#5: Have a grateful heart
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but
rejoices for those which he has. “~Epictetus
It is the day before Thanksgiving as write this, and I feel a bit ashamed that I have not previously address this important rule for life. Of all the rules that I have shared so far, this one is a rule that I personally try to follow everyday and has been the key to much of the happiness I felt in life.
I find it especially easy to write about this on Thanksgiving-eve, sharing the holiday with all of my children and the love of my life Bobbi. This year seeing her collapse in my arms in the garage, watching my Mother-in-law recover from two major health issues, seeing my Dad get his pace-maker at 80 and Collin be operated on, I am particularly grateful for the simple fact that we are all here together and healthy.
I know that you my children, struggle with your own definitions of who or sadly if God exists. And that although my certainty of the answers to those questions have not yet influence you fully, I do hope I have taught you that you are not in complete control of your life. That regardless of if you understand it to be a higher power or just luck, things in life are not fully in your control.
I picked the quote from the philosopher Epictetus to start this rule because his central themes were about fate, and the understanding that suffering comes from trying to control the uncontrollable and the neglecting the things that are controllable. He believed that happiness in life comes from helping your fellow man navigate through life’s uncontrollable moments.
This year for our family we had many of those uncontrollable moments, as I’m certain that next year will have many more. But one this year has really made me reflect on the importance of gratitude in our lives.
When we discovered that PF Changs switched to Coconut Oil to cook their shrimp just little too late to prevent Bobbi from an allergic reaction and stroke, I realized with certainty what I had to be grateful for and where my heart should be focused. As I watch what could have been one of life’s most alternating moments unfold over the week that followed, I realized that hidden within this terrible, uncontrolled moment was the gift of gratitude.
Life is really good at covering up the important things within it. The necessity of earning a living, feeding a family and doing the laundry of life blind us to the real joys in life. The small annoyances of disappointments and frustrations distract us from the really important things n life. But fortunately, life has a way of giving us instant perspective through its sheer randomise.
As I sat and watch helpless as they loaded Bobbi in the ambulance, unable to speak of walk, I was overcome by both a fear of loss, and what I now realize was as understanding of how grateful I was to have her in my life. It is those moments of loss in our life that cause us to remember what we truly have to be grateful for in our lives.
Now that Bobbi is fully recovered, and sadly has full memory ( I was hoping that she would forget about me accidentally setting the side of our house on fire ), I now understand more fully the importance of gratitude in my life. I wake up every morning now, regardless of if had an argument of disagreement the night before, grateful that I can see her. Grateful for both the fact that she can be upset at me falling asleep in front or the TV, as I am grateful to see her smile…that moments of happiness and upset can exist and I am very thankful for both, because of what will be know in our family forever more as the “Coconut Shrimp Incident” have taught me about gratitude.
As you go through life I hope you peer through very few ambulance windows, but know that if you embrace life fully you will have much that you will lose along the way. Life has a way of using both uncertainty and limited shelf life of everything to teach us the lessons of gratitude.
So with this Thanksgiving, and all future Thanksgivings..I ask that you learn with me everyday how important the gift of gratitude is in our lives. We have so much to be Thankful for…