This month contains the 31 Blessings fundraiser for Friends After Diagnosis and, at this point in time, raffle tickets have been sold and winners are being notified. What a positive theme for encouraging donations, and what a creative way to encourage all participants to focus on gratitude. Focusing on gratitude in the middle of cancer, or any serious life event, can be challenging!
We all need to start with where we are at the moment. When we’re in a negative frame of mind, sometimes the only way to connect to a sense of feeling blessed is to list all the bad things that aren’t happening to us such as: I didn’t wrap the car around a tree today, none of my kids are in jail, I haven’t been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s yet, there’s been no tsunami today. The more outrageous the items are, the better they work as a mood elevator, because they are blessings by virtue of not having happened.
Sharing this list with someone will help dull negativity, produce laughter, and have you feeling better than when you started. Sometimes we need to focus on what hasn’t happened to us to appreciate the joys of our ordinary life. What a wonderful difference it would make if we could consistently recognize the blessings in our own life without being nudged to do so by the news of other people’s sorrows.
Sometimes it takes losing something or someone before we realize how much we value that thing or person. The author Jami wrote, “We can spend a whole lifetime enjoying various benefits and not appreciate their value until we are deprived of them.” Those of us with cancer stories know we took our health for granted until we faced our diagnosis and our own mortality.
My cancer diagnosis was an eye opener to a long list of things and people I had taken for granted. In the book Attitudes of Gratitude, M.J. Ryan writes, “Failing to appreciate what we had until it’s too late leads to regret, one of the most insidious negative feelings there is. Regret is a poison that keeps us in a past filled with… if only…if only.” To eliminate regret she practices what she calls retroactive gratitude, which has two parts. First, she takes time to consciously thank the person she is experiencing belated gratitude for with a call, note, email, or text. Second, she takes time for an intense look at her present life to determine what she might be taking for granted.
Although we don’t know if being grateful would have changed the outcome of past experiences, what we do know for sure is the more we give thanks for what and who we have now, the fewer our future regrets will be. M.J. Ryan sums it up with this statement, “Let the fact of our regret send us into the world with ever more appreciation for the gifts we have been given, and a commitment to communicate that appreciation as often as possible.”
I am making a list of people I want to express appreciation for today and I’m going to start with all of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your group. Thank you for your powerful female energy that embraces everyone with the same deep caring. Thank you for being willing to share your stories and let your vulnerability show. Thank you for welcoming emotions so we can both laugh and cry together. Thank you being real – no pretending everything is fine when it isn’t. Thank you for acknowledging the importance of each person’s journey, and thank you for working together for the benefit of the whole. My life is richer because of all of you!
We are now halfway through our month of 31 blessings – what a perfect opportunity to practice the pleasure of expressing our gratitude for daily blessings. Let’s see them, name them, pray them, and celebrate them together.
Until Next Time – Sylvia