Gratitude is the single most important thing we can do for our happiness.
Here are some ways we can find reasons to be thankful through the holidays and beyond.
Ok first things first: if you live in a cold place, please don’t hate us that it’s warm enough for short sleeves and skirts here most days. We’ll get our weather induced punishment come August.
Secondly…HOW IS IT DECEMBER ALREADY?? I mean, I know that technically all the months and holidays before this have come and gone but mother mercy, slow the heck down, calendar! I need more time! I wanted to sew everyone Christmas dresses! And make an advent calender! And do more cyber Monday shopping! And, and, AND….!!!
Which brings me to today’s talking point: how to be grateful even when life doesn’t seem to measure up. I fully realize how hard it is for us to believe that anyone else has problems and that everyone else’s life doesn’t look like a magazine. I mean, the internet tells us everyone else is perfect! Look at all these pictures of smiling, happy children with pretty hair!! (Except that one below who’s picking her nose. I left that shot in just for you guys, just to prove a point.)
We just celebrated Thanksgiving where everyone in the world seemed to be all smiley and cheerful, going on and on about their blessings. But what if you don’t have those same blessings?? Or what if some of your most precious blessings have been taken away from you? What if your family is falling apart or your kids hate you or your loved ones die or you can’t have the baby you so desperately, heart-wrenchingly ache for? How are we supposed to be happy when life is dark and miserable and just plain HARD?
First of all we need to realize that we’re NOT alone in surviving hard things. Let’s look at these pictures for a bit…you see a happy mom walking along with her cute kids, right? But you might not notice the scar on my nose that was due to skin cancer being carved out of my face (that hurt and made me cry and wonder if I’d ever look normal again). You also probably can’t tell that one of these children has a learning disability that we haven’t been able to diagnose yet and that causes her (and her mom) lots of struggles and frustration. You also can’t see the sleepless nights and exhaustion that came from raising twin infants (one with colic) who would cry and cry (and CRY) forever and made us wonder if life would ever get easier.
While we don’t know what struggles those around us are enduring, we do know that they have them. We have to remember this. It helps us not feel so alone when we’re fighting our own battles and it helps us reach out and serve others with an added measure of love.
Secondly, we have to find the beauty. Guys, I feel so, SO strongly in creating and finding beauty in our lives. If we look around at our home and selves and only see messes and dirt then things can seem really dim. Have you ever noticed how the state of your house affects your mood?? I totally have! Now I’m not trying to make any of us feel more guilty about keeping our houses immaculate (ain’t nobody got time for that) but what I AM saying, is that we need to look around and learn to love our lives. If there are things we can change (cleaning, organizing, spending more time loving on our babies and less on scrolling Instagram) then we should make those changes. And maybe even learn to let go of the things we can’t change (buying expensive clothes or having a perfect body or whatever) and be content.
Thirdly, remember that if someone else’s life looks more beautiful than yours, it’s only because they hide their messes better (and they might even have a professional photographer who helps them). Seriously. Everyone has messes: emotional messes, physical messes, spiritual messes. We ALL have problems…but we’re our happiest when we can look past those messes and see the beauty in it all (and that includes not comparing our messes to others’).
One of my favorite quotes about life goes like this:
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just ordinary people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.
Life is just like an old time rail journey…delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
by Jenkin Lloyd Jones (as quoted by Gordon B Hinckley here)
So the trick is to accept that life will be hard, figure out what we’re supposed to learn from the hard stuff and choose to see the good and beauty of it all. Without morning sickness, I wouldn’t have my children. Without the pain of exercise, we can’t have fit and healthy bodies. Without the struggle of college or owning a business or working hard, we can’t have the prosperity that comes with success. Life is meant to be a dichotomy of pain and joy, beauty and sacrifice, despair and love. We can’t have one without the other; but we can choose where to place our focus. We can choose the good.