Today is Canadian Thanksgiving Monday. Yesterday, we had my husband’s family over for a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. We were 19 (including 2 babies) and yet we were still missing 4 people in my heart. What a feast! What laughter! What a mess to clean up today! God bless fabulous messes!
I woke up feeling very lucky for where I am at this moment in time. However, I know I am not always in that space. I also know all too well that Thanksgiving is not a happy day for everyone. For the past number of years, I’ve worked with people who traditionally are at their worst: a crisis center, a counselling center, youth protection as well as providing support for mommies who have lost their babies. Feeling thankful does not come easily to many of my clients and in fact, although you may see them smiling and socializing, I see them at their most vulnerable. They have shared with me their deep fears, their negative self-talk and sense of despair. I woke up thinking of them. Intellectually, some of them know that they have a lot of be grateful for despite what is happening. They just can’t access it anymore to “feel it”. It may be because they have suffered a terrible loss or just cannot cope with a past event that sideswiped them, or, accept that something highly desirable, simply didn’t happen.
Whether you are having difficulty finding the hope, or just want a refresher course, here are my brief thoughts on this topic:
If you are newly coping with a death, experiencing the grief sucks but is necessary. The most important thing to do is to talk about it with supportive, non-judgmental people. Don’t mistake their confusion at your suffering for them being judgmental, some people really don’t know what to say. If you know that at some point they have loved you, and they say something unhelpful, then go to the love in your head. If they loved you, they still do. If they’re not showing it well right now, decide its because they simply don’t know what you need. Express your personal needs, respectfully, without expecting to get it from that particular person. Then stand back and look around to see where it does come from or who gives you what you are looking for. If you don’t insist on controlling the source, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that what you need, is available in your life.
The next thing to do is to look at what works right now. If you are reading this, I would like to point out that you can physically see this; are educated and intelligent enough to read this; and are wealthy enough to own a computer! Those things are positive! Instead of enumerating the things that are a disappointment, it’s time to start another list. What hobbies do you do well? Do you knit? Cook? Tell a good joke? Paint toenails well? Do animals like you or seem to trust you? You have a list of strengths. Its time to review it!
Feeling hopeful is a practice. Many people say mantras to themselves or affirmations. The brain is an amazing organ: the more it hears something, the more it works towards that. So if you are naturally like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh; it’s time to start reading other people’s “positive” thoughts and stories and adopt those instead. Starting your own version of their successes, playing out in your head, is a great practice. (Little girls do this well. Find your inner child.)
A simple yet powerful way to get hopeful is to start a huge project. People who are negative only want to start something where they have some kind of guarantee they will succeed. They are risk averse. Yet people who have succeeded greatly have started projects they never knew would bring fruit – but they sure imagined it a lot. This creates hope, pleasure and new opportunities you cannot predict! Just start something, get excited and be curious as to where this road might lead.
The final thought that I will leave you on this day of gratitude is to be patient! Hope is about feeling expansive and open to possibilities. Giving your hope a time frame squashes the feelings of hope.
Let’s recap: talk to people who have loved you in the past; repeat other people’s positive thoughts; get excited about what works today; take up a project without demanding results in a certain time period; and, develop and practice patience.
I gotta go do some dishes now. To my Canadian friends, Happy Thanksgiving!
“Do no spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Epicurus