As I sit here writing this blog about Gratitude just before Thanksgiving, I look out the window in my central CA home to the reddish yellow haze that has permeated the sky for over a week now. The weather channel app keeps warning me that the air is at the highest level of Very Unhealthy and to stay inside. I live over four hours south of the most devastating wildfire CA has ever had.
Gratitude is a subject I’ve written about many times before. But during times of tragedy, which have been rampant in the news lately, the feelings of gratitude become more heightened, more intense. The poignant stories of devastation, bravery, kindness, and amazing miracles cannot help but jar each of us out of our daily routine and remind us of what really is important in life. Because I recently just became a grandma for the second time, I am particularly affected by stories of mothers and babies. These two stories, which both happened at the hospital in Paradise, CA, are each a miracle:
In the first story, new mom Rachel Sanders whose family lost everything they owned in the fire says, “Never have I had a Thanksgiving come where I have had so little yet felt more thankful and blessed.”
Of course, we all know this is true! We know that when push comes to shove, the best of humanity always shines through. We know underneath our stress, overwhelm and discouragement there lives a spiritual hero that would rise to the occasion if needed. We even know how to connect and feel grateful for fleeting moments—until life gets in the way again.
Guilt or Gratitude
That’s when another part of us pops up—the complaining, taking for granted, human side—and we begin to feel really guilty. Guilty that we have so much when others don’t and yet we can’t seem to be MORE appreciative all the time. Guilty that we complain about the bad air when hundreds are without homes. Guilty that we get angry while sitting in traffic trying to get to the Thanksgiving dinner on time.
In general, humans like to complain. It is impossible to complain and at the same time feel grateful. Even those spiritual heroes in the stories above, after experiencing amazing miracles and feeling grateful to the depth of their souls, will continue to have plenty of moments of discouragement, anger, and complaining. It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to be in a state of gratitude ALL the time. So instead, we can work at ways to catch ourselves sooner when we head down the unappreciative path so we can rebalance our perspective, if for no other reason than it makes us feel so much better.
The Magic of Self-Compassion
So what is the answer? How do we find our way back towards the perspective of appreciation as quickly as we can? We start by offering ourselves compassion and by accepting our humanness. As long as we are here on the planet, we will be doing a balancing act between our humanness and our better spiritual values. Once we can have compassion and acceptance for this dichotomy within ourselves then we can begin to let go of guilt. Only when we can do that for ourselves, can we become more compassionate of others as well. When we let go of guilt and self-judgment, we are naturally more open to love and poof, like magic our ability to connect to gratitude returns quickly. Try it! We will all be given many chances to practice this during the holiday season.