Welcome to this glorious Saturday, November 28, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
I had a chance to talk with a dear friend after our Gratitude meditation on Thanksgiving. Along with catching up, we continued the discussion on gratitude. She said, “I’m grateful for the pandemic.” I was taken aback. Radical Gratitude doesn’t come up all that often. Many people I chat with don’t appreciate the difficulties we face in such a way that they refer to them with gratitude. My friend felt like she needed to explain herself and what she meant by that. I assured her that I knew what she meant. I was first introduced to what I like to call “radical gratitude” in my recovery from addiction.
When I got sober over twelve years ago, I heard a few people say that they were grateful for being alcoholics. In those reeling days of early sobriety, I had little appreciation for my pain, remorse, and the wake of my destructive behaviors, let alone gratitude for them. I hurt a lot of innocent people. I knew this. I lost a twenty-three-year marriage, my career as a nurse, and had to file for bankruptcy. We lost pretty much everything. Grateful? Really? It took some time but I began to realize what they meant when they said they were “grateful recovering alcoholics.”
To those who have suffered and endured the devastation brought about by someone else’s active alcoholism or addiction, it may be that some of you who read this do so with your mouth open, aghast. It’s not that we are grateful for the pain we have caused you; I haven’t met anyone in recovery who doesn’t secretly wish that they could somehow take back all the pain they’ve caused their friends and loved ones. Because we can’t, we try to honor them by doing our best to never repeat the deplorable behavior driven by our disease. Nevertheless, when we begin to realize that it is through our struggles and difficulties that we learn how to live more meaningfully with respect for our life, gratitude just seems to arise. It is when we come to understand that it’s our obstacles and difficulties which are the conditions for growth that we shift from regretting our painful past to appreciating it, even to the point of having gratitude.
If we contemplate how we’ve come to know what we know, it’s obvious that we learn the most from difficult situations. My teacher says, “Obstacles are not in the way, they are the way.”
The pandemic is definitely a challenge. We can try to numb it, but we can’t make it go away, nor is it something we can avoid. The struggles are real. People are losing their jobs and businesses. Distancing restrictions are keeping folks from attending their religious services. Because kids can’t go to school, parents are forced to make significant changes to their schedules. And with the broadcasting of misinformation and hidden agendas, many people have lost faith in our news media. There is so much more. We are each challenged in our own unique ways. Regardless, I sincerely hope that you’re learning something from all this.
Like my friend, I too am grateful for the pandemic. Not for all the suffering its causing, but for what it is helping me to realize about areas of my life I used to take for granted. For example, the importance of maintaining meaningful relationships, being able to go out to eat, hang out with a group of friends, and toilet paper. As a society, I would hope that we are realizing how a rigid educational system may not be as resilient as we thought it was. I hope that we are taking a close look at our technologically advanced yet unprepared healthcare system. We are hopefully redefining what it means to be part of a family and the importance of community. I hope that the transmission of the virus has helped you to realize on a deeper lever the nature of our inseparability – we are all connected. I also hope that people are recognizing how a small gesture, such as wearing a mask to protect one’s own health and the health and well-being of another, is not done so out of fear – I see it as a beautiful act of compassion.
And if you can’t find gratitude for the pandemic, I get it. Maybe this Mindfulness support letter is a bit premature. Regardless, it is my hope that you can start to see how this tragedy is an opportunity do some self-reflection and to discover areas where we can improve in our life resulting in better versions of ourselves. After all, the biggest room in the house is the room for improvement. May these challenges inspire growth.
You are loved by me, Unconditionally.
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