Last night I sat around a large dining room table with 12 people and a suggestion was made to share, one person at a time, what we are grateful for during one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced, 2020.
Over the years I have learned there is a significant difference between being grateful and being thankful. The energy of each word is different. Try it yourself.
Say, “I am grateful for …….” ( you add the next word)
And now say, “I am thankful for …..”
When we say grateful the energy of that word is that we are humbled and even a little overwhelmed by the amazing and wonderful things we experience.
For some people there is even a tinge of incredulity, how did I deserve this?
When we are thankful our heart is open and we are able to simply accept that beautiful , kind, wonderful things do happen. They happen to us and to others and rather than being amazed, we accept that and are thankful. Truly thankful, but not ‘hands in prayer on bended knees grateful.’
So as we went around the table last night, my friends shared their gratitude for family and friends, for being here on this wonderful island of Australia, for the food on our plates and the health of our loved ones . Very few of us had friends or family that had contracted the Covid 19 virus. And even though travel and gatherings for significant family events were cancelled or seen only through zoom there was a sense of appreciation that we are all so very blessed. One person spoke about the opportunity to be of service to others during the year, another held tight to her husband as she lovingly honoured their long lasting love. And so it went on until my turn.
I tried not to think what I would say as each person spoke. I wanted to be present and authentic and everything others said I was also thankful for, however, those good things were not where my heart was taking me.
As I started to speak I realised it was the challenges that ultimately offered me a gift that left me feeling thankful. Certainly Covid and being in lock-down gave me the opportunity to choose between the many distractions offered on line or to be with myself in the roaring silence of aloneness. I was thankful for the days and weeks where I could simply Be, as uncomfortable as that often was, and to explore how I felt about a status that had been foisted onto me. Being a widow was not on my to-do list.
As I spoke to all who sat around the table I cheated a little. I slipped back two years almost to the day, to a memory on November 13. A white ute rolled back and hit my car just as I was about to drive away after having coffee with my husband, Oren. Of course I had no idea that was to be our last coffee. He had already walked over to his car and we planned to see each other later. Once the accident occurred I called my husband on the phone and he arrived a minute later. He was calm and easy going, took a few photos, said not to worry, and as the driver of the ute drove away, I felt my husbands’ arms around me, once more. He asked me if am I okay. I said I was a bit shaken. He gave me a kiss and assured me everything will be alright.
I have blessed that driver a thousand times over the past two years. I am thankful he hit my car. It was a gift. He gave me my parting gift of one last hug. One last kiss. At 4.30 pm that same afternoon Oren’s heart stopped beating.
I’m thankful that so much of the year didn’t turn out as I had hoped because what I learned about myself and others has and will always be invaluable. What I learned will guide me toward the next step of my life, and the next and the next.
Of course we are thankful for the blessings and the gifts. And yet we only get to marvel at our own resilience, at our will to persevere, when all seems hopeless. We only get to face our courage and to feel the depths and heights of our emotions without drowning in them completely, when we look back in retrospect and see what we had to undergo and how we were able to overcome the greatest trials life threw at us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not standing on a cliff edge overlooking the great Ocean of Life saying ‘bring it on’. We all have to be very careful what we ask for. What I am saying is through the greatest loss of my life, I am thankful there is a gift, albeit often hidden for a long time, in everything. It takes endurance, patience, gentleness and bucket loads of self-compassion to allow those gifts to float to the surface.
One bubble at a time.