This past year has definitely challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged before. And honestly for a good portion of the challenges I really struggled. I reacted in ways opposite of how I had hoped or thought I would, I worried way more than I intended too, and I dwelt on the negative far longer than I needed to.
During these past twelve months we found ourselves weaving our way through a complicated school year with a team that included several key players who were inexperienced in working with children with the extent of disabilities our son has. As we navigated the complexities of egos, various personalities and politics in this school setting we also found ourselves facing the unexpected attempted suicide of a very close family member and subsequent downward spiral of our loved one into the throes of severe depression.
Both situations slammed into our family simultaneously with a force we struggled to reckon with.
We were stretched paper-thin as we attempted to advocate for our son and our loved one and we often experienced feelings of hopelessness, despair, and most of all powerlessness.
We have since had resolution on the school front with our son attending a new school this upcoming year that is incredibly experienced and special needs friendly. We are blessed to have this school as our son’s home school and are excited for what this year holds for him there.
We still find ourselves in the depths of advocacy, chaos and feelings of powerlessness that accompany helping a loved one coping with a mental illness and navigating a broken mental health care system.
On the heels of these challenges we took our son in for what was to be a routine MRI to act as a baseline for future MRIs to determine when in the next three to fours years his next open heart surgery would take place only to learn that his heart is already dilated to the point of surgical indication.
We now have an appointment scheduled with a surgeon at the end of this month and are unexpectedly facing an open heart surgery within the year.
Consequently my husband and I both landed in our doctors offices with our own set of health challenges that have been traced back to the overwhelming stress we find ourselves struggling to get a handle on.
Needless to say it has been a really challenging time for our family and one that unfortunately on many fronts we weren’t prepared for and just didn’t see coming.
With all of these challenges hitting us at once I knew I was going to drown if I didn’t find a way to cope.
Recently I was reading the book *Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected by Kayla Aimee and she wrote: “I could not bring myself to give thanks for these circumstances but I could be thankful in them.”
These words were incredibly powerful and heart changing for me.
As we’ve faced the challenges we have this past year I realized I had slowly allowed the seeds of bitterness, anger, and cynicism to grow and overtake my heart. I have hated the situations we’ve found ourselves dealing with and our loved one facing.
And I will never be thankful for the actual circumstances that have taken place, but when I take a look at some of the incredible gifts we have received in the midst of these circumstances I realize that wow there is a lot to be grateful for.
I am so grateful the attempt at suicide was not successful, for people who have gone above and beyond to help our son, that we had the finances to hire an advocate to help us navigate the special education system, friends who have been there to listen, and for our marriage that continues to grow, deepen and strengthen as we navigate these challenges together, plus countless other smaller daily triumphs that I’d overlooked amidst the negative.
After reading those beautifully freeing words from Kayla Aimee’s book I began practicing cultivating a heart and attitude of gratefulness by every evening writing down at least one or two things that happened that day that I am grateful for.
I found that even in the most chaotic of what-the-heck-is-going-on-receiving-of-news-kind-of-days, the practice of daily writing down my gratitude has had a profound effect on my perspective and way of thinking.
There is incredible power in making yourself find something to be grateful for.
A few weeks into my new habit I noticed a complete shift in my mindset when I wanted my thoughts to go down the negative path I was used to.
I found myself disgusted by the negativity.
I realized how much energy I had been carelessly wasting by dwelling on the most negative of the negative that happened or could happen that day and how utterly exhausting negativity really is.
I am now a huge advocate of encouraging the daily habit of physically writing down and acknowledging what you are grateful for every single day, no matter how bad the day was.
If you are facing some tough circumstances this habit will not change your situation, but the change that will take place in your mindset will make all the difference in how you personally are affected and able to deal with the circumstances you are facing.
We are still deep in the trenches with some of our challenges, but the positive impact the habit of daily writing down what I am thankful for has had on my heart, mindset, and energy has been life changing in its own very profound miraculous way.
I pray for all those reading this who are struggling with the exhaustion that comes from having your mind constantly focused and filled with the negative, that you will experience the transforming benefits that come from cultivating the daily habit of practicing gratefulness.
I am with you on this journey of wanting to thrive despite the challenges you are facing and I strongly believe gratitude is a very powerful tool in making that happen.
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