Finding Gratitude In the Face of Challenging Times

“All challenges are an opportunity for growth and I am thankful for the chance to evolve.”

This quote, taken from a blog post at BayArt.org, rings especially true for me. Lately I’ve found it difficult to write because I’ve been stuck in a downward spiral of negativity, so I want to focus on what I’ve learned about staying positive, which the BayArt blog post so eloquently puts it.

The holidays can be a difficult time for those who’ve lost loved ones, perhaps more so for those of us who are spending the holidays for the first time without the one who recently passed on from this world. This can be an especially challenging time for those of us who may be experiencing outside negativity due to reasons that may or may not be related to the loss of our loved one. The world moves on; it doesn’t stop to comfort us or make life easier in the face of loss—or perhaps in some ways it does for a short time, but then life keeps happening. Strangers, friends, and family members have their own problems, and they may not be able to be there for you, or see your side. If they’ve never lost someone who was dear to them, they really do not get it. And there’s nothing you can do to make them see, so don’t try. We cannot control people, places, things, or events. You can only change yourself. Whenever this happens to me, these days I say to myself, This must be what it’s like to have teenagers. I suppose you could replace that with something else that you may not have experienced but which seems difficult. It’s a situation in which I learn compassion for others who may have, for example, been in war, become disabled, raised children. The reason I use the teenagers example is because most teenagers can often be selfish and lacking in empathy, but as a parent you must show love and compassion regardless, and understand that they won’t see it your way, so there’s no use trying to make them. I am not a parent, so I don’t really know… just an observation from watching my mother.

To show love and compassion for others regardless of how hurtful, selfish, or different they might be, you ask questions. When customers come into the store where I work, I can tighten up and become annoyed that I have to explain something they don’t know, or I can take a step back, open my heart, and realize that not everything is common knowledge, and I too don’t know or remember much. When someone wants to complain about a personal issue, I can be a listener, instead of a joiner, or someone who wants to change their opinion. When a particular issue comes up repeatedly, I can stop and ask what lesson there is to be learned here, because there’s a reason why this issue keeps returning.

“I love and accept my family exactly as they are right now.” This is the quote that showed up on my Louise Hay “I Can Do It” cards that I bought a few months ago in my quest to live a more positive life. The word “family” can also be replaced with “friends” or “others.” The opposite side reads, “I am ready to be healed. I am willing to forgive. All is well.”

The question is, how long do you want to stay in pain? I am tired of pain. It’s exhausting, energy-sucking. Am I finally ready to give it up, and choose love? And how?

Well, for one, do things that make you happy. Look at pictures of baby animals, listen to upbeat music, read inspirational stories or quotes, watch inspirational movies, pray, meditate, call a friend or family member and ask them how they’re doing, take a walk, make a gratitude list. Do something. Get outside of yourself.

These are the words I write for myself as I go through this difficult time in this journey we call life. I hope these words help someone else out there who may be experiencing the same thing.

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