Yesterday, I wrote a “nice” gratitude post listing 7 things I’m grateful for. Today, I promised you a “naughty” one.
This is a difficult list to write, but once you master the art of writing this type of twisted list, you free yourself from the painful energetic bondages of the past. When you can deeply feel the truth of this list, your energy shifts from helpless victim to powerful co-creator. It not only brings you into a state of appreciation and acceptance of the horrid experiences you’ve had, but it also transforms your painful stories (and life!) into redemptive, transformative stories that serve you instead of keeping you stuck in the past.
Before we begin, there are two approaches you can take to this.
The first is the “good spiritual student” approach where you try to keep things loving and Zen and peaceful. This works best if you’re authentically feeling the appreciation inside and the feelings of anger, resentment or bitterness have given way to forgiveness, understanding and compassion. If you’re not feeling the “good spiritual feelings” when writing your list, I recommend going for the second approach. It’s more authentic and true to how you’re feeling in the moment. Otherwise, it’s a good try, but the Universe reads your energy, not your words. So while it’s a nice exercise to write appreciative, loving words when you don’t really feel it, it’s not of great benefit.
The second is the “good spiritual student but still f***ing human with feelings, goddammit” approach. As the name suggests, this approach is a bit more fun. You get to be real and let it all out. You get to hold on to a bit of anger (if you insist), while working toward releasing it with a new, redemptive story. The goal here is to be honest with how you feel but shift the majority of your focus and vision on the transformative aspects of the experience, rather than dwelling on the pain, injustice or wrongness of it. Warning: this type of approach might result in a list with a lot of expletives.
There’s also a third approach, but it’s a combination of the two above. There may be some things on your list you’ve fully worked through and are in the Zen stage of it, and then there’s still a thing or two that needs more light and healing, because you’re a f***ing human with feelings goddammit, and sometimes humans want to hold on to pain a little longer even though they know better. Either way, it’s still your right to hold on or let go when you’re ready.
If you’re a little confused, don’t worry, once you read my list below, you’ll understand fully. Let my experiences be your example and reflect on ways in which they could apply to you too.
So let’s get started…. Here are 4 things I’m grateful for, goddammit.
1. All the f***ing guys who ever lied, cheated and otherwise wouldn’t commit to me
Relationships have been a big struggle for me in the past. I dated nice guys, but they were unwilling to commit to me. After a while, they ended up having trysts with other women during our relationship. It was a repeating pattern with me and has taken a really long time to break. I’m 48 now and in a committed relationship with an incredibly loyal, honorable and integritous man whose world revolves around me and his daughter.
Because of these past relationships, I learned that I needed to commit to me first instead of using the other person to prove I was good enough to be commitment worthy. It wasn’t until I finally committed to myself that I found the man of my dreams who would commit to me.
Because these guys truly were good, nice guys, I learned that sometimes we can unwittingly affect other people’s energies with our own unresolved energy and I also learned that love, compassion and understanding go much further for all involved than anger, blame and resentment, though sometimes it takes a while to get there. And that’s okay.
Because of the immense pain of these experiences, I was forced to go deeper into understanding myself and how I contributed to the situations with my own energy, expectations and beliefs, which caused me to grow and evolve and become more self-aware. This is probably the greatest gift I received from my past relationships.
2. My emotionally absent, alcoholic dad
My struggle with my father was epic. He’s the only person in my life I’ve ever disowned. Most people know me as very easy going, forgiving and loving. I inherently understand why people act the way they do, even though I may not agree with them, and I get along with everyone, even that super annoying person no one else likes. So when I disown someone, it’s big. My story with my dad goes beyond the scope of this list, but for the sake of not writing a book today, I’ll keep it to the most important lesson.
Because hating someone I’m supposed to love tears me up inside, and my many attempts at trying to change him so that it would be easier for me to love him failed (never try this at home, it doesn’t work), I had no choice but to go deeper into my pain so I can understand it, myself and my dad more. It took me 4 decades of struggling with my love/hate feelings for my dad before I could come out on the love side consistently and dissolve the hate and anger. He’s my greatest teacher in unconditional love. My mom taught me unconditional love by example, my dad taught me unconditional love by force. If I wanted to make peace with our relationship, I was forced to reach deep down inside myself and find the place where unconditional love lives and pull it out with all my might and strength. But once a person finds that holy place within them, they can never lose it again. Finding unconditional love within you is beyond heavenly, and this is the greatest gift my dad gave me.
3. My dark decade of the soul
I existed in a state of darkness and depression, borderlining suicide for a little over a decade. It’s a miracle I’m alive today to write about it, let alone appreciate it. At a time when kids are turning 21 and having the time of their lives, carefree, partying and unjaded by the harshness of years, I spent my 21st birthday alone on the sand at a beach in Southern California, looking into the sunny sky and praying for mercy from a God I didn’t believe in, to take my life and along with it, my pain and suffering.
Because of my many years of depression, I experienced deep suffering. When you exist alone in the blackness at the bottom of your suffering long enough, you start to discover that there’s no end to you, despite your best efforts or prayers. While that may not seem like a good discovery for someone who’s lost in their suffering, the truth is it’s an amazing gift, only revealed to those who’ve endured the dark trenches long enough to get to that depth. When you go that deep, you find your true self – the self beyond the suffering. You learn what you’re made of and you connect to a part of the divinity that created you. In some ways, it’s like a rite of passage to the kingdom of heaven, reserved only for those courageous enough to withstand the pits of hell. Deep suffering is not mandatory, of course, to get there, and there are infinite paths to God, but this way seems a little more special after having been through it. This happens to have been my path and I’m richer, fuller, deeper and more in love with life because of it.
4. The respected expert who told me I should remove all references to “empath” in my writings
When I first started my business, I managed to secure an interview with a famous, well-respected expert in the field of high sensitivity. I looked up to her (still do) and was beside myself that someone of her stature would agree to be interviewed by little ol’ me. The morning of the interview, I received an email saying she looked at my website, and due to my many references to “empaths”, she did not want to be associated with me publicly.
This is a leading scientist in the field of sensitivity and while I was crushed emotionally, I understood her point of view. “Empath” is too out-there, too woo-woo for a person of science to be endorsing, even indirectly. I emailed her and poured my heart out, not expecting a response back. But she did respond. This started a relay of emails back and forth, both of us sharing from the heart, respectfully, and creating a once-in-a-lifetime connection I’ll always cherish.
Because of this experience, I’ve learned the power of letting people down gracefully, which she did for me. She made me feel validated, heard and understood, even though she didn’t change her mind about the interview. I learned that you can stand your ground without pushing someone else down. You can both stand firm on the ground and respect each others’ wishes, even if they conflict.
I also learned that it’s better to make decisions when you’re more of your calm, grounded self, rather than when you’re lost in your ego’s thoughts and feelings. At first, I was offended, hurt and angry. If I reacted in that moment, I might’ve written an angry email back. But instead, I waited until the initial sting of it went away and then decided to write back from a place of honesty and respect.
This experience confirmed to me that I can still forge my own path in my business without having to follow other people’s paths as long as I remain true to who I am while being respectful to others. If you’re starting out in your own business, or you already have one, or if you’re a creator of any artistic endeavor, stay true to who you are and what’s meaningful to you. Respect other people’s work, keep your ego out of the way, and act from a place of dignity, honesty and grace. You will always succeed if you follow this rule.
Now, what about you?
What’s your “Worst. Gratitude List. Ever”?
I urge you to take some time to reflect on your painful past experiences and write a list such as the above, so you can begin to heal those old wounds and move toward a redemptive life of peace, joy and meaning.