Monday, May 16, 2011

The Awesome Gift of Grateful Heart...

This past week has been one of synchronicity with three seemingly unrelated experiences coming together to remind me that, even in the toughest circumstances, there are gifts and joys for which we can be grateful if only we can keep our minds and hearts open to perceive them.

When we teach ourselves to become more aware of these gifts, we begin to develop an 'attitude of gratitude' that can balance or offset some of the more negative impacts of our caregiving.

The three experiences that reminded me to look for the gifts among the hardships were:

1. Taking two friends to a clinic and doctor's appointment at a large downtown teaching hospital where they would receive some important test results. We were all anxious about the results and about how my friend, who was very ill, would manage getting from the "full" second level underground parking garage to the clinic on the sixth floor without collapsing. (They had applied for, but not yet received, their disabled parking sticker.) As we drove into the garage, we found that the "full" sign had been speaking the truth but, wonder of wonders, just as we rounded a corner to reach the tower entrance, there sat a single empty parking spot right beside the door.

My friends stayed in the car while I went into the hospital to look for a wheelchair (a commodity rarer than gold at 1 pm on a clinic day). And, what were the chances? I stepped into the elevator and met the one care aide who had been assigned to do a wheelchair roundup and who, therefore, had a stash of wheelchairs and, better yet, a key to unlock them! Come with me," she said, with a smile. "I 've just collected a few but they're all locked together." Within minutes, we had loaded my friend into a chair and were on our way to the sixth floor, wondering at our good fortune.

Even though the news we received that day was not the best, we will always be grateful for the not-so-small gifts that helped us along the way.

2. Coming across Sara Ban Breathnach's best seller, Simple Abundance, while culling my office bookshelves. In it was a quotation from Melody Beattie:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns
what we have into enough and more. It turns
denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion
to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house
into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude
makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.

It was the quotation that had helped motivate my decision to begin a gratitude journal and finding it again this week served as a reminder to begin the practice again.

3. Discovering Neil Pasricha's website, books and TED Talk on things that are awesome. I don't know where I've been, but I hadn't yet heard of this young man's creative response to the hardships in life.

The son of immigrants from developing countries who had taught him to appreciate the small things we can take for granted, Neil started a website called 1000 Awesome Things during a painful period in his life. He was as surprised as anyone when his readership hit the millions and the book deals started to roll in. The result was two books, The Book of Awesome and The Book of (Even More) Awesome, and a TED Talk, The 3 A's of Awesome.

The books are "awesome" (with the exception of a few pieces of adolescent male humour that could have been excluded) and the talk is genuine and heartfelt with the reminders that if we live life with the attitude that we can grieve then face the future in baby steps, with the awareness of a 3 year old seeing life for the first time, and with the authenticity of our true selves, we will be much happier human beings.

So, this week has re-taught me the importance of focusing on the joys and gifts of life (especially the tiny ones) - not to the exclusion of the pain (because that doesn't work), but in an effort to provide more balance and comfort to our caregiving days.

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