It’s easy to be grateful when we get things that we want. If someone gives us a beautiful gift or cooks us a delicious meal, it’s natural to smile and to thank them and to feel real gratitude. But what about when the things we get aren’t what we asked for, or even something we actively dread? Can we find the strength to be grateful for things we get that we never asked for?
Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in all the things we don’t have, all the things we wish we had. When my marriage fell apart, I felt lost and unloved. I felt angry and hurt and defeated. And I can tell you that gratitude was definitely not a feeling it even occurred to me that I could feel again.
But I had children who needed me, and I had friends and family who rallied around me and loved me when I didn’t feel that I could love myself. And they helped me recover my joy, my peace, and most importantly, my feeling of gratitude. I learned to be grateful for my friends’ love and support, for my children and their needs, and even for my own pressing need to get to work and sort out all the loose ends that a divorce leaves behind.
I will forever be grateful for the way my friends and family brought me back to myself. I can even be grateful, now, for the end of my marriage and the fullness of the life that recovering from it brought me.
Our obligations to ourselves and to each other and our society can too often feel like a burden, but they really are a gift. Without those ties that bind us together, nothing would work. Without the love and labor of thousands of people you’ll never meet, you wouldn’t have the sandwich you ate for lunch yesterday, or the car you drive, or the clothes you wear. Take a moment, right now, wherever you are, to thank them, to feel the magic of gratitude. And remember that the work you do helps others that you’ll never meet.
Are there ten things you can think of to feel grateful about today? If that seems like too many, how about five? Sometimes, all you need is one tiny spark—one memory of flowers or smell of fresh bread or an old song unexpectedly heard in a shop or out the window of a car, to light a warming fire of gratitude.
While it’s true that there aren’t any easy answers in life, letting ourselves feel real, unfiltered gratitude is the closest thing to magic I know. Open yourself to gratitude today and let it warm your heart and lift your spirit.