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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Through Eyes of Gratitude

I walked into a counselor’s office about 10 years ago and waited for her to tell me something wise, comforting; ultimately waiting for her to tell me what to do.  I had lost my husband to cancer a few years prior and my best friend a couple years after that.  As far as I could tell there was only one way and that way was up.  I sat in Lynn’s office for what seemed like an eternity hoping for those life-giving words.  In one session I was determined to find out all I needed to know to move on, to move up and to step out with my new attitude.  It didn’t happen that way.  It took several months of questioning and trying to make sense of it all.  She didn’t give me any answers.  In fact, she made me answer my own questions.  Lynn was only a sounding board and a very good one at that.  But there was one session that was pivotal for me.  The holidays were nearing and the intensity of my pain and loneliness were suddenly overwhelming.  I walked in her office that day and said, “I hate the holidays”.  She grinned and said, “what did the holidays do to make you hate them so much?”  That was it, I knew my counselor was a colossal smart ass and for the first time I became angry; verbally and visibly angry.  It turns out that is just what I needed to do.  Lynn asked me that day for the rest of the hour to begin naming things that I was thankful for.  For several minutes the only thing heard in that room were the faint voices of people across the hall.  Finally through tear-filled eyes I began to whisper one by one things that I was thankful for.  I started with naming my little dog, Blackie and continued to name things for the next ten minutes or so.  I stopped and looked up as Lynn placed in my hand a piece of paper with a list of all the things I had mentioned.  She told me to take that with me wherever I went and when I started to feel sorry for myself I was to keep adding to that list.  This seemed like a crazy idea but it is the single thing that I have carried with me all these years.  It seems as though gratitude was just what the doctor ordered.  My sadness didn’t end overnight and it wasn’t an easy climb out.  Giving thanks, though, changed my perspective and gave me a reason to keep moving forward. 

Sometimes, still, I get caught up in thinking about the things I have lost, the friendships that have faded with time and distance and those things that I wish I had.  When this happens I think of my counselor and friend Lynn Boeyink, who lost her own battle with cancer a year ago and I give thanks.  I give thanks for all that I have been given over time; friendships, family, pets, nature and so much more.  Sometimes I am simply thankful to be alive.

Today as we begin the holiday season, let’s be mindful of those who may not be able to see through the eyes of gratitude.  Let’s be their eyes and when they can’t see past their pain, let’s listen with our hearts as they express their sadness and give thanks for and with them.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

Amy Lynn Michael

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