I recently was invited to share some thoughts on "gratitude during difficult times" at Marble Collegiate Church in NYC. Marble has a rich history in the USA, founded in 1628 as well as the congregation of the great preacher and motivational speaker Norman Vincent Peale.
Here is some of what I shared. It is helping me post-election as I prepare for Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season. (Please forgive the writing style as this was delivered via spoken word.)
I've been more conscientious recently about living from a place of gratitude. Mostly because this year I transitioned career paths and re-located back to NYC from Fort Lauderdale after being away for 7 years. It's been a big, exciting, thrilling, life change but it hasn't been without struggles along the way.
Now one would think in my line of work that gratitude would just come naturally to me. I've worked in the religious world plus secular, clinical settings and people for a long while have looked to me for inspiration whether through writing, blogging, or speaking. I've even taught the spiritual practice of gratitude to patients in a residential healthcare setting.
But I've got news: for the most part, gratitude doesn't come naturally to me. I find it more often than not a choice.
I must choose to be grateful. I must choose to celebrate life. I must choose to live life intentionally and not be dictated by the winds of emotion. I'm wired emotionally and I sometimes find myself swept away when circumstances aren't lining up perfectly to my liking.
Emotions are a funny thing. I find they usually are not right or wrong--in a moral sense, that is. They are more markers or indicators of what may or may not be happening on a deeper level within me.
Sometimes emotions might be hormonally-induced and no indicator of outward circumstances at all.
Sometimes I wonder if they are influenced by the alignment of the planets spinning around us, exerting invisible, forceful pressure on us that's way out of our finite control.
I mean, did you see that Supermoon the other night? Think about it: if the moon controls the tides of the oceans, who's to say that the planets can't also impact us internally? Is there a planet-soul connection to our existence? Boy, that would give me a good scapegoat when I'm in a particularly foul mood. You know, blame it on the moon!
Mostly though, I think emotions may be full-on indicators telling us to change our environment or challenging us to change ourselves. That, my friends, is more easily said than done.
That's why I think choosing to be grateful is so important. A positive affirmation or statement of thanks can help to shift dodgy emotions--especially when we enter the Holiday season and discover that our lives don't necessarily line up with the idyllic Christmas special on the Hallmark Channel.
I have a former colleague who lives this way. She's survived cancer, addiction, and the death of her son. And she would still smile at me when I see her and say, "It's a beautiful day, I'm alive!."
She reminds me that any day I'm alive is a beautiful day. And guess what? Any day that you are alive is a tremendously beautiful one too. That realization doesn't mean I'm going to feel great all the time. But it does mean that when I experience difficulty I can choose hope over despair, gratitude over grumbling, thankfulness over complaints. I've learned my complaints don't change my circumstances, they merely bring me down. And I prefer being up over being down. That's one of the reasons I've enjoyed Marble Church the last several months. When I'm down, the music, worship, and motivational preaching bring me up!
So I remind myself to be grateful. I remind myself to be thankful. Gratitude is the attitude that changes me internally so that I can navigate what's going around me externally. I choose gratitude today.
After all, it's a beautiful day, I'm alive!
And guess what? It's a beautiful day, and you are alive!