You expect this post to be about celebrating the small things, cultivating gratitude in your heart, and practicing gratitude during tough times. Spoiler Alert!
On an unassuming Monday afternoon, a standing air conditioner in our home underwent an electrical fault. Within minutes it was on fire, and soon, the entire dining room was engulfed in flames. When my husband noticed and rushed into the house without thinking, the whole place was enveloped in black soot and smoke.
The smoke was so thick it bled and billowed from all windows and doors, and he could not see his hand in front of his face. He bravely (foolishly?) pushed through and managed to make it through the house to close the doors of the remaining rooms, hoping to save them from the fire.
Once the fire was put out. It was time to take stock of the damage. This was impossible for over an hour since we had to wait for the toxic fumes to clear out of the house. It’s a powerless feeling: Looking at your home and standing by while black clouds ooze from every door, window, and crevice.
The absolute devastation of the situation only hit me when I could enter the house and see most of the front part of our house ruined. Black ceilings, soot all over the walls, furniture covered in sticky black powder and pieces of melted plastic, priceless ornaments, and sentimental items burnt and destroyed.
I did not feel a whole lot of gratitude at that moment. Did I have a lot to be grateful for? Absolutely! Somehow my husband managed to put the fire out and stay alive! The rest of the house was reasonably unscathed, we noticed it soon enough to stop it from spreading further, and we could have lost everything.
All of this was going through my mind, mirrored back to me through well-meaning comments and supportive messages. So, what am I saying? Am I mad at the type of support that was verbalized? Am I upset that I could not find gratitude in that moment? Or am I confused by the myriad of emotions running havoc in my mind?
None of the above. The supportive messages we received were such a comfort from magnificent human beings. What made me pause and think was how we have been schooled by society to give support. Society teaches us that support is pointing out the good things, enforcing the positive, and reiterating the “lucky” or the eternal “happy place.” We are no longer comfortable working through and dealing with raw and harsh emotions.
I had an epiphany through this experience, which may still be proven wrong. Although I need to cultivate gratitude and keep a conscious place and space for it in my soul – I cannot always look to it in every situation.
As long as I know it’s there, it’s part of my life and a permanent companion in my mind; I am allowed and encouraged to FEEL my feelings. In this case, it was devastation, hurt, heartache, sadness, frustration, and a “why-did-this-happen-to-me” moment. I was so busy trying to follow the advice of well-wishers and calling upon my beliefs of gratitude that I did not allow the darker feelings to bubble up and flow out of my body.
Days after the fire and countless hours of scrubbing walls, throwing away keepsakes, and dealing with insurance quotes, it caught up to me. This STILL sucks! Yes, the worst did perhaps not happen, but in that moment, it did feel, to me, like the worst did! I felt drained, undeserving of such a mess, and completely unprepared to deal with this kind of destruction.
It was only when I fell into bed exhausted and crying like an Oscar winner in a drama film that I started to see the light again. When I acknowledged how bad this felt to me, how angry I was, and how frustrated I felt.
I realized an important thing that night. Suppose I don’t feel my feelings and get rid of the surface feelings of the moment. In that case, I am filling up the space in my soul that could have been solely occupied by the gratitude that always lives there, right beneath the waves. A constant companion I am familiar with and that I often practice giving space.
I realized that when a traumatic thing happens in my life, it is naturally accompanied by less-than-magical feelings. Keeping this all in and denying that you feel this way all in the name of gratitude or seeing the positive in the situation fills up my proverbial cup with all the wrong things. If I wanted to make sure I could feel the gratitude, I needed to make space for it. And the only way that worked for me was to feel the feelings so I could pass them through my soul and extinguish them from my system.
I am more than just grateful, sad, happy, or forever positive at any given moment. I am human, and I am meant to feel all the feelings to the good ones are so much sweeter and more impactful.
What is your take on gratitude? Should we always go back to our blessings despite the circumstances around us?
Love and Light