“The primary cause of your unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
I open my light blue notebook to a blank page and number it from one to five.
Just the thought of writing down the “five things I’m grateful for today” exhausts me. I don’t feel like going through the motions or faking a smile.
If I’m honest, I’ve been feeling like this for a while. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the love and support that’s around me—it’s more that everything feels bleak right now.
I’ve been here once before: to that place where the sun ceases to shine. It was over the weeks that preceded my mothers’ passing, and the months that followed. That is when I lived in that dimension. It took me five months to look up, to admire a sunset, and a year before I could feel a rainbow again.
I learned from that dreadful period that if I surrendered my grief over to something larger than myself, I may find peace.
I close my eyes and fill my sorrows into an imaginary, yellow balloon. I question whether or not my pain will fit inside. I grow the balloon even larger than normal and watch as it rises up into the clearest, blue sky. I see the balloon disappear into the thin air. I pray for ease.
This symbolism may not alter my circumstances, but by relinquishing the emotional energy of my worries, I feel lighter and less melancholic.
I’ve learned that whenever I lose hope and a connection to the universe, it’s because I’ve spent too much time in my head—the rational mind. It is my logical thinking that says, “It’s just not fair,” or “Why me?”
My rational mind doesn’t know how to sympathize or hold adversity; it wants answers and reasons. It would like for me to sit back down and create a list in my notebook. It tells me to move on, (wo)man up, and snap out of it.
Yet the bright yellow balloon, which grew two-fold, understands why I can’t stomach watching another person in my life struggle with an inexplicable illness. It intuitively knows that I struggle to find joy when a loved one is suffering—no matter how hard I search.
I return to my list with a new perspective, albeit an illogical and nonsensical one. It is where I’ll hone in on the energy of gratitude—in lieu of systematically listing off things.
I jot down my dog’s name next to the number one, and I dot the letter “I” in her name with a heart. I resist my robotic urge to move on to the next number.
I decide to hang there, in my mind’s eye, with my dog. I think of the love she emits to everyone. I feel her adoration for me, and I watch as her tail wags frenetically when my son approaches. I dwell in the magic of her love, and I begin to feel gratitude from my heart for this soul who holds so many others dear.
I feel gratitude for her not because I know I should or because it’s a given, but because I have connected to her energy. I’ve moved out of my thinking mind and into my heart, and in turn, my spiritual nature has been ignited.
I write down the ocean wave I saw two weeks ago next to the number two. But I’m not grateful for the fact that I saw this soaring wave—rather I’m honored to have felt its rippling rush, sensed its inertia, and witnessed its exquisite essence.
It may feel peculiar to relate this way with inanimate objects, yet we know that everything has a quality and exudes a frequency.
Once I begin integrating this universal truth, my list overflows with more and more gratitude. I have a whole new appreciation for the tiny morsel of sand stuck in between my toes.
I wish I could say that all my troubles melted away after this practice, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Nor is life without pain or duress, even if our rational minds demand that it should be.
My loved one is not healed, but I have hope now where I had little before. This distinction, the faith, and the appreciation I cultivated are what will carry me through this difficult time.
This is how I’ll find the grace to hold another’s hand, to lift their spirits, and to muster the strength to comfort myself, as well.