Years ago, I married a man I loved. I thought we’d live happily ever after, but instead, I found myself entangled in an emotionally abusive union that was destructive and painful. I somehow found the courage to leave and end the marriage, but in its wake I found myself heartbroken, devastated, and depressed.
As I struggled to recover, a dear friend gave me The Simple Abundance Journal and suggested I take up its challenge to write down 5 things I was grateful for each day. A companion to the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the purpose behind the journal is to cultivate a grateful heart and find joy in the little things. I wasn’t finding joy in much at the time, so I figured it was worth a try. Honestly, I was so sad then that I struggled at first to find 5 things to be grateful for each day, and many of those early entries said things like “got through another day” and “cried less than yesterday”. But as I continued to heal, I continued the practice of writing down 5 things each day, and eventually it became easier to fill in those listings. And even though it was a long road to recovery from that experience, that practice of daily gratitude helped me see light where it often felt like there was none.
I’m sure if you’d asked me in those days if I was grateful for that marriage, I would have stared at you blankly or maybe even thought you were crazy for asking. But now, I can honestly say I am grateful for that marriage. It wasn’t what I expected or planned, and it was a painful experience on many levels. But it taught me strength and faith I didn’t know that I had, and I learned a depth of love and support from family and friends I hadn’t experienced previously. Because of it, I have empathy for women who have found themselves in similar relationships, and I developed a sort of radar for people who have abusive tendencies so I can stay as far away as possible and not find myself in that kind of a relationship again. I may not have chosen that experience had I known then what I know now, but I’m truly grateful for what I learned from it all.
Be grateful for everything. Even the sad and terrible things that happen bring lessons and gifts with them, and gratitude is often the key to opening the door to them. It’s easy to be grateful for the good and happy things that happen to us, but gratitude is often needed most in times of pain and darkness. This week, try what I did and note 5 things each day you’re grateful for, and see if that practice helps you. I have a feeling it will.