Warning . . . there’s a lot of swearing in this post. My personal opinion on profanity is that it is often used to express emotion, and as an animated writer, I tend to use profanity to show how I am feeling. I never mean to disrespect anyone or anything. The writing of this blog was very emotional for me, so be prepared for some profanity and if you continue to read on, you will see fuckin’ why!
Why do we give thanks? I have been trying to wrap my head around this one for a few weeks now, especially as we are coming up on Thanksgiving. Yup, for all you Yanks reading this blog, some of you may already know that Canadians are truly very funny people, and we tend to be a bit “out of the box” and as I like to say, ahead of the curve. So it is fitting that we as Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October! It always made sense to me – why would you have turkey twice in a four-week period? Why not spread it out over a few months?
It seems everyone is on the whole “gratitude” program: “Be grateful,” “Be in an attitude of gratitude.” We have gratitude quotes, gratitude rocks, gratitude yoga, and gratitude songs. We have been told, and it has also been scientifically proven, that being grateful can do the following:
- Make us happier and reduce depression.
- Lessen anxiety and help us to feel more peaceful.
- Help us get more sleep.
- Improve our heart/cardiac health.
- Boost our brain and strengthen our memory.
The definition of the word “gratitude” is the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. I would like to think that most people know that gratitude is the way to create a blissful life and I can assure you that it is. I have practiced gratitude daily for many years and it has transformed me into a happier person.
But I want to be honest in saying that trying to be in a state of gratitude all the time is a freakin’ hard thing to do. And there are times when I want to scream and say this gratitude crap is fuckin’ bullshit and that if one more person tells me to be grateful, I am just going to get even more pissed off! Why? Because, what is the point, when you look around and are overwhelmed by young, healthy and beautiful people dying way too early.Afew nights ago I attended yet another celebration of life for a special person who died way too early at the age of 48. I don’t know if anyone else from Gen X has noticed, but holy shit, we are dropping like flies. Even us healthy ones are giving it up before we are 45! What is even more ironic is that the Baby Boomers who have all the money are dropping even faster, no matter how much money they are spending on staying healthy and being young, it is not saving them either.
What happens when you get to the point where you just feel like you have nothing to be grateful for? What do you say to your buddy who is dying and has no hope of living another week, or your girlfriend who has cancer ripping through her body and is in incredible pain? How can you say to them, “be grateful?” How can they be grateful when they are dying? How can you be grateful when you’re angry at the universe for taking these amazing souls too early? I have been asking myself these fuckin’ questions all week, as I head into Thanksgiving weekend.
My answer finally came a few days ago when I was on an amazing hike with my girlfriend. Ironically, we ended up talking about when our fathers had died. She told me this story:
She was in the doctor’s office with her father the day he was told that his cancer was terminal and he was going to die. Her father just looked at the doctor and said, “Well, I guess it is a good thing I have had a great life, it’s something I am very grateful for.” In the moment he learned his life was ending, he was filled with so much gratitude.
This story made me ask myself, how did he get to that point? It’s simple, for we are all dying every day, and some of us are going faster than others. It doesn’t matter how many days we get in this life, it’s about how we live them, and all that really matters is what we are grateful for every day. So, how do you get to that FEELING of gratitude when you are simply sad, angry or frustrated?
This is how I do it . . . because you can say you’re grateful until you’re fucking blue in the face (and that will be the last profanity) but if you are not feeling grateful, then it is not helping. The key is in feeling the emotion of gratitude.
How to be in the emotional state of gratitude:
- Think about a time in your life when you were overwhelmed with thankfulness. What was happening? Were you amazed by the beauty of nature? Were you in awe over something a dear friend had done for you? Were you stoked to be alive? Were you stoked by what you had just accomplished?
- Remember that moment of when you were grateful. Now, close your eyes and replay it over again in your mind. Visualize it and replay it over and over again until you feel it in your chest, until the memory makes you smile, until it makes you cry. At this point, you are feeling.
- Keep that memory and visualization close and every time you catch yourself feeling sad, angry or frustrated, remember and repeat your gratitude moment until you feel it again.
If you keep doing this, even for a few days, you will start to feel better, more grateful, and your life will shift. Here is another great exercise/meditation to try:
- Sit in a quiet place, note your age and how many more years you can expect to live.
- Now, imagine that you only have one year left to live. What would you do differently in your life? Seriously, think about it. What would you do? Whom would you tell that you love them? What would you want to do with your remaining time? Would you want to get closer to your family/friends? Would you want to quit your job? Would you want to travel? How would you want to feel every day of this last year, if you knew that you only had 365 days left? Would you be mad, sad, or frustrated, or would you be truly grateful?
- After about ten minutes, write down everything that you imagined you would do. Now, make doing those things a priority in your life today!
This exercise is truly amazing. It does a few things like helps to set your priorities, wakes you up to the reality of your death and encourages you to live life to the fullest. It also puts you in a place of gratitude because it helps you realize that how you live each day and how you feel each day is what actually counts. For other great meditations check out The Meditation Bible.
A very wise woman told me a few years ago, that one of my gifts in this lifetime was that I had seen a lot of death and darkness in a short amount of time. She told me it was a gift because it would teach me one of my greatest lessons: to be grateful even during the darkest of times. Well, I can say this! It may be my life lesson to experience a lot of death and darkness, but everyone will eventually go through some of it. I can guarantee you that gratitude will get you through even the bleakest times. Even when I slip and question the universe as to why this is all happening, as soon as I remember my best gratitude moment and feel it in my body, my soul energy shifts and I smile inside and out. I smile because I have one more day to live. I have one more day to surf, I have one more day to write and hopefully inspire others, and I have one more day to love all the amazing people around me. And all of that is something to be truly grateful for.