Finding the Gratitude
I recently read in a weekly publication about a retreat encampment named Mount Misery. In that area there is a Mount Misery Brook and a Mount Misery Road. The author of the article wrote how this road goes on and on and is rumored to never stop.
When I read this, it struck me. It is so easy to get stuck on that road of misery. Like getting stuck in quicksand, misery can suck me in with seemingly no way out. My quicksand is called self-pity.
I can easily fall prey to self-pitying thoughts. They tell me to look at my life. I have so many challenges. There are so many areas that are so rough. I’ve been through so much in the realm of sickness and death. Who sat shivah four times by the time she was in her early thirties?
But I always knew that I didn’t want to live on Misery Road. I want to feel content and happy. I don’t want to be that bitter and rancorous person. I have had a lot of challenges, and today I continue to go through challenging times. But turning myself into a victim will never bring me the joys that life has to offer. And there are a lot of them.
I can be very cynical at times. I’ll read about how a person responded with gratitude toward Hashem for something small in the most painful situation. My thoughts are usually along the lines of I don’t believe it or she was trying to pretend to be this great person.
But then I realize that that is exactly the path to serenity I crave. Why Hashem has chosen me for such challenges, I do not know. But even in the middle of painful times, Hashem has shown me that He is here for me. I just have to make the decision to find him.
I started focusing on my gratitude toward Hashem with very specific examples. Yes, I am grateful for my children. But I feel so much more gratitude to Hashem when I realize the specific things about my children that I am grateful for: two children playing nicely together creating a warm scene; an adorable comment that a child makes; a good PTA report.
I am grateful that B”H I am healthy. But when I watch a person who has difficulty walking I become so grateful for my ability to walk without any problems. I become grateful that I have my full mobility. I can go and come, drive or walk as I please. The same is true with my sight. I am grateful for my eyesight. But when I focus on what I am seeing, my gratitude increases.
Having an unexpected expense can make me feel very nervous. But when we have an extra expense and I feel calm, I am grateful for that serenity. When a friend is making a simchah, and I can feel real happiness for that person, I am grateful that I can feel true joy. If I see a relative making a choice I would not make, I am grateful when I am able not to judge and to maintain my inner peace.
Feeling gratitude to Hashem brings me to a level of serenity that I always want to have. I don’t know if there is a street with the name Gratitude Road. But if there is, I will choose it over Misery Road any time.