Rule #5: Find Gratitude
Confession: I have several of these rules already cued up to write about because they are known sources of struggle/practice/success for me. I am still working to explore my own complete personal manifesto, but this one, Find Gratitude, has been up next to write on for some time and I’ve been too busy and distracted to sit down and write. But today, I came across this quote and it’s got me thinking. And writing.
“Never blame anyone in your life. Good people give you happiness. Bad people give you experience. The worst people give you lessons. And the best people give you memories.”
In summary, everyone gives you something worthwhile. And anytime you receive something worthwhile you should be able to find gratitude for it.
In the moment when the bad and worst people you come across are doing their evil little things… meditating on being thankful is likely not possible. But it certainly can be part of your healing and moving on process. It is definitely part of the letting go process. It is an essential part of the forgiveness process.
Being active in finding gratitude during the challenging moment is a practice that I’ve been working on for years. Decades. I still suck at it. But, I know that while I can never hope to control the actions of others, I can absolutely control my reaction to them. This is, perhaps, a rule all on its own, but in the context of finding gratitude, centering your thoughts on the positives of the situation, or what could be positive about it in the future, will help you come to your gratitude faster.
I have found for myself that the biggest barrier to gratitude is perspective. And after what I’ve been through with my family, perspective is something that I’ve had to develop to hold it together. I would like to be a victim of my parents’ actions, the girl who wasn’t good enough to deserve their love and support. I would like to blame them for sabotaging their relationship with my brother and I and denying us a chance to experience the joy of a close-knit family as adults with our own children (or dogs, as it is), and extended families. I would really like to hate them for judging others and not supporting the equality of all people.
But instead, I will be thankful that I am loved by the family that I married, my brother and the family that he married, and all of the friends and their families who have adopted me. Instead, I will be thankful that I know the difference between conditional and unconditional love and never perpetuate this bad behavior. Instead, I will be thankful that I can peacefully live without their judgment upon me or my family, and that civil rights has once again been elevated in this country in hopes that despite the personal judgments of the closed-minded society, it will be unlawful to discriminate against anyone, of any kind, for any reason.
I’ll leave you with a reflection. A letter that I wrote to my Dad for a piece during #reverb14, a prompt that required us to thank someone in your life that hurt you deeply. I meditate on what I wrote that day often to reassure myself that I meant it.
Rule #4: Give the benefit of the doubt
It’s so easy to take things personally. I think it is a natural part of the ego to assume that if someone says something about you that rubs you the wrong way that it’s a negative personal judgment. You are experiencing the world from your point of view, after all. Internalizing everything this way is exhausting though. It’s a very unhappy and unpeaceful way to go about life. It creates drama at every turn. And, in the spirit of Rule #2: Zero Negativity, minimizing drama is the name of this game.
So, there are two major things to keep in mind. First, it’s not enough to think that not all things are about you. It’s better to practice a mindfulness that exactly nothing is about you. Nothing at all. Zippy. The only things that are about you are the things that you think about yourself and the way you conduct yourself. Those are things that are about you because you control them exclusively. You alone are responsible. But, the way other people think about you and the way other people conduct themselves around you are only about them. They are responsible.
This is basic emotional boundary setting. I have struggled with this concept my whole life. Growing up with suppressed emotions left me feeling responsible for nothing- there was nothing really to manage. I was insensitive to the plights of others. And I didn’t really care because it was only fair – if others were insensitive to me, I was fine with that too. My emotional discovery and transformation left me very vulnerable here because the pendulum swung entirely in the other direction and I became sensitive to every action and reaction. Everything said or done meant more than what was just on the surface. I read into everything. Where is the healthy, happy middle ground here? Learning this lesson on emotional boundaries has been extremely helpful recently. In fact, I give the benefit of the doubt so faithfully to everyone that I encounter that I’m at risk to be walked all over for the sake of my steadfast belief that everyone is well intended.
Go on, stomp on my heart. I’m pretty resilient. And I’ll even assume that you didn’t mean to. GAH.
Ideally, everyone would just be appropriate all the time and never say or do anything mean. But we all have moments. And, we don’t ever know everything that another person is going through. Instead of taking something personally, wouldn’t it be much more peaceful to feel confident about yourself and assume that the person expressing negativity is just having a bad day? Likely, that is what is going on. And, if it’s someone close to you and they are having a year’s worth of “bad days” and you’re feeling verbally abused or judged then perhaps a discussion about what the issue is might be in order. Or, a dismissal of said friendship. Life is short, people. Be nice to each other.
The second thing to keep in mind is that except in some rare circumstances, most people are well intended and kind. Those are the people that you’ve hopefully chosen to be active participants in your life. So, if there are any outstanding meanies lurking around it’s time to chuck them in the name of Rule #2. The A-list people in your life would never do anything intentionally to hurt you- a very important thing to keep in mind for those rare times where you do happen to get your feelings hurt. These people that you love, and who love you, always deserve the benefit of the doubt. Because in times where they are hurting or in need, that is when they need your compassion the most. Those aren’t the times to create drama by throwing an unintended insensitivity back at them to deal with.
Compassion first, confrontation last resort. It’s not “Why are you hurting my feelings?” it’s “What is going on in your life that is causing this negativity? Talk to me about it.” In my personal essence of fairness, the new give and take is constant compassion. Do you know how many times you’ve been given the benefit of the doubt from others when you didn’t even know it? I know I’ve been on the receiving end of it more than I’d care to imagine.
1. Be yourself
2. Zero Negativity
3. Say I Love You
4. Give the benefit of the doubt