One of my students, my mentees, told me this deeply personal story once of how she got herself out of a crippling depression, the aftermath of a tropical disease she’d contracted, by being grateful.
At the suggestion of someone she trusted, she started a diary, in the depth of her depression, in which she had to write, every day, what she was grateful for. At first it was just lip service. She jotted down things that her brain told her she should be grateful for, that she knew on an intellectual level that she was grateful for. But the illness kept her from really feeling gratitude, or even from feeling any emotion towards the items she listed.
But after a while of doing this, every day, she started to feel a change. She was starting to actively look for things to write in her diary. It made her more aware of her days. And with noticing came feeling. Every day she could see more of a glimmer of maybe, one day, being able to say “I am grateful for …” and to feel it all the way in her body. And that is what happened. After weeks and weeks of persisting, she could feel gratitude again, and this opened the way to other feelings to come flooding back to her, to bring life back to her. At this point in her story we both had goosebumps and tears in our eyes.
I feel deep gratitude just now. I can always count off things I am grateful for, as you probably can, too. People in our past and our present, certain events or experiences, friendships and love and all those things that make our humdrum human existence that little bit more divine. I always know that I am grateful, but I don’t always feel it. And that’s okay, we can’t always feel everything at the same level of intensity or we’d burst.
But now I’m traveling, and I have so much time to reflect, time to let my mind drift and time to also focus intensely and acutely on the very moment I am living through. I am almost sure that that is the reason why I walk around with a glowing well of gratitude inside me, deep enough to want me to thank whoever is responsible for all the good luck, the kindness, the joy I am receiving.
Since I’m not quite sure who to thank, I’m putting my gratitude out there into the universe through my words, my art, and I hope that everything and everyone that conspired to make me be at this very point, will hear or feel them:
Thank you for everything you have given me, for everything you have enabled me to, for making me get through the dark times and for helping me learn from them, and for all the light, all the experiences and all the emotions that I was and am allowed to have. Thank you for my ability to trust, and to feel joy, and to feel sadness and empathy as well. Thank you from the profoundest part of my being. I promise to always do my best to give back.