“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” -Jean Baptiste Massieu
Several months ago I was invited by the man I was newly seeing to come to one of his meditation classes. He’d been going through an incredibly tumultuous and painful time in his personal life; he realized that his family unit, which he had always seen as perfect, was human and flawed. That seemed to break something in his spirit.
He turned to mediation as a source of re-centering himself. In addition to the deep breathing, one of the cornerstones of meditation practice is gratitude—finding at least one thing every day to be thankful for.
He had told me it was a “bring a friend day.” After entering, we saw three other pairs of people and the group leader gathered around a table.
The first pair was two women in their forties. They had been best friends since college and had remained close for over 20 years.
One of them shared how through past illness and family strife her friend had never left her side. They laughed about margarita nights until dawn and how the other always picked up the phone. Where one woman stopped, the other picked up. They were grateful for their cultivated and cared for sisterhood.
The second pair was two older men. They were neighbors and friends who had grown up together. One wanted to share his gratefulness for the other’s steadfast support through his divorce, and for always offering a welcome place for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
He spoke about the difficulties he faced in not being with his children and his appreciation for having his friend to turn to. Face to face he turned to his friend and thanked him for his family’s constant support, for without them he didn’t feel he would have made it.
The third pair was a mother and son. The mother wanted to remind her son how special and important he was, not only to her but to everyone around him. She recognized that his recent past had been marred with difficulties and let downs. She knew he felt broken and hurt; she held his hand as she thanked him for letting her be a support and nurture him. She was grateful to see her son’s smile again.
The last pair was me and the man I’d been seeing for only a couple months. He wanted to appreciate our growing trust and support in each other.
He appreciated that I showed patience in his slow approach to communication and that I encouraged him. He’d had a different experience growing up than I did—my family said everything on their mind the moment they felt it—so it meant the world to me that he wanted to communicate with me, and he acknowledged his gratitude in this way.
The man who was going through so much in his own life took the time to reach out and show me thanks, simply for caring. I was blown away by the unexpected validation.
I’d recently dealt with a series of blows that had left me feeling weak: the passing of a friend, numerous graduate school rejections, and building anxiety towards next life steps. His taking the time to share his gratitude with me pulled me up and opened my eyes.
The verbal recognition of affection and appreciation stopped my uneasiness in its tracks, allowing me to exhale and smile. That feeling of peace is still palpable.
Soon after “gratitude day,” he left on an international expedition to re-focus himself for several months. He said he left because he didn't feel invested in his work, but over his time he realized he was trying to come to terms with the upheaval in his family. Sadly, he came back and the family tumult was still painfully present if not augmented, giving him with what seemed like a heavier burden to bear.
When he returned we decided that we couldn’t continue our relationship with his current need to put all his energy into himself. Yet I feel grateful for him.
I value his strength, his need to pause, his vulnerability, his readiness to try, his willingness to fail, and his decision to take the time to heal. I admire his love for his family and his constant need to push himself. I recognize that today is difficult and tomorrow may also be, but I know that he of all people can forge ahead.
I know he feels lost right now. He’s overwhelmed, confused, and searching for his next step. Though I know that there is nothing that I can do to help, I can tell him how lovable and capable he is, and give him that tangible peace of knowing he’s appreciated.
How many people around you every day would appreciate your gratitude? Is there someone around you who could use a validation? Family, friends, colleagues—a little appreciation can go a long way. In all the tumult and busyness in our lives, those pockets of peace mean the world and hold power of balance much longer than the words hang in the air.
I often find myself, in moments where I feel overwhelmed, closing my eyes to bring myself back to that moment of pure happiness in feeling appreciated.
Who do you treasure and why? Who made a bright spot in your day or maybe needs a bright spot in theirs? Reach out and verbalize your gratitude; renew your spirit with the giving of thanks. You may be surprised at to how life sends it back.
Photo by Picture This /Patty