Gratitude for the Soul Ravaged ∞ From Trauma to Triumph in Two Little Words
It’s pretty hard to work up to a hearty “Thank You” when you feel like you have been trapped in a BDSM fantasy, sans safe word, since birth.
Or, for that matter, if you just feel that way right now because your life is about as serene as a dysfunctional carnival ride run by the zombie ride operator from hell!
In these situations, all you really want to do is punch somebody long and hard and then get off the ride.
I understand. That zombie ride operator and I have gone a few rounds by now and I’ll tell you a secret:
You can punch that little wide-eyed, soulless ghost rider all you want to. He just gets back up and straps you back in for another round of tummy turbulence.
But he’s got a weakness hardly anyone seems to talk about. In the face of two powerful strategies, he goes down like 500 ton rock falling off of the Golden Gate Bridge.
His zombie-killer kryptonite is your rock solid commitment to your vision for your life and an unwavering gratitude practice.
So, ironically, your weakness in the area of practicing gratitude is one of your whack-job ride operator’s massive strengths. Time to flip that equation, don’t you think?
Feeling a little skeptical on that point?
Sorry to tell you this, but Brené Brown has a PhD and has spent most of her adult life researching things like vulnerability, boundaries, happiness…I am afraid the case has been made!
It’s simple (but not easy). You learn to enact your gratitude practice right in the middle of your most exigent circumstances. You push those two little words, “Thank You,” off the edge of your lips when you least feel like it and when they feel less true than Pinocchio's latest fable.
You don’t even have to mean it. You just have to do it!
Then you prepare for the blow-back.
As those two tiny words reluctantly spill from your mouth, you will probably encounter your fear and hopelessness at the Dante’s Inferno level of intensity. You will likely find that, in this little act of positive will, you encounter every demon you have ever faced and every punishment you ever dreamed you deserve. Every abuse, seduction, disappointment, abandonment and stroke of bad luck you have ever lived through very well could make a guest appearance in your heart for one last, achingly painful whoop de doo.
In other words, party crashers from hell…Expect them!
Don’t fall for the distraction!
This is your moment. It is the moment when you bust the harness, take the riding crop in your own hands, break that little sucker in half and collapse that outmoded BDSM fantasy like the house of cards that it is.
You are entitled to your safe word damn-it! End of story.
I am warning you though! The call of your anguish will be a magnetic presence. It will draw your attention like a big piece of double fudge chocolate cake on day three of your diet.
Arrest your gaze!
Set your eyes on your destination instead. Surrender to the process and resolve to let go of the last remaining ties to the people and circumstances that have hurt you.
Let the wind howl. Let the shadows dance. It means nothing.
You have one task to complete in the midst of your trip down Hell’s Memory Lane.
Get it done!
Whisper it until you can speak it. Speak it until you can shout it. Shout it until your throat hurts.
You may encounter a mountain of grief with every utterance. It may feel like you have lost something. In a sense you have. Since whoever did whatever it was to you (or didn’t do what rightfully should have been done), you have been hanging on. You have been gripping that experience and replaying it over and over and over and over again looking for a salvation that will never come. Worse yet, those replays have kept you from loving your life. They have kept you from the power of your own grateful utterances. Those replays have kept you from your joie de vivre and from opportunity after opportunity.
In this moment, you are losing your identity as a miserable person betrothed to your sorrow.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting the circumstances of your life are not, or were not, painful, unjust, malformed…
I am saying you must break the spell that commands that your focus rest 100 percent with what you have lost and what is being, or was done, to you.
You must take the power of your vision back and direct it yourself because you can’t develop what you can’t see. Gratitude is a powerful first step in the direction of widening your vista to include things that are outside your normal pattern. It is your gateway not just to your joy, but to grounding your life in abundance and pleasure.
Gratitude is the life giving milk that rouses the emotionally dead. It quickens new life in people who were given up for broke.
Take a fucking drink already!
I know. You are afraid. What little security you have been able to carve out for yourself rests in your legendary ability to hear the other shoe falling from on high. But you are clinging to a one-sided application of discernment that no longer serves. Go ahead and hear the sound of that shoe whizzing through the clouds while everyone else sleepwalks into Armageddon. Take a step to the left if you need to.
But for the love of your own possibilities, spit out the words (Thank You, Thank You, Thank You) as you move and then look somewhere else. Look to the horizon for the arrival of something novel. Seek new opportunities instead of looking at the mess of busted soles and ravaged shoe laces laying on the ground next to you.
For God’s sake, don’t pick up the shoe!
Your responsibility in all that has happened to you rests in the singularity of your focus. You picked the damn thing up. You agreed to carry it and to make it the lens through which you view your life. You legitimized it by taking some of the responsibility for what other people did to you. You fleeced yourself with endless rounds of the same old game. You looked for solace in your ability to see the ruse. You tried really hard to be good enough not to deserve it.
Let the arrows fall out of your back TODAY! They don’t belong to you.
Drink from the cup of gratitude. Get drunk on it. Celebrate your life. Rest.
This is your passageway to a new experience. Get ready. A few rounds of lavishing your life with love and bathing your lips in gratitude will swiftly cut through the old ties. It will resolve connections and dismantle circumstances you thought were insoluble. The change, once it gains momentum (around the time the shouting commences), will be unstoppable. New solutions will appear. Surprising insights and fabulous ideas will begin to spark. Progress towards a joyful life will begin to unfold.
Will that be the end of your struggle? Not by a long shot hon!
Just when you least expect it: KA-BOOM. Your inner saboteur, your own, private, personal, super committed killjoy, will come crashing through the door. She will throw down some ultimatums, put on a pot of terrified, call you names, bake a batch of self pity, whip out a chalk board and memorialize every negative thought you have ever had.
She’s not really working against you.
Negative Nelly has arrived to test your mettle. Your little spoilsport wants to see how easy it will be to riffle through your abundance and rip your joy away. She wants to know what you are made of.
She is asking just how much heart you are willing to put on the line. She wants your commitment and she knows all commitments are tested in the witching hour, in the darkness of your doubt, in the shifting shadows of your fear. She will try to persuade you that the body snatching of your enjoyment is out of your hands.
Finally, she will deploy her secret weapon. Little Miss Doomsday is going to start talking about later, when you can afford it, when the stars are aligned, when some imaginary line has been crossed. She will move the line over and over again if you let her lay it down at all.
Start shouting again. Have another gratitude shot just as fast as you can pour it. Pretend this is one of those Jägermeister ugly face contests and you want that T-shirt.
Slam it baby!
Then find some reasonable investment you can make in your own future, in your own joy. Strike a balance between miserly thoughts of perpetual delay and extravagant overindulgence. Conspire with your own delight and then commit an act in furtherance.
Likewise, when you find the table of your life has been dressed in its finest linens and the largesse is there for the taking, receive. Give yourself over to the pleasure of being in this world, in a body, standing before a cornucopia of bodily delights.
Just don’t forget that even though patience, hard work, determination and steadfast commitment might not look very sexy, they are the very things that will release you from the handcuffs FOR GOOD. They will carry you into the heart of your abundance. Don’t waste your time tinkering around the edges of some half-baked imitation! All lasting increase is built over time. Immediate gratification looks a lot like shifting sands if you know what I mean.
Along the way, you will meet supportive teachers, friends and guides of every kind. This will really provoke your inner prophet of doom. She might let you begin to love your life. She will not go quietly when you decide you want to place your trust in another person. This is her point of extremity. She will be terrified.
It was usually other people who dropped those shoes after all. She knows a lot of them meant to do it and they came as wolves all dressed in their Sunday-Best, fluffy, white wool! In this story, you were the sheep.
She’s not entirely wrong you know. Debbie Downer needs to know you are listening. She will settle down when she knows you can keep your own counsel and bear your own company. It’s okay to take some time. Just don’t let those two little words (Thank You, Thank You, Thank You) leave your lips for too long!
Don’t take your eyes off of your own desires and start searching the faces of everyone in the crowd in a wild eyed effort to find that undead man clinching the joystick.
He can only come back when you refuse to drink your anti-venom cocktail (Thank You, Thank You, Thank You). He can only take hold when you get caught in the mesmerizing gaze of his kaleidoscope eyes. Don’t chance even a single glance.
Your eyes are committed to the prize. This is no time for a threesome.
Now open your heart to the party pooper in you. She has borne the brunt of your pain. The stripes of your suffering mark her back. Pull her in close. Look into her eyes and promise her that you will not leave her. You will not blame her. You will not forsake her.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
This is your time. This is her time. If you will take a look, you will find that progress and possibilities are springing up like roses in the desert. You can finally dare to touch this, your rose with all its thorns. No matter what comes. You’ve got this. You are ready to risk and to love with wild abandon.
You have started in the only place that matters. You have bathed your own life, your own soul, in the healing tonic of your love.
Welcome home. You’ve been a long time coming.
I wrote the following poem at the age of 19. I too have been a long time coming!
Tears in the Absence of Rain
I desired a rose,
Exquisite blossom teased me in darkness,
disappearing in full light.
Sweet smelling flower poisoned me in delight.
Bewildered I ran.
I in unconscious mind denounced pain,
left it to my dreams.
I tried to grow without feeling,
to heal without time.
Half believing I could fly
I leapt into the sky,
wove deception in my flight.
The sun scorched my heart,
even at night.
Mother nature plucked me down,
placed my feet safely on the ground.
She taught me to walk,
to work diligently in the desert.
Now, gingerly, I touch it,
my rose with all its thorns.
Neglected garden emerges from sand.
I have nothing to give but blood,
But, I learn to fight.
learning to weed,
I refuse false light.
No longer willing to sacrifice flesh,
I offer tears in the absence of rain.
© Rebecka Eggers, 1992
Many thanks to Robin Shields of Chiapas, Mexico for our talks about gratitude. You were right all along, Robin. You do just have to do it, whether you mean it or not.