Nothing was ever enough.
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I began working with a client, I’ll call *Bethany. She called me ready for a change. She knew that she was unhappy with her life and her relationships, and that she needed some new habits. We met for a few sessions, but I knew she wasn’t ready to make the changes she so desperately called me about in the first place. How did I know?
She wasn’t grateful for anything in her life. She had an excuse for every problem going on. It was always, “because he didn’t treat her fairly”, or “because she always started an argument first”. When I prompted her to recognize her own responsibility in her relationships, she refused to admit to anything she might have contributed. (We all have some responsibility for how things are in relationships, even if that is the fact that we are not upholding a boundary.)
After our first few sessions, she ghosted me. I know from a mutual acquaintance that she didn’t find another coach or therapist, and nothing has really changed for her. Hopefully, in the future, she will be ready to make some changes. In the end, we can only change ourselves, not all the other people around us.
It All Starts With Gratitude and Thought Changes
It’s really hard to think about changing yourself in the beginning. It feels like all of these other negative influences in your life are the problem. Like, if your parents would stop trying to control every decision you make, or if your boss would stop harassing you. Your life would be totally better if your partner would stop criticizing your parenting, or cleaning skills. If he just made more money, we wouldn’t have to scrimp so much.
When I first started to change my thoughts, I used affirmations, because I found some that were already written, and they were easy. Then, I tried to practice gratitude. At first, I could only think of things like, “I’m grateful for my kids.” “I’m grateful for my husband.” “I’m grateful for my house.”. But then, I started to look for little everyday things to be grateful for, like the butterfly I saw flitting around my flowers, or the little kid in the grocery store saying something cute to his mother.
Pretty soon, bigger things started happening that I could be grateful for, the unexpected card from a friend, a check in the mail, or the offer to participate in a new coaching opportunity. Every time something negative would come up, I would search for something to be grateful for about it. When our home flooded from Hurricane Harvey, it was devastating, but the people that came to help were angels.
A Lesson In Gratitude
I had packed every important paper in a folder, along with the jewelry my mom left me, in a tote bag inside a big black garbage bag, to keep it from getting wet the night water came in our house. When we left our home on a boat, I had my kids, my dogs, my cats, and everyone’s black garbage bag. The boat stopped on a street where the flooding subsided. People from a local church were there to help us off the boat. They held out their hands to help us step down onto the street, then handed us our bags before rushing to help the next group.
When we got to my friend’s house, I realized the bag of all my important stuff was missing. But, feeling grateful to be alive, in a dry home, with friends that loved us, I was no longer worried about all that “stuff”. I had my family in one piece. That’s all that mattered.
That night, my husband got a call from an unknown number. It was a woman from the church. She had found my bag, along with my neighbor’s bag full of cash, and medications. This woman not only worked to find us, but she dropped our bags off at my friend’s house that night around 9:30, after a long day of helping others. I realized at that moment, what kindness is all around us, if only we take the time to notice it. I felt so much gratitude for having my mother’s jewelry back, especially.
In the days that followed, many friends stepped in to help us clear out wet carpet and furniture. Neighbors helped us get needed cleaning supplies and offered recommendations for contractors. Ever since then, I can find gratitude in the smallest kind gestures from others. I can find gratitude in the tiniest comforts of home, a smile from my children, or an excited greeting from my dog.
Do You Have To Always Feel Gratitude?
No, of course not! I was not grateful when my son was in a car accident. But, I can be grateful that he was okay. I am grateful for the nurses and doctors that stitched him up, and made sure he didn’t have serious injuries. I’m grateful for the woman who stopped to help him and called 911.
I was not grateful when our fence fell over in the wind, and we had to pay over $2,000 to have it fixed. But, I feel gratitude when I look at the beautiful new fence, and our neighbor who did all the footwork to hire a repairman.
You get the idea! There is always something to be grateful for, and the more we are grateful, the more things there are to feel grateful about.
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