A year ago ago I had to go back to work as the authentic therapist I am after being out from a family member's life-threatening, and ultimately life-changing, accident. Only one year ago I had to pray before each session and take a deep breath in order to be present for my clients and to not compare my hard with their hard. Only one year ago I had to have the conversation with my clients that they are still allowed to their hard struggles even though they know I am going through hard struggle too.
It was only a year ago that my dad fell six feet off a ladder and sustained a traumatic brain injury and a lifelong disability. It was life or death. About nine months later my sister-in-law suffered from Spontaneous Coronary Dissection of all three of her heart arteries and on Dec. 18 she received a heart transplant.
So I again still had to be the authentic therapist I am. I again had to pray before each session to help be present. And, I again had to assure my clients that their hard struggle is still hard.
This is living life in the wholehearted way. Hard is just hard. Sure there is life or death, but hard is just hard.
This is perspective. What, I think, we must remember is to practice this wholeheartedness with perspective, but not through comparison.
This comparison comes up a lot in the practice of gratitude. Practicing gratitude has been something I've taught to my clients for years at this point. Practicing gratitude has years of research to support the positive benefits of it. Practicing gratitude has been tweaked and improved by many of my favorite people such as Sonja Lyubomirsky, Marie Forleo, Brené Brown, Gabrielle Bernstein and Elizabeth Gilbert.
I write about the different ways I practice gratitude myself and what I teach my clients in Chapter 4 -- Choosing Change in Ever Upward, especially in gratitude journals. Which you can guess are usually received with an audible groan and a rolling of the eyes. But, it works! I promise!
What I have learned since writing the book is that I need to check my intentions when practicing my gratitude. I need and want my gratitude to come from a place of wholeheartedness. I need and want my gratitude to come with perspective and not from comparison.
We've all heard the sayings, be thankful someone always has it way worse than we do or it could be worse. I think practicing gratitude from this place of comparison is not healthy for us. And I know for sure, that practicing gratitude from this place of comparison, especially when coping with anxiety or depression, only makes it worse. Practicing gratitude from comparison leaves me asking myself, "Why can't I just be happy?" Which, ultimately, only feeds the depression.
Of course, things could always be worse. Trust me, half the time I've survived the worse. However, I must choose to practice my gratitude from the intention of a new perspective and not from comparison.
This has been coming up a lot for me personally especially as we were going through my sister-in-law's heart trauma. Very unexpectedly all of our lives changed, hers the most and it was life or death.
And, it is scary, it is sad and it is miraculous and amazing.
But, if I torture myself by saying, "Well, at least my heart beats." I minimize my struggle. If I look at my clients who are very much struggling from this place of "at least..." which is really comparison, I would never be able to help them.
Because, hard is just freaking hard.
Needing a new heart. Depression. Mold in your newly-purchased home. Struggling to find the right diagnosis. Struggling to find the right partner. A chronic illness. Anxiety. A faith crisis. A health crisis.
Whatever our hard, it is all just really hard; we struggle. Sometimes, hard is actually life or death.
But, all the time it is the life or death battle of losing ourselves.
It is true, comparison is the thief of joy, happiness.. really of all good. Check your intentions as you practice your gratitude, better yet as you live your life. Live wholehearted from the lens of a new perspective but not in the darkness of comparison. I promise you will feel the difference immediately. I promise your ever upward will come into full focus for you to walk into and fully embrace.