07.10.12 Truth & Wisdom

Thank You, I Think?

Thank You, I Think?

BY Candace Hammond

Let’s face it – some days it’s pretty damn hard to feel thankful for anything. I’ve gone through times where I’ve struggled to think of anything I’m grateful for, sometimes resorting to, “I woke up. I am breathing.” Not exactly the heady stuff of inspiration.

When I was going through a divorce in 1998, I bought myself a copy of Simple Abundance by Sarah Van Breathnach. I actually think if you didn’t buy it, it was issued to you by the gratitude police if you were having a life crisis that year. Van Breathnach struck a chord with people, mostly women and Oprah watchers, by encouraging readers to focus on the positive. I dutifully wrote my five items a day for what I was grateful for even when I didn’t want to, and it did actually help. Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal is sometimes as effective as taking an antidepressant in treating mild depression.

It’s a fine line to be grateful and not slip into the kind of preciousness that makes people want to avoid you like the plague. Being positive is one thing, being an annoying sap is another. And sometimes you just need to feel sorry for yourself and marinate in it until your fingers get pruny. The trick is to not stay stuck there. Thankfully, I have a very short attention span for self-pity. I get bored rather quickly with a ‘woe is me’ attitude, as do the people around me.

That said, there is nothing worse than the new age guilt that so many will try to impart on you, and oh, some will. You know those folks – the ones who will try to make you think it’s your fault for attracting this negativity into your life. While yes, our choices do impact our lives, sometimes, many times, bad things just happen to all of us – no matter what color your aura is or how many crystals you have in your pocket.

The very tricky thing about gratitude is it’s very easy to feel all warm and fuzzy and grateful when things are going well. It’s not so easy when they aren’t. But, what I’ve found on reflection is that it’s the hardest times that have taught me the most and for which I’m most grateful. Though often as I’m going through it, I can’t imagine I ever will.

I had a span where within about three years, I lost both my parents and one of my three children was addicted to heroin. I wasn’t feeling too grateful. I lived in a state of constant hyper-vigilance wondering when my phone would ring with yet more bad news. I lived through emergency room visits, drug overdoses, jail, rehab and ultimately having to say goodbye to my parents after illness.

I was single, none of my children were living at home anymore and I would crawl into bed every night alone wishing someone was there to hug me and tell me it was all going to be all right. But there wasn’t anyone. It was up to me to get myself through. I had in fact become the sad, cautionary tale amongst girlfriends, the, “Wow, things are tough in my life, but I’m so glad I’m not her” person. To put it inelegantly, it sucked.

But I got through. I said goodbye to parents and fought tooth and nail to help my son save himself, which he did. I look back now at that time and believe it or not, am grateful for it. It changed me forever.

See, the thing is, like I said, it’s easy to be grateful when your life is going along swimmingly. It’s another layer of gratitude and thankfulness to be there when it’s not. It’s not usually a feeling you can have when in the middle of the muck, but if you can realize it in hindsight it makes you better, not bitter.

I am not the same person in some very profound ways since going through what I did. I know now that we are all much stronger than we can possibly ever know until we are thoroughly tested. I developed a mantra when life was so challenging that I still recite many times a week. When faced with something like traffic, a career disappointment or just a sad mood. I remind myself, “If this is the worst thing that happens to me today I am doing okay.”

Featured image via FrogProp.com

Candace Hammond is a freelance journalist and novelist living on Cape Cod. Candace writes about pop culture, fashion and entertainment for many publications. She is the mother of three young adult children who periodically deign to cross the bridge to come home – mostly for her homemade cookies. With a background as a life coach, Candace is fascinated by personal growth and relationships. You can follow her on Twitter @candacelhammond, and read her blog, candyspopgoestheculture.blogspot.com. Her debut novel, The Best Worst Year is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Comments

  • Thank you for sharing such a personal story; these are so needed for all of us going through life – – the good, the bad, the sad and happy, and even mundane. I’ve been honing my coping skills these past two years as I’ve been dealing with a big crisis, and like you I’ve encountered those eager New Agers telling me to shake off and stop “welcoming” negativity and that I need to see things differently, that the problem I’m creating, ironically completely undermines my strength, zest for life and actual gratitude for all simply by knowing that I am alive and that there is a better way to feel. This is something we recognize while down and dealing with life… Part of the solution for me has been to be selective of those I surround myself with because some can be energy and self-esteem zappers professing what they don’t know and are not in a position to counsel while others have had hard-knocks at their doors and are in a better position to help you open that heavy door on your terms. We must go through the motions. 

    I’ve learned to allow myself, yes, give myself permission to go through the motions of what I’m dealing with and yet not get sucked by it for too long because we all want to be happy, so we continue to reach for it. LIfe is like that, positive days, challenging days. Some we contribute to, some we don’t… life happens. 

    To be alone at times has been crucial to finding humility, understanding, love, appreciation and all that makes life so amazing, because the void that we go through during those dark moments can fuel our desire to reach for love, life, happiness. And within that, knowing that it will pass. Of course, it’s so easy to write that but to live through, well, only we know what our personal journey is like when we go through it — boy,  oh boy… l-o-n-g days and nights. Your story has inspired me this gorgeous summer day and to be mindful of keeping life’s events in check by embracing your motto:“If this is the worst thing that happens to me today I am doing okay.”thank you again and look forward to reading more of your posts. 

    • Candace Hammond

       Thank you so much! I hope things level out for you soon. Life can be so hard sometimes…but it is so cyclical and does get better.
      Thank you so much for sharing your story and kindness.

  • Layla

    Love this story. Thanks for the raw sharing and insight….

    • Candace Hammond

       Thank you so much, Layla 🙂

  • blov

    I love what you wrote and especially the part about “marinading in it until your fingers get pruny”. I, too, have been sad since losing my brother and finding out that he had struggles long before the cancer diagnosis.  Like you, his son is also addicted to herion and although he lives across the country, I wonder how I could help him.  I would love to know your story on that.

    • Candace Hammond

       I’m so sorry for your loss, and for your continued struggle with your nephew. I wish I had a magic bullet to give you, but it’s getting help for the person, never giving up on them. You often hit your bottom before they do, but keep the door open and keep presenting options for help. Many, many do recover. I’ll keep good thoughts for you 🙂

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