I know this will seem like an obvious tool in the toolkit, but it’s another one of those that needs to be used over and over and over, for the rest of your life, and it does make a difference in moving towards being healthy:
THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
I’ve turned many a miserable day around by thinking about all the things with which I have been blessed. I have also been surprised to discover that there are those who seem to believe that being grateful will solve all their problems. It doesn’t.
A philosophy that I find particularly disheartening is the one about what you send out comes back to you. If you send out positive intentions/expectations/thinking, then positive things will come back to you. If, on the other hand, you’re negative, then negative things come back to you.
To be fair, I do understand the importance of attitude as it regards how people interact with me. There’s a reason why catchy little sayings, like “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” are still around after hundreds of years.
I’ve already written about feeling like I had a stamp on my forehead saying, “ABUSE ME” because my relationships, by and large, were abusive. When I started my third round of counseling, I finally figured out that I DID have a stamp on my forehead, so to speak. The way I interacted with people was a reflection of the behavior to which I was accustomed, but that is not what I wanted in my life. It was a habit.
I had to change how I interacted with people in order to change the types of relationships I had in my life. It almost sounds like I’m advocating the what-you-send-out-comes-back philosophy. I’m not. This isn’t about my expectations of the universe; this is about my expectations of myself.
No one will ever be able to convince me that an innocent little baby sends out to the universe that they want to be abused. Nothing will convince me that an innocent child sends out to the universe that they want to be molested or beaten or have cancer. I may have been taught how to interact with abusers, but that is not what I prayed for or hoped for.
On the other side of the coin, I can flood myself with positive thoughts about eating eggs. I love eggs. I mean, I really love eggs. Eggs are good for you (depending on when you ask the health experts, an opinion that flips regularly). For years, I’ve kept at least a dozen eggs in the refrigerator, at all times. No matter what. I have to have them. I am also highly allergic to them. Bran, which I’ve avoided for years, is a medium allergy. Eggs aren’t just high, they are astronomical. The high range is 700-800 and above. I scored over 1200. Yes, I’m really, really, really allergic to eggs. But I love ‘em! I would take allergy pills so I could have eggs, over-easy, on toast. Yummy!
No matter how much positive thinking I put into it, eggs will never be good for me. I have to change. I have to accept myself as I am and make changes that are in keeping with what truly matters, and eggs aren’t it.
God has been amazingly patient in guiding me throughout my life. He always saw the bigger picture and what really mattered. God’s ways are not my ways. I can insist on my way, and He will let me go my own way, or I can reach deep for my trust and look to Him and say, “Okay, God, what next?”
Life happens. Jobs are lost. People die. Sickness comes and goes, or not. Bad things happen. It is no reflection on a person’s worthiness or lack thereof. I’m baffled by those who think that we should all be prosperous and have picture-perfect lives. Job did not have the kind of life I would envy, neither did Paul or Peter or any of the Apostles. Could I do what Mother Theresa did? I freely admit that I could not. But I admire all of those people.
This false idea that we have control over what’s out there and what comes our way is nonsense. A lie. Are there things we can avoid by being aware and making healthy choices? Absolutely. There are also a lot of things that simply show up in our lives, and the ONLY thing over which we have control is whether or not we choose to look to God or not.
God’s riches are not the world’s riches. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember that God’s riches are worth more, because those riches aren’t always obvious.
To be loved and accepted by your family and your friends; to have work you enjoy; to have a home, food, clothing; these are the things that too often are taken for granted. Take a moment to thank God for what you do have.
Over the years, I have found that being grateful doesn’t necessarily bring more good things my way, but it does remind me of all the good things that do come into my life. I’ve also found that gentle reminders to be grateful are not remiss. Sunday is my day to stop, take a breath, and reflect on things for which I’m grateful. Not the only time, of course, but a scheduled time to consciously focus on all my blessings.
I am richly blessed by dear friends who accept me, as I am, warts and all. One particular week, I belatedly realized that I had lied to a couple of close friends in addition to myself. Both dear friends didn’t berate me or call me on the carpet, they looked a little deeper and understood why it had happened and helped me to be gentle with myself, refusing to allow me to sit in sack cloth and ashes. Nor did I do it again. My friends have patiently and repeatedly taught me about acceptance, about expressing myself, about being myself.
I have been richly blessed with great counselors. People with whom I have been able to reveal my secrets and know they were safe. Perhaps more importantly was that my counselors made it safe enough to explore the dark and unpleasant corners of my life. Then when I called myself on the carpet for selling myself short, my counselors were there to praise me for being willing to explore and face whatever I found.
I am richly blessed with a love for reading. I’m always learning new things, discovering new places, and exploring new ideas. I happily lose myself in novels that leave me feeling uplifted and wanting to be a better me.
I am richly blessed by where I live. I remember one particular morning; it wasn’t the typical clear blue skies that can be redundant after days and days of it. This day, there were clouds, puffy cotton ball clouds and mares’ tails. The sky was blue; the clouds were brushed with varying shades of pink and yellow as the sun rose. I enjoy the varying colors that God uses in His color palette.
I am richly blessed by my work, which is interesting and varied enough not to be monotonous. On good days, I finish early and am able to indulge in other fun things, and on bad days, I’m still able to finish, even if it takes all day and into the evening hours. I’m able to finish, and that is a satisfying feeling. I also enjoy the people with whom I interact.
I have been richly blessed by pets that taught me lessons I never would have learned anywhere else or in any other way. I mourn the loss of their companionship. That grief does not diminish my gratitude. In fact, I think it actually enriches it.
I have been richly blessed by opportunities to travel, to learn of other cultures and ways of life. To meet new and interesting people. To witness the amazing beauty God has created, everywhere, if one is willing to see it.
I have been blessed with an optimistic spirit that keeps popping up regardless of how many times my hopes and dreams are shattered. I’ve tried, and I simply can’t seem to help myself. Even with the loss of the lights of my life (my furry children), I still hope for a better day, someday, because ultimately my hope is in God’s love.
I have been blessed with an imperfect body, like everyone else. I have struggled with various health issues throughout my life. Despite the frailties and weakness, my body still allows me to do many things I enjoy.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn of and accept into my life God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
In so many countless ways, God blesses my life. I endeavor to be grateful for His inspiration, guidance, and daily miracles. Without Him, I am nothing. He gives me all that is good and beautiful in my life, and of the ugliness and pain, He is able to create new and wonderful opportunities, if I will slip my hand into His and trust Him in every way. He does not belittle me and will never abandon me. I am His, always and forever, and whatever the future brings I will face it knowing He is with me, no matter what.
© 2010 The Project: The Tools I Wish I’d Known About Sooner / My Abuse Survivor’s Basic Toolkit by Judy