowed to write them down, but as I lay in my bunk every night before I went into a brief coma before we would hear the bellow of "Hit the floor!" at 4:30 am, I would find at least 5 things to be thankful for that day. Of course the first two had to do with my kids and my family, and the next three would be bright spots in my day... Hey! We got sweet tea with lunch! We only had to run for 30 minutes! The officer let us take a knee and write letters tonight! Small things, but it instantly made the whole situation easier to deal with.
I was cleaning the floors and hating my life Sunday morning, per the usual, resenting all of this extra pressure that has been heaped on my shoulders, and anxious about how I was going to make it all work. Of course I was worshiping at the altar of my belovéd Oprah, and listening to 'Super Soul Sunday' and as she was talking she brought up her gratitude journal again.
I had forgotten to be grateful.
I was journaling nightly and doing my best to handle these life changes in a healthy way, but my journal was mostly venting and anxiety ridden rants. Nothing about being grateful. I had so much to be grateful for. A lot more than my bald-headed, emotionally broken self had to be thankful for three years ago.
So I changed the tone of my journal from, "The Universe Can Go Fuck Itself," into "I am thankful for..." and immediately my attitude changed. Yes. This isn't kittens and roses, but it could be so much worse. It has been so much worse. Be thankful that it isn't.
It's new agey, and weird maybe, but being grateful seems to be better at moving those mountains than kicking rocks and staring at your belly button is. I caught myself ruminating in anxiety and ranting the other night when my oldest got violently ill, and I was worried about all kinds of things. Her well being, if this was super serious, would I lose my job calling in sick on my second day, could I afford another ER copay? Why am I doing this alone? IT'S SO UNFAIR. GO FUCK YOURSELF, UNIVERSE.
Then I stopped myself. She's a healthy kid. I'm here if she needs me. She has health insurance. I have a support system that will help me if needed. They will bill the copay if I ask them to...ALL THINGS TO BE SUPER GRATEFUL FOR.
See how that works? It's amazing. My anxiety went away almost immediately, and everything ended up just fine.
So in closing, be grateful. Especially when the universe hands you a shitstorm. That's when it matters the most.