№ 27 ☼ Gratitude ☼ Mindfulness ☼ 674 words ☼ 3 minutes
Our tiny home is under construction and our lives are in transition. Though we are excited about the next chapter, the changes are not easy. Because of all the construction, we needed to move out of our home into a studio apartment. We’re a family of five now living in about 400 sq. ft. It’s very, very cramped.
My wife’s parents own our house and the studio we now occupy. They generously give us a great deal on rent so that we can stay in California and enjoy our wonderful neighborhood. They’re doing all the construction on our home, adding a master bedroom, a second bathroom, an office, and a pantry. They’re updating the house with new flooring, paint, and window fixtures. These upgrades will be life-changing for us. Especially that second bathroom.
Moving out of our home was hard because life has already been unstable lately.
I’ve had severe mental health problems. Our friends and family are suffering in their health and finances. My kids are at a new school, struggling to adjust, and my heart hurts for them. My wife is still recovering from a back injury. Though I love my job, I often feel inadequate. All of that, plus a pandemic, has made life incredibly difficult.
Even the slightest increase in stress is overwhelming. It was important to me to have a consistent, stable home. Being in transition, crammed into a studio, even temporarily, feels like too much.
When I get overwhelmed, I get irritable. Recently, I was sitting in our living room/kitchen/bedroom, over-dramatically complaining about our situation, when I had one of those rare moments of clear self-perception. I could hear how I sounded, and I felt ashamed.
You see, we haven’t paid for any of the work to our home. It is a gift from my in-laws. I am so grateful for them and their generosity. But I had let my wrong thinking and frustration ruin my appreciation for their kindness. I started whining. My gratitude had evaporated.
Though we recently celebrated Thanksgiving, I had already mentally moved on, settling into a mindset of selfish entitlement.
Once gratitude left my heart, my entire outlook became warped. I stopped seeing the gift. I could no longer perceive beyond my felt suffering.
Yes, the move is inconvenient. But it is a blessing, first and foremost. And that is where I want to dwell: in thankfulness for the blessing.
True gratitude must be accompanied by a willingness to cheerfully endure trivial inconveniences. Otherwise, anything we perceive as wrong, unfair, or annoying will demand our attention and dictate our mindset, causing gratitude to fade.
It is all a matter of perspective.
We get so wound up over things that wouldn’t upset us at all if we simply perceived them differently. When our thinking turns sour and gratitude is absent, we fail to see reality correctly.
A change of perspective does not necessarily solve our inconveniences or end our suffering. And we cannot dismiss reality as if it causes us no pain. That is toxic positivity. We must allow ourselves to feel the hardship. It is ok to be annoyed, stressed, or overwhelmed. But we do not need to stay there.
How we navigate suffering is important. We need right thinking and right seeing so that we can be mindful of all things, good and bad. We must not forget to perceive goodness during hardship. Being mindful allows us to see beyond our difficulties.
Hardship, suffering, and inconveniences are opportunities to remind ourselves that we have many good things. The difficulties of life often lead to moments of beauty. We can only see the beauty if we are mindful of it, remembering that it exists regardless of our circumstances.
The constant position of our hearts ought to be one of thankfulness and appreciation. And when we face even greater adversity, we will not be shaken. We will be in the habit of being mindful of the goodness, beauty, and hope that remains.
That is the perspective we should all pursue, regardless of our circumstances.
There is a song that plays on a local TV commercial and it has been running through my mind as I write these words. The lyrics wrestle with the tension of feeling beaten down by circumstance yet choosing to be thankful.
It’s a good song to have saved for those times when your heart needs a lift ❤️
Thank you / Jeremy Lister Sometimes it’s hard to see when it’s right in front of me but it will set me free When I say thank you thank you for all I’ve got today thank you, thank you oh, say it to the sunshine tell it to the blue sky thank you, thank you thank you
"How we navigate suffering is important. We need right thinking and right seeing so that we can be mindful of all things, good and bad."
These lines are so poignant and necessary Joel. I for one is extremely against toxic positivity where we use pseudo spirituality to bypass the hardships we face. I think what you said is so important because you encouraged us to acknowledge our current circumstances and then be grateful for the beauty in it that we are missing because of our complaining inner monologue. Thank you for writing this. Deeply Grateful.
Give my love and prayers to your wife as she heals from her injury. Merry Christmas to you and family!
Joel, thank you for the perspective adjustment…I needed to hear that. Merry Christmas my friend!