This isn't going to be a typical Thanksgiving post full of positivity-lite and generic gratitude.
Ironic, because I find myself in a place in my life where I have never been more happy. Or more grateful. And I could easily write a piece on how beautiful my life is and how thankful I am for that. To which you could roll your eyes. Or burn with jealousy. Or give me a standing ovation.
And I honestly don't think it would do either of us any good.
So, I thought about what I'd really like to share with you. What gratitude really means to me. And what giving thanks actually looks like in my life.
It's easy to be thankful for the "good stuff." A loving and kind man. Healthy kids. Career success. Strong body. Great friends. Beautiful home.
It's easy to be thankful for the "simple stuff." A hot cup of coffee. Warm fuzzy socks. The song of the black bird outside my window. Amazon Prime.
And those easier gratitudes are great. They are a fantastic practice to refocus any moment that we find ourselves drifting into the allure of negativity.
But I want to talk to you about the more difficult gratitudes. I want to talk to you about being thankful for the hard stuff. The shitty stuff. The stuff that takes a bottomless well of acceptance, forgiveness and love to get through.
The stuff that I thought I'd never be grateful for.
1. My mom dying of cancer.
My mom lived a very small life and died at 44 years old. I don't care who you are, or who your mom was, but a mother's death leaves a permanent mark on your life.
Being motherless in this world untethered me. It left me without a navigation system. Without a true north. It catapulted me into an uncharted life where I began the long journey of mothering myself.
Her death offered me an invitation to fully live my own life. And to create exactly what I wanted for myself. Without her presence and guidance, I was forced to rely on my own heart and voice. Without her criticisms and fears, I was allowed to see the world as beautiful and full of infinite possibilities.
I am so thankful to have lost my mom when I did. I am thankful because it helped me heal my childhood and create my adulthood. It allowed me to re-write my story of motherhood. It made me strong. It gave me a voice. And courage. It showed me that I can do hard things. And it taught me that love never dies and it always wins.
2. Getting divorced.
Divorce is difficult. And painful. And heart wrenching. I think of the first few months after filing the paperwork and I remember the anxiety that was humming in every cell of my body. Relieved to be finally moving in the direction that I knew was right, but absolutely terrified of the unknown future.
I think back on that girl that I was, and how completely untrained she was for the job that she had at that moment. She had never truly been on her own. She had never been a single parent. She was scared. And alone.
And she was also willing to go through it. And I am so grateful for her. I am so thankful that even though she completely lacked skill and grace... she did it anyway. And sat through the fear. And she kept faith through the unknown. And she kept going so that she could create the life that she really wanted.
I am sitting today in a life that was created by that girl who had no experience and was completely operating on faith. And I am overwhelmed with thanks for what she did.
3. Losing all my money.
Listen. It was no picnic. It's a common top-fear for a good reason. Losing all my money was hard. And difficult.
But if I hadn't lost it all, I would have never healed my relationship with money.
If I had been even a little bit comfortable, I would have skipped that work. The perfect storm of my 2009 financial life created a need for inner-work that ultimately changed the trajectory of my life. Not only because I wrote a book about it. But because of the deeply spiritual work that I had to do in order to believe that I could make my money back. And keep it.
Because I lost all of my money, I ended up learning how to love money. How to love myself. And how to be of greater service to this world. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And there is truly no other way I could have learned it.
4. Being allergic to just about everything.
Yep. You read that right. I didn't have allergies until I was in my mid-30's. And then every year after that they got more and more intense. I was allergic to everything: animals, pollen, dust, trees, grass, food. (Seriously, pin prick test on my back and all 64 spots lit up like a Christmas tree.) I had three different prescriptions for allergy medication and used those to barely squeak out an existence (albeit a stuffy-nosed and itchy-eyed one).
I was constantly tired because of the medication, had a wicked coffee habit to offset those side-effects. And then I had a nice little nightly white-wine obsession to help me come down off the coffee. It was an endless cycle of feeling shitty and then trying to fix the shitty.
Until I read Clean by Dr. Alex Junger and followed his advice to help my body heal from the inside out. (I realize that seems like a infomericial-type-plug. It's not. This book seriously rocked my world. I read it in one sitting and started living it immediately.) Like the money work, this body-healing work was spiritually and emotionally powerful work and it changed my entire life.
I got sober - not only from alcohol and allergy medication, but also from the foods that were creating illness and discomfort in my body.
I have been living clean for a year now and have been allergy-free since last November (even with my cute golden retriever puppy, Claire, that I was able to get this year). If I had not had these allergies, I would not have done this deep inner-work to make peace with my body. I am so thankful for those allergies because they taught me how to listen to my body and how to truly take care of it.
Also, if I had not been sober, I would not have met the man that I love. The man I am going to marry. (But that's another story.)
5. Having my heart broken.
Loving someone and having them walk out on you? It's devastating. And confusing. To love someone and to have them not love you back? It is a visceral wound to your heart. It's a sucker punch to the gut that knocks the wind out of you for days. Months. Sometimes even years.
And it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Because it helped me define what love is and what it is not. And I got to learn that what I had wasn't love.
A man that will willingly break your heart ... that's not love. It is childishness. It is wrecklessness. It is selfishness. It is emotional violence.
Love doesn't walk out of a conversation. It doesn't walk out of a life. Love doesn't leave a wake of destruction behind it.
I am so grateful to have had this lesson because it taught me what to look for. What to believe in. And who to, ultimately, offer my heart to.
It taught me how to find kindness in another human being. And that it is a trait to truly cherish.
It taught me the importance of communication and truth. To mean what you say and to say what you mean. Which takes a lifetime of self-work to arrive at. And completely worth the wait.
It is the exact thing that I needed to get me to right here right now. It spared me countless empty hours of mediocrity and offered me the option of a truly astonishing life.
This is the stuff that I thought I'd never be thankful for. The stuff that brought me to my knees. The stuff that made me doubt love, God, and life itself. Most of these lessons were difficult. Painful. Annoying.
And I wouldn't change a single thing about them.
And this isn't some simple-Pollyana-paint-a-pretty-face-over-it suggestion.
This is about digging into some of the ugliest stuff and finding out that it has been the most precious work of our lives.
I would love to hear your stories.
What are your five things that you thought you'd never be thankful for?