My 8-year-old is home with the chicken pox. His sister had it two weeks ago. There are definitely drawbacks to having a child sick at home, but I have to say that I'm grateful for several reasons. Apart from getting the chicken pox "over with," and acknowledging that he could have something much worse, being home with a sick kid is like having a free pass. I don't have to do anything else because I am caring for a sick kid. And he's not even that sick! Bonus!
Clearly if he had something truly sinister I wouldn't be so cavalier, but I hope that even if he were really unwell that I would have the wisdom to carry forward one of the guiding principles I have adopted for my life which is: Be grateful for everything. In advance.
One of my friends has a serious illness and carries this wisdom. She is one of the most inspiring and grateful people I know. She is incredibly grateful for all of the support she receives from her loved ones and for her life -- she recognizes how precious it is. Because of this she has a peace and serenity that is missing from so many who are "fine."
Gratitude is a fast-track to good feelings. Steve Maraboli wrote, "It is impossible to be both grateful and depressed. Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess."
Gratitude is also a fast-track to good things. Says Eckhart Tolle, "Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance."
While it seems natural to be grateful for the good in our lives, being grateful for the challenges is.. challenging. Sometimes we become grateful eventually because we see the benefits in hindsight; the silver-lining is eventually revealed... But I am trying to fast forward my gratitude so that I am grateful even before I can see the benefits, since as Emerson says, "all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude."
Being grateful in advance expresses trust in the Universe. It is the idea that the Universe has your back -- that everything is conspiring in your favor. Having the mindset that every event or situation in your life will eventually turn good sets us up for success and calm.
So, why are we not grateful all the time? Why are we only grateful when everything is perfect? And sometimes not even then? Brené Brown says, "What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude." And yet entitlement seems to be the prevailing attitude of our time. We would be wise to listen to Epicurus, "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."
And if we can adopt the wisdom of extending our gratitude to encompass all things, then we can experience contentment in all scenarios and no matter the situation, peace can be ours.
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