Recently, I had an outpatient procedure that has made me primarily homebound for six weeks. Last week I turned in my cast for a boot, but still have six weeks to go before I will be completely on my own, walking on my own two feet.
During recovery (which was a life changer of day-to-day existence), I have been mindful that if I really believe in the power of the research behind gratitude – that being grateful can impact our well-being (emotions, health, and interpersonal dynamics) – then I need to continue the practice . . . and be grateful.
So what does being grateful mean when you can’t walk on your own two feet, can’t take a shower on your own, have to rely on others to get food for you (because with a walker you need both hands to “walk” and have no spare hands to carry a plate or cup!) or to run errands for you (can’t drive), get you whatever you need around the house (a comb, socks, a book . . .)? What does it mean to be grateful when you can’t be the independent self you’re used to being?
My hurdle is momentary, but what if yours isn’t? Maybe you are experiencing the tumultuous hurdle of a painful divorce, the loss of a child, the upheaval caused by a job or home taken away, a lifetime illness or disability, or . . . or . . . the list continues. What does it mean to be grateful?
Being grateful in these moments means the same thing it does as when you are capable, strong, and independent and can do everything you want to do for yourself or have everything going your way.
It means looking for the graces in your life, the abundance and goodness that are always there for you, and it means focusing on what you HAVE in your life rather than focusing on what you DON’T have.
Let’s start back with my original situation and see how we can reframe.
Okay, right now “I can’t walk on my own two feet” but . . . I am ever so grateful for knee scooters to help me get around in a playful, fun way that makes me smile AND mobile at the same time. I have what I need to get around.
“I can’t take a shower on my own” reframed becomes: I am grateful I am married and have someone living with me who can help me. THAT is a blessing. Bonus: I am grateful for hot water! One of my top gratitudes of all times for daily actions! And, I am grateful that we have a hand-held showerhead so I can sit on the ledge and bring the shower to me.
“I have to rely on others to get food for me.” Reframed: I am blessed to have family and friends who are willing to bring me a meal or fix something for me. I do not lack. I am cared for in every way.
“I have to rely on others to run errands for me” Reframed: I am blessed that others are willing to go to the bank or the post office while they’re doing their errands.
“I have to rely on others to get me things I need from around the house.” Reframed: I am grateful that my spouse is healthy, willing and able to care for me. And he hasn’t complained once. And for my friends who go a step beyond and have brought me pillows, presents, and books, or have swept, done dishes or dusted . . . I can’t express the gratitude. How delightful it is to see the different gifts that are offered to me during this time. I am experiencing abundance and grace.
Reframing is how you begin the practice of implementing gratitude into your daily life. It’s the starting point. And it’s very key. To begin to flip the entire situation and look for what is good isn’t a natural skill for all of us. But when we can see the good, however small, then we can give thanks. As we give thanks, we begin to change our brain and more importantly we are obedient and in alignment for how our Creator wants us to live.
Know that what you focus on expands with your attention. If you see gratitude, name it, express it and feel it, then something begins to loosen up inside of you. Your breathing evens out; your attitude changes and you remember what’s important in life. You remember that you have everything you need for every situation right now, right in this moment.
And this moment is perfect – just as it is supposed to be.
Try it. Write down one thing that isn’t going well or going the way you want it go. What’s tripping you up? Flip it. How can you reframe this event or life situation? Where do you see God in it still caring for you, still providing, still with you as you walk through what you are facing?
Example: my boss is a controlling and focused on what is best for him or her instead of the team, and we don’t agree on anything. Reframe: I intend to love my boss and show nothing but love for him/her. He/she is my teacher. My task is to be love regardless of how I am treated. I am grateful for the opportunity to practice loving. When I choose to love, I become more like Him – he who made and loves absolutely everyone.