It’s Hard to be Grateful When Life Sucks

I recently went through a pretty tough time. All within a week, my precious Kali kitty needed surgery; I received news that both my knees need to be replaced; my mammogram came back questionable, requiring follow-up tests and procedures (all is well today, thank goodness!); a pipe under my kitchen sink developed a leak; and my combo washer/dryer broke down for good.

My typical response to this kind of proverbial sh*t hitting the fan is to retreat. I cancel my participation in all social engagements, eat food that adds bulk and provides a larger bunting around me, get in bed at two in the afternoon and stay there until the next day, and only allow in a couple of friends who won’t “poor baby” me but will listen when I wail and distract me when I replay the same useless loop of “what ifs.”

Then a dear friend, a writer and teacher said, “Why don’t you write about it?” She was encouraging me to write about the “gratefulness against the many annoyances and disasters of life.”

Gratitude? Feel grateful? I wasn’t feeling grateful at all! I looked inside and saw no gratefulness!

But wait! I’m the Queen of Gratitude. A website even called me a “gratitude expert,” when they published my piece on gratitude last November.

Sure, gratitude can help me get through all the “annoyances and disasters of life.”

But how?

A good way to bring forth gratitude when life looks like a big bowl of sour lemons is to remember the good things that are still working for you. Yes, my washer/dryer broke, but I can drive to a laundromat or borrow a friend’s until mine gets replaced. Yes, I received some very scary medical news, but paying for any appointments, tests, or treatments was not even a concern. In fact, I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for anything.

I went deeper and admitted I was grateful I didn’t need to take out a loan and spend months paying it off to make sure my baby Kali got the treatment she needed. I was also grateful my fur baby had great medical care, including a doctor who made her comfort and well-being a priority.

Regarding the scary time waiting for results from breast cancer tests, I remembered that I’d gone through that experience twenty-five years ago and knew pretty much what to expect. I knew  I’d survive treatment and could put up a valiant effort to do whatever was required. And I was grateful that, with therapy and loving friends, I’d have any amount of support I’d need to make it through. Ultimately, further tests confirmed there was no cancer.

And Rod! Bless his heart, Rod gladly took over getting the stacked washer/dryer unit in my hall closet replaced. It all fit in the tiny space, and it worked beautifully. Before I knew it, I was swimming in gratitude.

And why not project gratitude for future blessings? Let’s take the health care provider who will allow me to get new bionic knees. I haven’t had the first surgery yet, but soon my body will be in the best shape to optimize the replacements.

It can be hard to see the goodness when we’re living in dark times. But that’s when we need gratitude the most. That’s when we must go looking for it. We have to dig deep to see the goodness during situations when we’re more inclined to hunker down and simply wait, in dread and fear, for the other shoe to drop.

I’m not saying a practice of gratitude will solve all your problems, nor will it cure all your ails, or protect you from suffering severe physical and emotional pain. There will always be situations that are too big, too sloppy, too painful, and without resolution.

But gratitude is a coping strategy, not a woo-woo fantasy, that can help you make it through a lot of bad times. It’s free — not a luxury — and it works.