On Gratitude

This post was written by guest blogger, Joan Gold. Joan Gold is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with offices in Berkeley and Walnut Creek, California.  She specializes in relationship issues for individuals, couples and families arising from addiction and co-addiction, including love/sex/relationship addiction.  She also works with hunger, creativity, identity and aging.  She is a group leader, public speaker and writer and can be contacted via her website at www.EastBayHolisticTherapy.com.

Please note that the opinions presented in the article are that of the author and not necessarily the opinions of RHN. RHN chooses to publish articles and share individual sites to evoke discussion and show all options, ideas and beliefs.

Gratitude is one of the guiding principles of all great spiritual practices. As a recovery tool, it ranks right up there with patience and compassion in its ability to carry us through hard times and ground us in the good.

But the minute it turns into a “should,” it becomes one more way to shame us into the old hopelessness and despair.

I rediscovered this recently when I broke my leg on my first day of vacation early last summer. There is nothing like a broken leg to quite literally put you in your place. In my case, the place was a hastily purchased second-hand recliner in the middle of my living room.

Instead of the beach.

For four months.

One day at a time, it felt like four years. Rationally, I knew a broken leg wasn’t the end of the world – it didn’t compare to my college friend’s stroke, for example, or to the lump another friend recently found in her breast. I hated myself for not being able to stop crying. For much longer than I like to admit, I felt like a small, abandoned child, waiting for the world to slow down and acknowledge that everything had collapsed.

Only it hadn’t, for anyone besides me.

The trick about gratitude is to be able to focus on what is good about life while still acknowledging the pain. It’s a fine line to walk, for those of us used to experiencing life as “all good” or “all bad.” It took the support of numerous friends and books (I highly recommend “Broken Open” by Elizabeth Lesser) to help me see that yes, what happened to me was ridiculously hard and painful AND I still had a lot to be grateful for.

I could focus on the friends who went out of their way to let me know they cared, instead of the friends who didn’t. I could become a woman who was comfortable accepting support instead of one who could only provide it. I could learn to comfort all the sad, scared, needy parts of myself when they popped out, and not judge them. I could have a peaceful day stuck in that chair, or I could have a miserable one.

Today, as I quite literally begin the process of stepping back into my life, I can see all the ways my broken leg has made me a better person, friend, partner and therapist. I am endlessly grateful that I was able to adjust my self-image from who I thought I had to be – a highly functional multi-tasker who made it all look easy – to who I actually am. A human being .

And wow, am I grateful to be out of that chair.

Elana Clark-Faler
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