“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the
highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
-John F. Kennedy
As the holidays approach, the very idea of being with family can cause stress, overwhelm, and anxiety rather than nurture the joy and gratitude we long to experience. Emotional triggers abound and it can be challenging to see that the very wounds and weaknesses we have inherited from, and experience within, our family are also the sources of our strengths and wholeness.
When I was a child, Pollyanna was a popular movie that I loved. It influenced me mostly in subconscious ways, and yet, I remember the movie vividly. What I remember most was Pollyanna’s attitude towards life as well as her imagination. As a child I didn’t know the word for this was gratitude.
Even years later when people come to me and speak of very difficult things, my mind goes to the positives in the situation. Even with myself, after a bit of time to assimilate what has happened, I almost always begin to see the good things in what has happened.
I worked with a client the other week who is having a very difficult time with her mother even though her mother has passed on. In truth, her life situation was a difficult one. Her mother was depressed, overwhelmed, and left alone a lot by her husband. Her parents had a tumultuous relationship. Her mother’s father died when mom was pregnant with her. Mom was very close to her dad and so became very depressed at the time, and already had two little ones and one coming in a few months.
Without going further into her story, I can say that as much as we might have difficulty with our mother’s and feel we hate them and dislike them, we also have a yearning for them; at least most of us do. This yearning affects us all throughout life.
As my client and I worked together, she began to see that in order to let her mother go, she had to first be able to let her in. And sometimes, we have to start with the right distance between us and our mothers. We have to be close enough to them, and yet also far enough to feel safe. This can be quite a challenge, and yet is very rewarding.
As my client began to do this, she also began to see that as difficult as things were, not only does she have life from her mother, and therefore her own children, she also has a calling. Her calling is working with parents and young children and babies. The silver lining, or the gratitude, is that without the very difficulties she has had with her mother, she wouldn’t have the strengths and the calling that add so much to her life.
Life is like that. By accepting what has happened in a spirit of gratitude, we open unexpected channels inside of us that lead us to fuller lives and deeper meaning. If you haven’t already, I recommend you see the movie, Pollyanna. It is a Disney movie made in the late 1950’s. While I am not suggesting we forget what has happened, or pretend things didn’t happen, I am just suggesting that we open ourselves up to what is possible through the power of gratitude.
Small Lifestyle Changes that Produce Big Results:
Choose an object, symbol, or figurine that represents you and one that represents someone you are having difficulty with.
Place your symbol on a table where it feels right, and then place the other person’s symbol on the table. Keep moving the objects or symbols until the distance between the two feels right and safe and you can breathe deeply.
As you imagine yourself standing and looking at your mother, or whoever you are feeling challenged by, make sure this is the correct distance between you. You should feel calm and should be able to breathe deeply in this place.
Look at this person and imagine saying what you need to say to her/him; just the truth, without drama. It could be something like this: at this distance I can feel close to you or can look at you. It is too hard and not safe for me to be closer. Then, just breathe, and look at him/her.
Just finding the right space and distance is very important as it helps us to accept them and us just as we are, and with the feelings just as they are at this minute in time. Feeling gratitude for being able to find the right distance between us is important as it allows us to see them and ourselves more clearly and with the right boundaries. It is here that we can truly begin to feel grateful for having the gift of life!