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Looking for Gratitude in all the Seemingly Wrong Places

The world is getting scarier and scarier and I don’t mean Halloween. From Charlottesville to Houston to Puerto Rico to Northern California, times are tough. And, you know what they say about people in tough time, right? When times get tough, the tough get tougher. This requires garnering deep and abiding personal resilience; resilience that comes from self-care and from gratitude for what is rather than regrets about what isn’t.

The world’s problems have caused me to stop and think a bit more about my own, admittedly more minor, life disappointments. We all have them. These disappointments often contain unexpected silver linings, though it can take a while to recognize them as such.

When thinking about my disappointments, I realized how many of them turned out to be for the best. In fact, I dreamed up an advanced gratitude practice that I describe here. All one needs to do is sit down and journal about - or even just think about - disappointments in your life that turned out to be hidden blessings, due to the opportunities that these disappointments opened up.

Try it now and see what you find. To get started, recall a situation from the past in which you did not get what you desperately wanted and you were disappointed, but then later it turned out much better than if you had gotten your (then) heart’s desire. Later, a much better, even life-changing, opportunity came along and filled that space. Relish the gratitude that comes from seeing how life’s timing has its own rhythm.

The November issues of The Magnolia Journal (by Joanna Gaines) contained a story about a mom who, like all moms, anxiously awaited the birth of her little girl, only to look her in the eye the moment she was born and see immediately that her newborn had down syndrome. The heartbreaking yet inspiring piece recalled how the mom initially wanted a total do-over of that pregnancy, but that at the end of the day, the daughter is an even bigger blessing because she has inspired love and deepened her entire family’s capacity for compassion.

I recall not getting a teaching job at the University of West Virginia. I know it sounds a bit superficial compared to that down syndrome story, but it shows that things often really do happen for a reason, even if we don’t like it at all at the time. We love our life here in New Mexico and unquestionably would never have come here if I had gotten that other job.

As Bob Goff states in his wonderful book, Love Does, “people who live their lives filled with gratefulness see more waterfalls, because they are looking for them. They see hope and joy in the lives of people around them for the same reason – they are looking for these things.”

Gratitude is like yoga; it works. May you find gratitude in all the right places, as well as the seemingly wrong places.

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