How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. -- Winnie the Pooh
When things are good, it's easy to be grateful. When it's someone else's storm, it's really easy to encourage them to be upbeat. To look for the silver lining. To find the rainbow. To have an attitude of gratitude. Yada yada yada.
When it's your storm, it's hard to see the silver lining when the skies are black and it's night all the time.
It's hard to find the rainbow when your curtains are drawn and you have no desire to step outside to see if it's even safe to be seen.
It's hard to have an attitude of gratitude when NOBODY UNDERSTANDS and they are giving you some flippant advice that makes them feel like they've done their part.
It's hard to be grateful when you feel alone and unloved.
What good does it do to count your blessings when you always always always feel like as soon as you truly open your heart up and love a blessing, something else will swoop in and destroy it?
Yes, I'll count my blessings and watch them go away one by one. If I don't count them, I don't have to see when they are being subtracted. It's kind of like ignoring the bank statements. If you don't open them up, you don't see the debits!
I had been watching my family fall apart. Not in one day, but over years and I had no idea how to stop the trajectory. I kept secrets, I tried to fix, I tried to control and to be positive. I tried to forgive. Oh how I tried to forgive and forgive and forgive. Each time I did, it seemed as if it was just known that I was so nice, you could do just about anything to me and I'd forgive...because that's how nice I was. Karma would come back around to the nice girl, right? I wore myself out trying to be everything and not to disappoint. But I always felt as if I had been handed a multiple choice test and even when I was SURE I knew the answer, it changed and I failed. I felt like I had a sign around my neck that said " I have no idea what I'm doing so please pity me." My son killed himself so I must have been a terrible mother. Believe me, I felt it even if no one dared actually say it out loud.
I was so angry that I didn't want to be grateful for anything. I was used and pitied. Is there anything worse than people thinking you're pathetic?
I continued to go to church because even though I usually went with a heavy heart and knowing it would make no difference that day, it was my little reprieve from the gloom and heaviness in my house. It's hard to explain how I craved uplifting words and music, yet despised them at the same time. One day in Sunday School, we were talking about gratitude and a good discussion started. Many people were expressing their thoughts on the matter and were trying to speak positively about how being grateful is needed. One person made a comment to the effect that they looked around at people that have it worse and it reminded them how good they have life. I had such a hard time not standing up and screaming at everyone. My pity party was in full swing and I thought, "OK. So the poor sucker that only has one arm should be grateful that he at least has one arm. What about the guy that doesn't have any? Should he be grateful that he's not the guy with no legs? Is the guy with no arms or legs so grateful he can at least see? So when it all comes down to it, do we agree that the poor guy with no face finally has something to complain about?"
What does it mean when someone has it worse? Isn't everybody's trial real to them? Who are we to say that your problem isn't bad enough that you have no right to be sad? I left church that day feeling like a jerk because I wasn't grateful I only lost one kid. I wasn't grateful that my life was a storm that wouldn't leave. I wasn't grateful to be there alone, and I wasn't grateful to go back to the house that was unhappy and chaotic. I wasn't even grateful that I was alive.
It was a very grey winter in Teton Valley. It seemed to last forever and the more I was inside, the less I wanted to go out. I remember wanting to shrink and to be forgotten, but I was so happy when I wasn't. I wanted my parents. I wanted them to be the adults and to make everything ok. They didn't know what to do, so they gave me my space, when I really wanted them to rescue me. I wanted to be a child again that didn't have to deal with adult things. I wanted my grandma to cry with me, to hug me and to tell me everything would work out. I needed her strength and her experience.
My sister and brothers were at the house with their spouses and asked if they could help me with anything, so I started looking around and asked them to help me hang pictures. I just didn't want them to leave, so I would find anything that could drag out their staying. I was grateful for that.
My friend, Catherine called up one wintry day and asked if I wanted to exercise. No. Did I want to go snowshoeing? No. Did I want desperately to not feel this way? Yes, but it kinda feels good to feel so bad too.
She showed up with her snowshoes and said, "Let's just walk in the field behind your house." So we did. I didn't have to muster up energy or anything. We walked around in little loops where I had no chance of running into anybody and I could crawl back in my cave quickly. I was grateful for that.
My friend Jaci had just moved to another galaxy, it felt like, and she wondered if she could fly back for the funeral. I told her I didn't want her to spend time here watching me cry, so she didn't come. She did call me almost every day and she told me funny and irreverent things, gossiped, and didn't treat me like a wounded bird. I was grateful for that.
Teachers didn't call me up to complain about my kids when they acted up. Instead, they hugged them and brought dinner or gave them a stuffed animal. I was so grateful for that.
Living where I do, I also spend a huge time in the car because everything is so far away. This isn't good for someone that can't escape their thoughts. Those long drives would quickly bring me to tears and no matter how hard I tried to hide them behind sunglasses or drown them out with music, my kids would notice and just touch my arm or tell me they loved me. I was grateful for them.
Sometimes, I just got a phone call from someone saying they just felt they needed to call, even though they didn't know what to say, except that they were remembering my little family in their prayers. I was grateful for that, because I was afraid my Heavenly Father had forgotten that I was down here, floundering.
So, for being so irritated that someone suggest I be grateful, I recognized those little things and realized that I wasn't expected to run around with a smile, giving long lists of all my blessings. It was a start that I recognized the tiny gifts that were delivered through other people, because God couldn't just come down here and wipe away all my troubles, but he was letting me know that I was very much remembered.
and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called)
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Mosiah 18:8-9
Have you ever had somebody that mourned with you? To comfort you when you stood in need of comfort? Someone that has borne your burdens? If so, you should count those among your many blessings, and so I did. I still do, because even after nearly 5 years, God still whispers to people when I need something, and I'm so grateful when they listen, then act.
I stopped allowing bitterness to settle in when other people were counting their blessings, because I knew that if we didn't express them, it was easy to forget them or not recognize them at all, and I realized that was the message people were trying to convey in the first place.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is one of my favorite speakers. He speaks of things that every one of us experiences, and he does it in a way that you know it comes from a place of love and understanding.
In part of his April General Conference talk "Grateful in Any Circumstance":
When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know: that our Father has given His children the great plan of happiness; that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones; that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”Read his entire wonderful talk here.
I'm pretty sure that in the preexistence I got carried away, checking off all the things I was willing to take on down here. (This must be where I got the idea that I can't say "no". If God had really known me, why didn't He step in and say, "Amber! I know you want to help, but trust me, this is a lot, so why don't you erase a couple of things?" Or, "Amber! If you're going to take on this many trials, let me at least make it so you have thin thighs. you don't need the extra burden of dieting and squats."
Since I can't get a mulligan, I figure I should start now with counting my blessings. I'll start with the ones that if I woke up tomorrow with only the things I said thanks for tonight, would I be happy? Yes. I think I would.