Gratitude is more than a journal entry

Walk with me.
We can chat about anything or just walk in shared silence. I get flashes of insight when I walk. Imagine looking through a kaleidoscope at the changing patterns and you get an idea of how my brain must look. The shapes and colors represent characters, topics and stories yet to be born. They tumble around night and day. To stop them, I write.

But walking isn’t always an option. On a Friday, January, 2014 I took a hard fall.

It was a beautiful Indian Summer day in the middle of winter. I woke up that morning full of expectation.

Wow! I feel great. A perfect day to knock out some items on my to do list.

Aside from the beautiful day, I had another incentive to get rid of the list. The next day was the third Saturday of the month. On my calendar I had reserved that day, every other month, for the rest of the year. It was a special treat to myself. I attended the Texas High Plains Writers workshops. As a writer, attending such gatherings kept me pumped up.

Walgreens. The last item on my list. I picked up my prescription, skipped out the door in a euphoric state. As quick as you can snap your fingers my triumphant day crumpled over me like a discarded manuscript page. I fell, just fell!

No! Oh my God, no!

I went down on my knees. fighting gravity I extended my arms but lost the duel and landed on my knees and fell forward on both elbows. The knuckle of my left knee shattered. It took 17 pins and a plate to keep it motionless to where it would heal properly. Both my arms had hairline fractures at the elbows.

The miracle of that day came in the foresight of the doctors. They decided not to cast my arms but to restrict my movements instead.

God, thank you for showing up. I was ready to, as we humans like to say, throw in the towel. And Lord, I get it, adversity is a blessing turned inside out. But it just doesn’t seem like a gift to me. I have a hard time seeing it as a seedling of character, learning, resilience, creativity, and conviction. I’m truly grateful for the words of wisdom you whispered to the doctors. I’m so grateful for usable arms. With that comes the comfortable knowing that I can do for myself what could have otherwise been a debilitating experience. 

My recuperation time felt like a prison sentence. For 5 months I was mostly bed-ridden.

To feel better, I wrote in a journal the things I had to be grateful for, but it’s not easy to feel gratitude when life takes a bite out of you. Adversity, while it helped me grow, wasn’t smoothly embraced. I believe it’s a tool for greatness but in the middle of the storm, it’s hard to see it as a source of strength.

One windy March day my attitude was not the best. My confinement seemed like three months of house arrest.My  enthusiasm waned to the point of exhaustion.

The turbulence outside my bedroom window added to my anxiety. From my bed, I watched the sway of  naked tree branches. The wind covered the sky in gritty gray. The smell of dust made my nose itch.

I noticed a couple of mourning doves arranging sticks in an effort to start a nest. Each time they came back from gathering building material the wind’s force destroyed the foundation of their work. I was intrigued by their commitment to the task at hand. And yet uncomfortable by their passion to overcome. Uncomfortable because I saw in their work a lack of persistence in me. Here I was, one of God’s best creation and I couldn’t handle the storm I was going through.

The next morning was a better day. The doves succeeded in building their nest. I watched them through out the Spring as they started their family. I rejoiced in the birth of their chicks. They were the result of perseverance in action.  I celebrated their hatchlings as much as I celebrated my success. I graduated to a walker. Even through the storm their hope remained steadfast.

What a lesson for me. Their diligence through the storm made them successful.

Nest building represents life, growth and health. I had missed the symbolic confinement of my bed. I reacted to it with annoyance. My adversity had a simple solution, doing what needs to be done and not what I want done. My situation at hand blinded me to a simple a solution. Doing what I needed to do, not what I wanted to do. I left what I needed to do to chance and focused on what I wanted. It’s that want that threw into despair.

Have you ever felt like that? The “woe is me” kind of feeling that drags you into the dumps? Life gives us better choices but they aren’t a rescue party. We have to choose the kind of day we want. I not only had an obligation to my doctors but to my family. The solution to my problems was simple. I didn’t see it that way.

unlike the doves, I let my storm ravage one of my most treasured possession–faith. Without it there is no hope. I was tossed about like the tree branches outside my window. Yes, gratitude is more than a journal entry. It’s a positive feeling that propels you forward to better health and puts you in the thriver’s seat. Now I’m responsible get myself where I want to go. And for some of us it’s responsibility that we want to shed.

After that windy day,  I picked up the the shield of faith. What could I do to keep from getting swallowed by the darkness? I started writing how I really felt. And as page after page filled up, gratitude started to build.

I started a bed exercise program. My body began to strengthen. The results were a flood of endorphins similar to the, “runners high?” Emotionally, I started feeling lighter. With a more confident and positive mindset I started writing stories. The character development occupied much of time.  Gratefulness comes in the warmth of accomplishment.

“What special something do you do for yourself?”

I’m  grateful for the teaching moments nature provided for me. Clouds break, windstorms pass and following is beautiful weather. Tragedies, misfortunes are inevitable but they’re followed by  the joy of life and appreciation for small things.
If you’re struggling, watch nature for awhile. It may show you what you need to see.