We have all heard the saying count your blessings. Be grateful. Appreciate what you have. Say thank you. Sometimes this feels fake. Does it not? When we are having a bad day, or things do not go as we had hoped. When we lose someone we love, become ill, have a child that struggles socially, or just don’t have the life we want, we don’t want to appreciate what we have! And at that moment, we shouldn’t. We are not ready.
It is not the time to count our blessings but to become brutally honest, and shout,”Wow, this sucks! I do not like this at all.” Allow ourselves to feel lonely, sad, pissed off, as deeply and thoroughly as possible. To be disappointed, frustrated, jealous, heartbroken. To leave judgment aside, and stop labeling our emotions as good or bad. If we are angry, be freaking angry or unbelievably sad. Scream, punch pillows, be a bitch. Most of us, don’t allow ourselves to feel. Instead, we want to blame someone else because we don’t like what we are feeling. Sometimes it is another person, or even God that we blame. Yet, hiding, judging, blaming or denying our feelings is what keeps these emotions hanging around like an unwanted house guest. And we never actually get to count our blessings.
Just this week, I was given a chance to feel the gamut of human emotions. I allowed them to come and go like a summer sun shower. At the end of the week, after a particularly long day, I sat and watched my son, Drew, in his Tae Kwon Do class. Having struggled with gross motor coordination, he has progressed beautifully, and watching him attempt to follow Master Kwon was beautiful. Yet, I was distracted, as news of my daughter’s torn ACL ligament was fresh in my mind, and a mother’s worry about an serious injury, trumps roundhouse kicks. Emotions such as anger, frustration, fear, sadness, disbelief took their turn, emerging from my heart in succession. In fact, I was so completely engrossed in details of picking up her pain medications, scheduling surgery, canceling college soccer ID camps, I did not notice a boy, much older than Drew, who had run off the mat, crying, until he was right next to me. The boy sat huddled in a ball so tight, it seemed he wanted to disappear. After a few minutes of encouragement by his mother and instructor, the boy returned to class, leaving behind tears imprinted upon his mother’s heart.
I was about to go back to the mindless chatter in my head, but life had other plans. The boys’ mother spoke to me, as she wiped away her own tears.”He had a brother who was eighteen years old. He died a year ago.” She pointed to her younger son, now back out on the mat. I observed his arms folded protectively in front of his chest, adamantly protesting his participation in class. “He has never been the same,” she added, before turning away.
I knew her wounds were still fresh, a year is drop in the bucket when it comes to losing a child. Without trying, I pushed aside my worries and listened compassionately. I did not know what it would be like to lose a child at the tender age of eighteen, but I offered up the information how Drew struggled when he first started class, and how great the instructors had been with him. I explained his sensory processing disorder. How his confidence is often compromised because of all he has been through.
The mom then uttered,”Is that okay if I pray for your son?”
I was speechless. How harrowing an experience she has been through, yet she was praying for my son. I thanked her, and could not gather my thoughts as before, nor could I tap into the feelings. I could only begin counting my blessings. There are no accidents. I had allowed myself eight hours of worry, anger, sadness and honest frustration at life. And now it was time to see the gift life had just planted in my lap. The gift of remembering that life happens when we are making other plans. And sometimes what happens in life is shitty, and sometimes it is horrific. It is not about denying our feelings, but being honest with ourselves. And only through honesty, can we somehow become thankful for all that we have, come to know that it is not what happens to us in life, but how we react to it. And it is not about all that we do not have, but how beautiful and giving life is, no matter what we are feeling. How living life from this higher perspective, sends a wave of appreciation out into the world, or at least to the person sitting next to you.
Of course, we cannot rush it – that moment of appreciation will appear when we are ready. It may take eight hours or eight years. Grief will run its course as our the tears we shed, wash away all that clouds our vision, until we begin to know how lucky we all truly are. How crappy things are often dressed up in an ice pack of pain, yet honesty reduces the swelling of unfortunate events, until we allow ourselves to open our eyes to what is next for us. How there is a time for everything, and if we do not get there on own, life will help us out. We often have little control in this life, but we can make the choice to not look a gift horse in the mouth.
I did silently pray for both the mother next to me, and her son. And then I thought about how I could ruminate on all that my son is not, or I could admire his strengths, his gifts and the beautiful person that he is. I could focus on the hill that my daughter will be climbing, all she may be missing, or I could bring to mind what life may be bringing to her during her recovery – opportunities she may not have had, new experiences, and a strength deep inside that she had never before witnessed.
We can never know what life has in store for us, and we can say, “Really life? Is this the best that you got?” And then we can say, “thank you.” For our hidden treasures are often wrapped in a tattered quilt, and when we spend the time expressing our hearts no matter what, life will drop a beautiful gift into our laps. And when we are ready, we can open it, and at the right moment, give it away to someone else.