What am I grateful for?

It’s a funny subject for me to choose to write about. Three months ago, I lost my home in a forest fire—and with it just about everything I own. So why in the world would I choose to write on what I’m grateful for when I have so much to be ungrateful for?

The answer, in a nutshell, is about how I wish to view my future. If I permit myself to feel bitter, cynical, angry, hopeless or defeated—or if I were to take this fire personally and interpret my loss as a sign from above or as punishment of past deeds—it would be appropriate for me to curse the sky and to damn the fates.

But if I wish to come out of the fire with my spirit intact, if I wish to look toward the future with a sense of hope and optimism, I have no real choice. I have to look at that part of my cup that’s half full—where I feel hopeful, blessed, abundant and grateful—and figure out how I am going to make lemonade from the ashes of my destroyed world. If I can focus my energies toward how I want to rebuild my life, what I have to look forward to, and stay conscious of the fact that I still have my life, I still have love, and health and a future—I’ll be okay.

That’s where gratitude fits in.

Yes, the fire stings. I lost things that were priceless to me—especially photos and artifacts from my travels around the world, and photos of my family and my childhood. Sixteen years ago I had built the home that burned down. It was my taste, my style, my design, my self-expression and I was extremely proud of it. To lose that home and everything in it is heartbreaking. It just breaks my heart.

But broken hearted or not, I ain’t dead yet, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that fire defeat my spirit or sour me. So I have purchased a new home (I close on it this week), and I am in the process of designing a remodel in order to make the house mine—mine in style, appearance, color and aesthetics—as well as mine psychologically. So yes, I am completely bummed out. But despite my personal trial by fire, there is a future I am looking forward to. A new house, new neighbors, new furnishings, new creative self-expressions, new experiences, new opportunities, different challenges—you get the idea.

And in the midst of a major life upheaval and disruption, there is still so much that I have to be grateful for that it is staggering. I cannot afford to ignore the abundance I have in my life by focusing primarily on what pains me. My task is to lessen my focus on the bummers, and to increase my focus on what is exciting, hopeful, regenerative and future oriented. Part of that change in focus is to look closely at what I am grateful for, because as I start looking for the good, my focus is automatically taken off the bad.

Does any of this sound as if it would be good for you? If so, permit me to guide you about how to change your focus to one of feeling grateful for what you have, who you are, where you’ve been or where you’re heading.

Try this: review the people, events or experiences you’ve had this past year that you’re grateful for, appreciative of or thankful for. Include both the big and the little things. Thank your hands, legs and feet for working so tirelessly to support you and for doing such a wonderful job. Remember the trees, flowers and plants that bring beauty into your life, and offer them your deepest appreciation.

Now reflect on the past 5 years of your life. What happened in this past 5 years that you can be thankful for? Whom did you meet? What did you experience? What happened to you that you’re appreciative of? What opportunities presented themselves to you in the past 5 years? What teachings did you learn from, and what skills did you acquire? Remember to thank your friends, family, clients, customers, children and pets that have added so much depth, warmth, complexity and meaning to your life. Perhaps there were some people of situations that you found difficult or upsetting at the time, but now you see they were just stepping stones to new opportunities for growth or change. Thank them, and offer them your highest appreciation.

Consider the past 20 years of your life. Whom have you known? Perhaps people you no longer see, or who are no longer alive. What has happened to you that you have to be thankful for? What people have done loving, kind or caring things for you? What teachers have impacted you, and what have you learned or mastered? What experiences have occurred in that span of time? What opportunities have unfolded? How have you grown and what have you gained? How are you richer, deeper and wiser as a person? Think of the animals that have touched your life, living or dead, and thank them all.

Gradually bring your consciousness into the present. What do you have to be thankful for and appreciative of today? And could I invite you to look toward the future? You do no dishonor to the past by looking at the future you are interested in creating. Where would you like more abundance in your life? What do you wish to experience, build or achieve that you’re willing to make happen? What new challenges are you interested in? New skills? New relationships—or new ways of being in a relationship? Are you interested in creating a different self-image? What changes do you want in your future that you’re willing to work for?

Don’t just assume that your future will happen on its own. Go out and make that future happen, the same way I’m doing by buying a new house and rebuilding my world after the fire. What other real choice do you have?

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