The Gratitude Pool: Taking The Plunge or Being Submerged

by Florence Ondré

The challenge to find a grain of gratitude in the middle of your own personal besetting of travails is daunting and yet doable.

Sitting down to write at least one thing I can find in which to be grateful is a snap on the good days and at times when I take a rare glimpse at the nightly newscast. It’s no biggy to feel grateful for the roof over your head and heat in your home while you see so many without one or the other in the middle of subzero temps and blizzards.

Sure, in the face of cataclysms which dwarf your own ills, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get perspective and toss in the towel of temptation to dismiss your own troubles as smaller or no thing to whine about. “Look, at least I have a walker or crutches,” you can say when you see thousands of people dying in a stadium in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina wiped out the very ground of earth, family and way of life. That’s a first level of gratitude expressed from the “Thank God I at least have___!” form of appreciation of what you do have no matter what your daily struggle may be. That’s getting down to the nitty gritty on the fast train.

What I find as laudable and life sustaining is finding gratitude in myself that, though as tiny as an irritating grain of sand in my shoe, may grow into a pebble or a boulder of being grateful for that which stops me in my tracks, makes me reach down to acknowledge the irritant, get grateful that I can actually feel it and be open to what comes next in the Universe’s lesson of awakening awareness in me in that moment.

As I notice that the sand is rolling around under my foot in my shoe, I can be thankful that I have a foot, a shoe, feeling in my extremities, ability to stop, to choose to empty my shoe, drop off the sand in its next area of residence, look and really see what is around me where I’m stopping. Then get grateful for my abilities in what ever state they are, be glad for eyesight (maybe there are beautiful flowers in a nearby garden or strip of concrete or a car coming at breakneck speed to run a light which might have knocked me out of my Earthsuit), sense of smell (perhaps a wind off the ocean brings a clean aroma of nature to brighten my intake of oxygen or a hint of gas that might be leaking invisibly under the street that needs someone to report it for repair). Experiences which if not for the grain of sand in my shoe and my stopping might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Sometimes, gratitude shows up like today. I’m hurting in more places than I can remember hurting at one time and I’m about to throw a shoe at God, Angels, Universe, whoever’s out there or up there. I’m tired of finding the good in a boatload of crap and wondering what the Hell I could have done to deserve one more freeking health challenge; one more ounce of unleavened ache.

Yeah, I know that is not the question. But today I don’t much give a shit. It’s freezing outside. The heating bill will be astronomical. After 8 years of disability from a spinal injury, leaving me challenged to stand, walk or sit-especially on my left side -with no let up of pain in sight and no help from the medical field; a weird undiagnosed, unsolved mystery glue contamination on every inch of my body, house and grounds for the last 8 months; a spiky pain which appeared in the middle of one night weeks ago in my left toe, which feels like a sliver of glass is in there but has no outward, discernible cause and a now a fractured right foot, I mostly am embarrassed to even tell anyone there’s another catastrophe. I’m left thinking why bother anymore. Who the heck will want to hear another sob story? Who will believe this woman who touts gratitude as a benefit which greases the wheels of life making things easier, better, more positive, is anything but a sham, a bs-er, a great big advertisement for anything else but gratitude?

Then, after a good cry or yell, I look outside my window to the backyard where the neighborhood cats are ice-skating and the squirrels are running across the utility wires with big snow balls in their mouths to try to tuck them into their nests in the trees. It’s comical. I can’t help but laugh and be grateful I hobbled on my walker, snap crackling and popping from the bubble wrap taped on each hand-hold to try to ease my hands (one of which was fractured years ago and now aches from the daily pressure put on it by having to use crutches or a walker to get around the house). I notice how the dog whips his head up from his bed at the sound of the barrage of tiny explosions of air as the chambers of bubbles burst under my hands. I’ve become my own noisemaker in the party of life.

How could I not notice and laugh at myself, as well as the critters outside? We’re all just doing our best to get through the day, tending to basics. Somehow a bit of humor creeps in to bring a bit of happy to my misery.

And somehow, I feel grateful that I can lighten up. I can have gratitude and griping. The gratitude seems to soften my edges like the laughter lifts my spirit and the cumulative boulders I shoulder become bearable.

Do I want more or wish for things to be different? Yes. When pain is high and I’m caught in a body that finds another way not to work, yes I do with a vengeance of the fibers of my being reaching past shredded limits which scream, “Now! I want my miracle now! Heal me now!” I shriek inside with all manner of negotiating, bargaining about how I’ll do so much good if only I can have back my body that works.

On those days, after embracing my feelings, all of them; messy and unmanageable, I turn my mind to find what I have to be grateful for and treasures emerge around me in lessons of patience with myself, which radiate out as patience with others; a pleasure in accepting the goodness in me which also ripples out; enjoyment of what I can accomplish. Seeing the places where I cannot do for myself becomes dignity for someone else getting to feel good about helping me.

My physical disabilities have brought me the opportunity to meet and interact with angels in the helping professions of western and complementary health care, who stretched their own limits to partner with me in care that was best for me as an individual-not the usual rote. Were it not for my need, I’d never have had the occasion to meet these wonderful caring souls who enriched my path thus far.

Though I want to be healed and healthy again, I’m grateful for those who came into my life in compassion and kindness; who shared their own expertise and skills to enrich my life. They have nourished my being so I can do the same.

They got real with me and acknowledged that what I go through each day is hard and they don’t think I’m Typhoid Mary or a magnet for all that is crummy in life. These wonders offset the people who meet my next calamity or loss of physical ability with, “What did you do now?” or “How could you be so dumb as to…?” or the hand wringers who moan and groan, “Oh, no not again…”

Just for today, I choose to be thankful that I’m not hand wringing even though I feel overwhelmed.

Just for today I will not overtax my immune system or energy field with what ifs, if onlys, and whys? My choice is to look at those cats and squirrels and the sun glinting off the ice field covering our neighborhood, to laugh at my own noisemaking and have a party on my couch with a good movie to watch; an interesting book to read; a stack of crackers with cheese and something cool or warm to drink, my meds if I need them, a good partner who loves me and helps me so much, the energy of unconditional love from the dog who plasters himself right up against the legs of my walker to be close to me; quiet and safety in my home; indoor plumbing; a bed and comfy covers for sleeping; electricity; heat and a bouquet of tulips opening slowly in the vase in my window from my honey; calls, e-mails or check-ins from friends who haven’t gotten tired of the same ol same ol and a mind that can still find the pony in a room full of horse pocky.

Meet you at the table on the other side where we can all look back and share our experiences of the many things we enjoyed and learned while here in Schoolroom Earth.

I’m thinking we’re in the advanced class!

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