Sunday, September 21, 2008

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

I used to spend a lot of time living in "victim". You know how it is, something ("bad") was always happening TO me. And, oh, how I'd let you know! Poor, poor me. If someone else was having a bad day, I could out do it. I knew how to stir up a crisis.

I didn't realize that my choices were affecting my life. As I continued to choose poorly, "bad" stuff continued to happen. It was a life of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

It takes a lot of energy to live in victim-mode. For me, it was an unending process. It was all I knew. It was probably the reason I was so comfortable with the chaos of working in a busy trauma center: Chaos, I knew. I seemed to thrive on it!

I also have been blessed with an innate sense of Gratitude. The problem - it's impossible (for me) to hold tightly to victim and express gratitude. What I didn't realize then was that I was CHOOSING to live in "victim" rather than CHOOSING to live in Gratitude. I liked it - it brought me attention! And sympathy!

One day, that began to change. A loving friend confronted me. "Do you realize how much time and energy you are putting into being a victim?" I scoffed. She didn't understand me. Oh, but she did. She'd been there too.

She was a friend and a confidante - I told her the stuff that was happening "to" me. Again and again, patiently, but relentlessly, she confronted me. She suggested I develop an "Attitude of Gratitude". I thought she was nuts, but I asked what she was talking about. She suggested I make a daily gratitude list. 10 things, written on paper, that I was grateful for that day.

No problem, I though. At first it was really really difficult. Most frequently, the last few items on the list were "I only have 3 / 2 / 1 more stupid thing to write on this list"

And, relentlessly, she'd keep me accountable "How'd your gratitude list go today?" she'd ask. "Ok", I 'd say. "Great - share it!" NOW I had a problem... I had to come up with 5 more things to make my list complete before I emailed it to her. And she expected more than the countdown of "stupid things to write on this list".

With practice, Gratitude came easier. So, she added a challenge. When I'd whine and complain about my job, or my family, or a friend, she'd ask for a Gratitude List specific to my current irritation. When I came up with nothing, she started it for me "You HAVE a job...", "You HAVE friends and family". She was right. I did - as much as I struggled with it, she was right.

She also challenged me to simply listen to anothers situation, rather than trying to out do it. A step further, when I was feeling sorry for myself - SEARCH OUT another that I could listen to, or assist in some way.

One day she asked how I was doing. "Good. I feel really, really good." "Isn't it easier to live in Gratitude than in Victim?" she said. I hung my head and nodded. She was right. It was.

For years, I kept a written Gratitude Journal. It really helped me to focus on the good in my life. Today it's more informal. It has become an in-the-moment "Thank you God for......" experience throughout the day.

Today, the top five:

I am grateful for the friends who have loved me enough to confront me.
I am grateful for those who have walked beside me on my path.
I am grateful for the challenges that have presented themselves along the way.
I am grateful for the blessings that have encouraged me to continue.
I am grateful for the God who has continued to patiently, yet relentlessly, "stalk" me.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I am grateful for your willingness to share! Thank you Linda!