the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Let me start off with a question, what does gratitude mean to you? Does it mean giving thanks to the kind stranger that held the door open or bought your coffee? What about giving flowers to your mother for Mother’s Day or a calling your best friend on their birthday? What makes you feel gratitude and how does it make you FEEL inside? Now, let me ask again, what does gratitude mean to you?
Think hard, dig deep and challenge yourself here.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”-Denis Waitley
I’ll be the first to admit, that in the past me and gratitude have strayed apart a few times, and I’m owning it! The first step to change is acknowledging there’s a problem. As Buddha once said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”.
I always looked at gratitude as saying thank you, giving gifts and respecting all that I have, BUT, there was always one problem. While giving thanks for everything that I had, I also dwelled on all that I didn’t have. I would become envious and filled with so much greed that I focused on only helping myself, meanwhile, leaving others by the wayside.
I can recall one of the first times that my “definition” of gratitude changed. When I say changed I mean, I finally got the soul shaking experience that widened my mind and unlatched my eyes to see deeper than just the “generic”, thank you’s and flowers. Now I bet you’re asking, “well what is this mind shattering experience?”, one word, Texas.
Let me set the scene. When I first moved down to Round Rock, me and my significant other, come to find out, lived in a not so good area. Let’s just say the apartment could be described as “janky”, but at least it had a pool!
Everyday there was a fight which ended with either tears, the throwing of clothes on the lawn or the occasional broken Xbox. It was only a matter of time before my personal problems would leak over into my work.
At the time, I was excelling through the ranks at a well-known sporting goods store and met two of my best friends still to this day. Shout out to Gray and Megan! Gray’s a TALL and stocky guy but has the sweetest heart and will protect everyone he cares about. Megan, she’s my girl, she’s my shoulder to lean on and the person I can always confide in when things get tough. Not to mention she’s my wine twin and corn hole partner for life!
They encouraged me daily to push myself to see my own worth and that I deserved better than my current situation. It took some time for me to get the courage and love for myself to finally leave one night while he was at work. Meg and Gray, along with his pickup, were right there by my side every step of the way.
This was a critical night for my personal development. While loading some boxes, I took a step back and as I watched Gray and Meg, I had an epiphany. I finally understood and FELT how much they truly cared for me. I became over filled with this feeling of warmth and great emotion, it seriously felt like my whole body was vibrating. That is what gratitude feels like to me. I was way beyond thankful and I wanted to reciprocate that love, but not in a physical gift way, no, I wanted to make them something that would be everlasting, I wanted to make them proud.
From that night on, I slowly began reshaping my mindset by actively noticing the little things that I was fortunate enough to have. I grew increasingly grateful that I had access to clean water, had food in my fridge and heat. All things I always overlooked and took advantage of in the past.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”-Buddha
I thought I had this, “meaning” of gratitude down after parting ways with Texas. I was seeing all the different emotions behind a person’s actions, instead of seeing just the gesture. I started appreciating my cousin’s kindness, my brother’s ambition and my bosses not so constructive criticism, yes, even a negative can be positive.
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”-Buddha
Our thoughts shape how we see the world and we have absolute control over those thoughts, in turn, giving us complete power. For example, instead of thinking, “Ugh, I can’t believe my boss is being so hard on me”, thank them you for giving you that criticism and pushing you to do better. It’s that simple, when you catch yourself deep in negativity, find the positive, even if it takes a while.
Now it’s time for me to share something that I’m truly grateful for, and that is Timmy. For those of you that are new, Timmy was my unwanted roommate that occupied my brain, a tumor if you will. Now how the F**K could I be grateful for a tumor you ask? Well just like Meg and Gray, he gave me a deeper meaning for gratitude. I could’ve let the what if’s and the feeling bad for myself consume me, making waking up every day full of negativity, dread and sorrow but instead I was thankful. Thankful I woke up, thankful Timmy wasn’t cancerous and thankful that I was young and had the most amazing support from my friends, family and medical team. I may have had Timmy, but Timmy didn’t have me.
Timmy taught me a deeper level of gratitude. I appreciated the feeling of grass between my toes and thanked my eyes for allowing me to see the beautiful sunrises and sets. I soaked in every millisecond of family time, hanging on every last word of my crazy “aunt” Nancy’s stories, even though I’ve heard them a million times. I made sure I FELT my mom’s hugs, memorized every wrinkle on my grandma’s face and even enjoyed the smell of the cows.
*Side note: With the support of my amazing medical team, Timmy was evicted August 2018!*
2019 was one tough year, I started having seizures again, almost every day at one point. I had to take leave from work to try and get some answers and for those of you that know me, this was a very difficult thing for me to do. I was extremely fortunate to have my Fiancé/Husband Trevor by my side every second, showering me with constant love, even when Whitney would make an appearance- aka my other personality. Think of a Regina George x10, we can thank Timmy for that one!
Trevor didn’t even blink when we had to Fred Flintstone the car in the middle of a snowstorm to get to my doctors appointment. I can say with confidence and whole heartily that, without his unwavering love and support, my meaning of gratitude wouldn’t have deepened.
With numerous trips to the doctors and still no answers, for the first time since this process began, I started to feel myself head down the path towards discouragement. The second I FELT myself take that turn, I pumped the breaks and I stopped myself! I found the positive in all this, even though it took some time, I was thankful for having a job that continued to allow me to take off as much time as I needed, in order to find answers.
Finally, after 6 months of wondering, the consensus was, there’s damaged tissue still in the area where Timmy was removed, causing my brain to misfire. Knowing this, meant having surgery once again but boy let me tell you, I was EXCITED! It means there is a possibility of me living a life seizure free, being able to drive again and to live a ‘normal’ life! Just that simple thought makes everything okay.
With getting ready for this surgery, I needed to get a couple more scans done, the first one up was the MRI. I went in on a Sunday and by the next morning, I got the call from my neurologist with the results and some unfavorable news.
Let me say, I couldn’t have handled Timmy the way I did if it wasn’t for me starting the journey of truly understanding a deeper meaning of gratitude in Texas. And it’s for what Timmy has taught me, that I know I’m truly ready for the adventures my new roommate will take me on in 2020. Let me introduce him as, Timmy Jr.
So, let me ask again, what does gratitude mean to you?