A blog in honor of my own traveling companion Samwise. A lighthouse to many.
There are something in which being thankful for is… easy. It’s easy to be thankful for things like chocolate, good company, the laughter and most importantly, the sleep of children. It’s easy to be thankful for warm houses, food that abounds on our tables, clean water that comes out of a faucet, beautiful days and beautiful colors that surround us. It’s easy to be thankful for the ability for our children to go to school, to grow unafraid of death or to be thankful as we watch them play with toys we can go pick up from a store. We are blessed beyond our worthiness and I think that we sense that. We sense that even in our day to day that we are completely unworthy of the things we have been blessed with. We even give a shifty eye to those that take the things we have here for granted or use them to their own advantage. We label them narcissists and egotistical. We write books on how to avoid these people, how to disarm them and how to identify the toxic because we know their confidence is false.There’s un underlying depression in this country because we have been given so much, yet we don’t feel worthy. One of the only ways to silence that inner cry that we aren’t worthy is to smother it with more work, more stuff, more money…
More. More. More.
I think that’s why we have such a hard time answering this question: What about being grateful for the hard things?
The hard things do something that nothing else in this world is able to do. They strip away the skin of comfortable and reveal what we have been trying to cover up, that we feel unworthy. Our blessings can become a scab in which we use to cover up the wound that lies beneath. The inner festering turmoil we push aside that we feel incomplete. We feel unloved.
The hard things all involve loss. It’s because loosing something stripes away a layer of that scab. Sometimes more. We feel exposed, emotional, and unarmed. It engages our fight or flight instinct we humans have slaved away to rid ourselves of for millions of years. It’s the carnal part of us we wish to expel.
So, how do we become grateful for the hard things that expose us and leave us feeling naked? (Maybe this is the real naked Adam and Eve felt in the garden of Eden that day and the physical nakedness was just a visual symptom of greater issue?)
The answer is So simple we often ignore it. Like the doctor’s orders to eat more fruits and vegetables and excise more to reduce our cholesterol. The answer is really easy, but it means change. It means uncomfortable.
Another thing we humans have been trying to rid ourselves of for millions of years. It gave us the wheel. It gave us fire. It gave us horsepower. It gave us light. It gave us a thirst for power.
It has left us ragged and drained. We’ve worked SO hard to rid uncomfortable from our vocabulary but it still remains like weed we pluck from our garden, but grows back the next day.
Festering in our souls because we are ignoring the one thing that can heal us.
The simplicity of embracing our hard times.
Talking about them.
Reflecting on them.
Sharing them and not just verbally. I mean literally asking people to come into the hard times with us. Not because we can lessen the ache of pain with another person, but because our very biology requires us to touch, embrace and feel each other’s burdens. To physically palpitate them.
An infant is born. While an infant’s needs seem to be limited to eating and sleeping in order to grow, in the last 100 years we as humans discovered something.
An infant needs human contact to survive. Even if an infant’s needs are met with food and sleep, it will fail to thrive without human touch and interaction. Oxytocin is not just a chemical that runs throughout our bodies, it is needed by an infant’s brain to develop.
Failure to thrive is a serious diagnoses and I think one that we could give to a large portion of humanity at this time.
We are failing to thrive. We are attempting to fill our own needs, sleeping, eating, comfortableness, and yet we are not growing. We are withering.
Because we have not given ourselves the third thing we need to survive.
And finding thankfulness in the hard things requires us to lean into each other.
We’ve stopped sharing beyond our trusted friend circle and stopped inviting uncertainty in. We’ve stopped opening our doors DAILY to those around us who are afflicted. We’ve stopped sharing butter and cups of sugar. We’ve stopped watching each other’s babes in order to survive this hurried life. Life is no more stressed than it used to be. It’s just hurried in a different way. We no longer have to tend gardens and animals to live, but we have to tend to our 401ks and our sports schedules. We are slowly killing ourselves because we have stopped fulfilling the third required need of each other.
I make it no secret that I have a broken brain. The cause or causes are unknown and only guessed at, but the truth is my brain was altered at some point and does not function “properly.”
My fight or flight kicks in several times a day and I struggle to rein it in and control my hormones, my emotions and my response to them.
My children refer to this monster as “Angry mom.” She’s the 8th member of our family.
I no longer deny her, because she is a part of our lives. I acknowledge her presence and her wake of destruction. I will teach my children what happened to my brain, apologize, and teach them that sometimes getting better is slow work; but slow is better than stagnant.
But that is a blog for another day. There is actually a cure for Angry mom. Just like the Hulk and the phrase, “the sun is going down, “ I have something that can literally stop the fight or flight reaction and disrupt the chemical reaction going on.
It’s not a medication.
It’s not a food.
It’s not an exercise.
It’s not a diet.
It’s not a essential oil or a magical shake.
No. It’s a hug. Not a half hearted Christian side hug, but a real, firm, fully embracing, long lasting hug.
My husband is mastering this. He doesn’t always remember, but when he does, he wraps me in his arms, pulls me close and he himself takes a deep breath and then I do.
I kid you not. It takes 2 seconds for me to go from an out of control, berserk, screaming, banshee back to my rational self. It’s hitting a reset button. It’s watching the Hulk turn back to Bruce Banner and it happens in the snap of a finger.
THIS is what happens when we find our thankfulness in the hard things. When we stand together and we ask not only our intimate humans, but humans we don’t even know… our inner AND our outer community, to draw near for we are suffering. We hurt. We are doing the hard things. Our community closes in and suddenly our perception of unworthiness is snuffed out with the release of oxytocin in our bodies and we find sweet relief in the third thing our souls need. People.
And be merry in the hard things.
This year I am forever grateful for the hard things I have endured in my life. They are beginning to come full circle and I am seeing that pains I felt as a child of being unworthy and unloved are now part of a bigger story. I am finding that it’s not the joys of my life that have brought me closer to those around me, but the hardships.
Hardships are like imposing boulders. They are thrown before us and to clear the way we must dismount our mountain where we stand high above uncomfortable waters, heave them painfully and slowly back to our mountain, lug them up the steep, rugged terrain of our lives and place them at the top balanced and centered. Then we stand back up and watch in wait for the next boulder to be tossed. Every year the pile grows higher and the work to move them may be harder, but we end up standing higher, stronger, and become easier for those out there in the dark to see. We are lighthouses.
I am ever so grateful for the hardships that I have endured, to the ones I am enduring and to the ones I will endure. I know even though I am in a time of peace, that grief is never a step away and will come in time. Next time, however, I will be different. No one can ever be ready for tragedy, but I know now that I am strong. I am weather worn. I am sturdy. The pain may leave it’s mark, but each of those marks are a boulder that take their place on the mountainside that heft me up a little higher so the light can be seen with more ease.
Today be grateful for the hard things.
You may never know who is watching your light shine.
And when they ask for refuge, instead of using your mountain of boulders to keep you away from the waters of uncomfortableness, walk down your mountain, reach for their hand and join them in their sinking ships. Teach them how to handle boulders and how to build mountains. Mountains will turn into lands, and lands into community and community into the teaching of worth.
“We rise by lifting others.” -Robert Ingersall.
This is how we can be grateful for the hard things.
Image copywrite: Mathieu Riven