…the moment I jumped off was the moment I touched down…

Lyrics from music continue to speak to me and the line above is one by Alanis Morisette who sings about being thankful for things we’re not typically thankful for: pain, terror and fear. She writes and sings about understanding the value in challenges such as death and difficult times.

2014 was my second year of feeding my Gratitude Jar and the second year I’ve written of my joy in opening it up and reading the entries.  In some ways Year One seems like a lifetime ago; in some ways it was. The gratitude and joy I felt then was very real yet after my second year of writing something I’m grateful for and putting it in the jar every day, I’ve realized that something has shifted. Year Two gratitude is deeper and richer.

The past year was full of many things, experiences and people to be grateful for and all are represented in the jar. My dear friends in Maine, new friends everywhere from Thailand to Austin, travel and moving experiences, family, love, the unconditional trust and love of my pets and two amazingly competent, compassionate vets, a new lifestyle, job, and the joy of new experiences along with the familiarity of all those things that have remained or resurfaced…cycling, tennis, horses, writing, music, volunteering, my faith, humor and curiosity…all things that I am grateful for and keenly aware of.

But the difference between this past year and the one prior is I named those things and people in detail last year and this year the gratitude has delved deeper – it’s become a part of me. This year I am not as inclined to be so specific because being grateful for Joe or Granddaddy’s Van is something I am aware of and feel every day…this is about feeling gratitude for all the experiences including loss, sadness, heartbreak and discomfort. As I sat on my living room floor today reading each entry and literally surrounding myself in tiny slips of paper filled with written expressions of gratitude it occurred to me that I’ve become grateful for the ‘bad’ experiences just as much as the ‘good’.As I continued to read and reflect, I realized that perhaps the line between good experiences and bad is actually very close. I wrote of my gratitude for all the good things that I experienced as Thomas lay sick and dying. Distraught and vulnerable I wrote of my gratitude for my friends, family and vets who were there to offer comfort and support. I wrote of a moment just before Thomas died…even then I was feeling gratitude. At the time it felt as though his death broke my heart but in fact, I think it opened my heart which made it stronger.

Consider this:  If we don’t experience the darkness how can we appreciate the light? And doesn’t the light give us the opportunity to appreciate the dark? When our lives seem most burdened with shadows and darkness, perhaps that’s the time to be the most grateful for that’s when we see how strong and resilient we are. Perhaps that is the time when we learn who we are and what we really want our life to be about.

The habit of writing one thing I am grateful for and dropping it in a jar each day has become a daily ritual. After two years and well over 700 entries, I realize that gratitude is much more accessible to me, it’s not something I have to consciously consider…it’s just there. When I initially began this exercise I never anticipated I would begin to develop an appreciation for all experiences. I labeled things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘happy’ or ‘sad’. I still do that, it is part of the human condition, but there has been a shift in my perspective and I’m not sure I fully noticed it until today as I sat surrounded in those little slips of paper.Alanis Morisette sings, ‘thank you silence’’thank you disillusionment’’thank you clarity’ and those words hold more meaning to me now. Silence and disillusionment often precede clarity; it doesn’t typically arrive on it’s own. It is easy to get caught up in wanting ‘good’ experiences and avoiding ‘bad’ experiences; but perhaps the secret in that jar is the discovery that experiences are simply experiences and labeling them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ isn’t as beneficial as seeing them as opportunities to learn, to grow and to feel appreciation.

That empty jar, which I’ve filled for two years has magically delivered more than I ever put into it. And for that, I am grateful.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

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