The idea of “Radical” Gratitude has been rolling around in my head since before Thanksgiving. This is the time of year, from Thanksgiving to the start of the New Year, when many of us ponder the year and the many gifts that it brought us while looking towards the future and what we want to happen for us to be happy. New job, new relationship, better relationship, more money, more time, more in general. The funny thing is, if we are not grateful for what we already have, how can we be grateful for what comes our way? Here’s the radical part–I’m not only talking about all the “good” stuff, I’m talking about the “bad” stuff too.
So what do I mean by radical? Someone who is considered a radical advocates for change against the accepted or traditional, usually in a direct and uncompromising way. Its usually due to a belief that is so fundamental to their being that to not advocate for that change would hurt at a soul level. It would be more difficult to not do it. A radical idea emphasizes getting to the root of the matter; a new way of thinking that is not socially acceptable at this time.
About a year ago a book by Colin Tipping found its way to me called Radical Forgiveness. Essentially what he talked about was that there are two kinds of forgiveness, human and radical. Human forgiveness assumes that someone has done something wrong and needs to be forgiven. This puts someone solely in the role of being a victim, because something was done to them. Radical forgiveness requires a bit of a mind stretch. What if nothing was done TO you, but rather FOR you? What if this other soul agreed before your mutual incarnations to do the difficult task of bringing something into your life so you would have a chance to grow and heal, knowing that it could hurt you emotionally or physically? Wow! Now that is love. You know, if you don’t learn the lesson, the lesson will come back in another form to give you another chance. Over and over again until you learn it.
Apply this idea now to gratitude. What has been coming up for me for the past two months is finding gratitude in those things that cause me such pain and heartache. Most of this is around Bill’s death. Seriously?!? How can I find gratitude in his death?!? What I’m finding gratitude in is not his death, but rather the things that have come as a direct result because of it. And again, not just the “good” things. Though even the “bad” things may be considered “good” at some point, after the lesson has been learned. You might be saying, “Huh? Give me an example please.”
I have been trying to bypass grief. I did it when my mom died, and I was trying to do it again. But guess what? That doesn’t work! Burying the feelings and not feeling them will show up as dis-ease later. And (here’s the kicker) I won’t have learned the lesson. So it will come back again! How has this manifested? I was pushing my feelings down; blocking them. I became very ungrounded. Everyone admired how well I was doing with everything but in reality I wasn’t dealing with it at all. I vacillated between wanting to feel nothing at all and wanting to feel anything but pain. I received a healing that unblocked and opened everything up. That’s when the shit hit the fan! I cried for 4 days straight. I felt like I was falling into a deep dark hole that I couldn’t get out of–it was overwhelming and it scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to be depressed. I wanted to feel joy again– was desperate to feel it. I received more healings and I felt more like myself again.
Riding grief is like riding a wave–it’s up, it’s down, and sometimes it pulls me under. I have to just keep coming up for air. While I’ve been trying to do this, I haven’t done it well at times. I’ve done some pretty stupid things that made me feel such shame and regret. (Look at all those judgments I’m making against myself–not very kind and loving, but I’m working on that too.) I got really drunk one night recently and tried to leave the house. My boys wouldn’t let me. I raged at them. I told them to get the f*ck out of my house over and over again. I actually called the police to have them removed. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m sharing this because I am absolutely mortified at my behavior. So why am I sharing this particularly painful recent event? Because I’m grateful for what that awful evening has gifted me. At BBSH (Barbara Brennan School of Healing) we were give to the opportunity to connect with our anger, to find that place within us that could kill, because we all have it. This may also be pretty radical to some of you reading this. I never really found that place. I couldn’t connect to the anger because it was just too frightening for me. For someone who was always really good at being in mask and only presenting the good in me, going to that place was impossible. But I found it the other night, and I experienced it, and no one died (thankfully). I’m so grateful that my boys and their friend Mitchell loved me enough to make the hard choices. To stand behind my car so I couldn’t drive. To take my keys. To make me go to bed. To listen to me cry myself to sleep. I’m grateful I am here to share this story with you. I’m grateful that I saw the damage my trying to numb myself to my pain could cause others and me. I’m grateful to really feel anger and rage, as ugly as that looked.
I am so angry that Bill died (and my mother too for that matter!) I’m pissed that I’m alone again, that the potential of our relationship was never realized, and that I will have to start all over again at some point. I miss our friendship, his companionship, the physical touch, the love. I even miss the conflict and disagreements because we both grew from it. I’m angry we’re still waiting for the death certificate, so there are still loose ends that need to be tied up. I’m so pissed he left his son, who is just 23, to deal with all of this. This is the human aspect of me, the part that feels every emotion. The other part of me, my spirit or soul, knows that everything happens for a reason. From this part of me I can forgive and find gratitude for all of it.
Now my work begins. I have had to be an adult and apologize to everyone involved; I have amends to make. I see the damage that can occur when I numb my feelings with substances or behaviors. Moving forward I have a choice–I can continue to do what I was doing or I can choose to do something different. Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The results of the other night are not acceptable to me. It’s time for change. To not change this would hurt at a deep soul level. That change starts with forgiving myself, loving that really scared part of me, and finding gratitude in all that has happened.