Once there was a man in his early 40\’s who, from all accounts, had a wonderful family, many close friends, and meaningful work. For the first few years of marriage he and his wife delighted in their relationship and enjoyed the longest \”honeymoon\” phase on record. As the years rolled on, children entered the picture and the work/family balance he had strived for became difficult to achieve. As the needs of his family grew and the career advanced, the chronic stress and pressure of being an entrepreneur often led to sleepless nights, exhaustion, and eventually a loss of interest in his joys and hobbies. Those closest to him saw his happy-go-lucky personality slowly fade as he developed an all too serious pre-occupation with work.
Though others saw him as fortunate indeed, he continually focused on the difference between where he wanted to be in life, and where he currently was. Slowly, imperceptibly, he slipped into a place of numbness to his blessings. A low grade depression settled in.
Headaches were almost a daily occurrence and what had been a normal forgetfulness, became a serious concern for his memory. Eventually he was forced to visit his doctor for help. After several other attempts to identify the problem, his doctor ordered an MRI brain scan.
Driving to the hospital the thought occurred. \”What if it\’s a brain tumor?\” Fear swept through him as images of his children, came to mind. His wife would be a young widow raising the kids without him. He allowed that line to thinking continue and a flood of \”How\’s\” and \”What if\’s\” followed. What would become of his children? Would his wife remarry? What about his own unfulfilled dreams?
Oblivious to the outside world, he just sat in his truck, sobered by the reality that life could easily be cut short. Nothing materially had changed in the 2-3 minutes since that first thought crossed his mind, yet everything had changed. The non essentials (career and money) had fallen off his radar and the meaningful (wife, kids, truth, faith) was all he could see now.
The results of the MRI came back negative. There was no brain tumor. In some ways, as frightening as it had been, he didn\’t want the moment to end. He had awakened to feelings that had been dormant for months, maybe years. The fear felt good in contrast to not feeling much of anything.
It shouldn\’t take a mental near-death-experience to get to a place of gratitude. But as the main character in the story above, it did. I chalk it up to being human. We aren\’t wicked, we\’re distracted. We\’re not ingrates, we just focus on what\’s painful in our lives, rather than on what\’s beautiful.
In November\’s issue of Notes from Home you will be given numerous ideas and how to\’s for getting to and staying in a place of gratitude. Here\’s one more to try out:
Park your car or stand across the street from your home. At dusk when the lights are coming on inside is usually a good time. Take a solid five minutes to visually walk through the front door and look at what you see. The comfortable rooms, the furniture, the food, the clothing. Notice the people and really look at what they are doing. Picture a memory of a happy time you\’ve had there. Take a deep breath and sit with that vision. I guarantee you will have a brush with, if not a tidal wave of, gratitude.
To Your Family\’s Gratitude and Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.,