Trying to see the good is sometimes so hard for me. So I decided to devote a good chunk of time to at least trying to switch into seeing more of the good in my life, and having more gratitude.
This is what I did as part of my most recent six hour ‘only say thank-you-athon’:
I first warmed up with a whole bunch of genuine thanks for many of the blessings in my life. I thanked God for my husband, my kids, my health, my home, my ability to type, my ability to think, my ability to write, hot water in the shower, food in the fridge, clean socks living right near to the Kotel etc etc.
I first did that for two hours, because I knew the next part was going to be much tougher: saying thank you for the things that have caused me a lot of pain and heartache over the last few years.
I decided to do a mind-map of all the hard stuff I wanted to say thank you for, so that I could go through each item one by one, thank for it, and then try to see what good had actually come out of it.
I’m not going to share the whole list with you (because let me tell you, I used the biggest bit of paper I had and I still had to write small), but I wanted to share some of the highlights, because it was an amazing exercise to do and I hope maybe it will inspire you to do your own version.
So on my massive bit of paper, some of the ‘lacks’ I wrote down were as follows:
- Professional success and accomplishments
- My own home
- Old friends and new friends
- Family support and financial help
- A bath
- A community
First, I said thanks for all these ‘lacks’.
Then, I started to break them up into all the different elements of ‘lack’ I felt they represented.
- When I left my career, I went from earning loads of money to earning barely anything; I also lost a lot of social status, and I struggled for years to find a sense of purpose. (thanks, God!)
- Ironically, I’ve moved so, so many times in my life, but I hate moving, and always have daydreams of settling down in my own cosy home. When we burned through all our house money, that meant we no longer had a deposit to be able to afford to buy a house again. So even though my husband is now back at work, it seems as though I’m going to be stuck renting forever. (thanks, God!)
- It’s pretty lonely where I live. No-one ever pops in to say hello, and I have no friends within a 20 minute walk of my home. (thanks, God!)
- Someone was telling me about someone they know whose parents helped them buy a flat outright in Jerusalem, so they can continue learning without having to worry about paying rent – and I got so jealous. (thanks, God!)
- I have to get to my mikva 40 minutes ahead of shkia to make sure I get dibs on the only bath, and then I have to clean it like a crazy person because I have germ issues…(thanks, God!)
- I don’t feel I ‘fit’ anywhere. I’m not part of any community. I don’t have that sense of belonging anywhere. No-one invites me for Shabbat, and I have very few people locally that I can invite, too. I have nowhere to daven. (thanks, God!)
Ready for the magic to begin?
After I’d spent some time sincerely saying thanks for these (and a few hundred other) things, God started to show my something amazing: why it was actually the best outcome it could be for me.
Here’s a taste of what I started to get:
- Once I got out the secular rat-race, it freed me up to really start learning and living about life differently. As a result, I’ve already written 5 books, I have 3 blogs, and I’m on a mission to share what I’ve learnt with others. I’m SO much happier writing about emuna and God-based holistic health than I was writing speeches for ministers about why everyone needs a pension.
- If we’d have bought that flat 2 years’ ago, we’d be so miserable right now. I’m not sure I’m in the right place, and until I know where I really will be happy, and who I really am (which is getting closer all the time…) it’s much better for me to have the freedom to rent. When I know where it’s really good to settle down, THEN God will give me the money for a house.
- Do you know how much I get done on an average day? It’s mindboggling…and there’s no way I could write so much, so fast, if I had more people to talk to in the day. People actually go away for 6 month retreats to write, and here, God gave me that peace and quiet in my own home.
- When you don’t have others to rely on, you have to turn to God for your needs. You have to trust Him much more. You have to really live your emuna that God’s looking after you. It is really, really nice to have parents support you if they can afford to do that, but if they can’t (or won’t), it’s because God wants you to deal direct.
- You know, I am going to appreciate having a bath again SO MUCH when it happens. Also, it’s taken my OCD tendencies down a notch, because there’s only so much cleaning you can do before someone starts banging on the door and asking when you’re coming out.
- I was a wannabe charedi person when I moved to Jerusalem. Now, I learned I’m not. If I’d found a community of lovely people back then, I’d be stuck trying to fit in when it wasn’t really the right mode for me. God saved me a lot of hassle by not making me have to choose between being true to myself and having friends. The community will come when I know what it is I really need and want.
How’s that for amazing?
At the end of the process, I stopped carrying that grudge around with me that’s been weighing me down for years, already. I know I have to carry on working my gratitude, but it really was a huge weight off to know that God doesn’t secretly have it in for me; that Rav Arush was right about everything (including doing six hours, moving to Jerusalem, and saying thank you); and that life is coming good, even if the ‘good’ isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
“I said thanks, and I saw miracles!”