Having grown up in an environment lacking in kindness and support, my exposure to gratitude was greatly limited. Thankfulness was not only lacking in my emotional repertoire but there were times when I wanted to check out and not feel much of anything at all.
My training as a psychologist taught me about human emotion, empathy, compassion, pain -- but not so much about gratitude -- at least not until later on in my life. I knew how to connect, feel for, and be with others -- but gratefulness -- not so much. To me it seemed like there was so much suffering in life and so little reason to be joyful.
Losing myself in my work kept me safe from being hurt by others. I got lost in the library, in my research, in my teaching, in my private practice -- and I became profoundly grateful for my love of learning.
Still intimate connections eluded me. I was keenly aware that the clock was ticking and that my life revolved almost exclusively around my work, but I could not find a relationship that seemed a good fit.
It saddened me to think of going it alone the whole ride through, but better that than being trapped with someone self-absorbed, unable to understand, or connect authentically -- which is what I knew historically from my family of origin. I continued to feel that something was absent, but I was not sure how to find the missing piece.
I clearly remember the day I saw this man sitting in between sets in his tennis whites at a club where I belonged. I overheard him talking to a friend and thought his tone of voice to be gentle, self assured, calm. Even more importantly, he was tall (I am 5'10"). I managed to persuade my friend to introduce us and, after two years filled with many twists and turns, we married.
The day we married I was terrified and not entirely sure that this institution was for me, but I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps entwining my life with another would bring us both more happiness. Perhaps there would be something beyond the call of my work. I was ready to take a leap of faith and embark upon this great life experiment.
Our wedding was a tumultuous coming together of two families -- mine chaotic and rambunctious and his withdrawn and mostly non-demonstrative. I can't say the day of our wedding was a blissed-out fantasy given our family constellation. Nevertheless, I realized then and at certain pivotal moments that our love was steady and deep and together we would withstand the imperfect test of time.
Then came the birth of our beautiful daughter, Amy. At age 38, this was sheer bliss with a hint of the Sci-Fi. At a core level the thought of a body emerging from a body amazed and bewildered me.
Never before had I known such profound joy and gratitude. My heart filled with bliss even as my body cried for sleep. Amy was my miracle. Six weeks later it was back to work seeing patients in my new home office with a "mother's helper" handing her off to me in between appointments so that I could nurse my sweet baby girl.
On Amy's first birthday my husband and I decided to have another baby. Now 40, I once again managed to get pregnant as with divine intervention. This time we had a baby boy, Max. I keenly remember holding my new baby in my arms with Amy curled up beside me in the hospital bed and my husband's tears of joy. That moment, as if frozen in time, the message became exquisitely clear that no matter how else life played out -- I had been profoundly blessed.
My experience of gratitude continues to blossom even when there are disappointments and losses. I take none of life's gifts for granted and know that there is no such thing as permanence for any of us. It is now. It is one day at a time. If we are lucky or if we decide to cultivate our own unique sense of gratitude -- we know that there are no guarantees. Taking in the beauty, the preciousness of each new day is the ultimate gift. And for this I feel deep gratitude.
Dr. Randy Kamen is launching her retreat, BlueberryFieldsMV on Martha's Vineyard June 4th-7th 2015. In this beautiful, intimate setting experience a blend of insight, positive psychology, yoga, and mind-body practices. Hiking, biking, salt water pool, magnificent beaches, fire ceremony and guest speakers. For more info contact Randy@DrRandyKamen.com