Today, I attended the Sunday Al-Anon meeting I call church. I call it that because I often get the same messages at church as I do in the program. Today's message was gratitude.
It started when I ran into my Al-Anon sister, Ginny, who asked me if I had heard about the overdose in our sponsor's family. I said I had. I told her it was a reality check for me. It made me feel grateful that my daughter was alive. She agreed and shared with me something a program friend had told her that gave her hope. She said, your daughter's final chapter hasn't been written yet.
The pastor's message was "Praise, Praise, Praise," but it could have been titled, "Nevertheless..." She shared that she was driving somewhere thinking about all the things she didn't have, when she looked up at the car in front of her and on the bumper was a sticker that said, "Nevertheless... God." And it reminded her of all she had been blessed with. We all have things, she said. Some of us have endured unspeakable tragedy. But it's still possible to feel joy, nevertheless...
To me, that's been the central message of Al-Anon. I have been affected by the disease of alcoholism and watched those closest to me struggle. Those struggles and difficulties will always be with me, nevertheless... I can learn to be happy no matter what's happening with the alcoholics in my life, and whether they are still drinking or not.
If I'm in gratitude, it's hard for me to be sad or worried or anxious. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools I've learned in Al-Anon. It's also a learned behavior. It's something I have to practice daily.
Here's an assignment my sponsor is fond of giving out. If you haven't already, I encourage you to try it. Make a gratitude list of 10 things, three days in a row and don't repeat anything.
At first, I found this hard. Soon I was practicing gratitude every day and had so many things on my list that I had to focus on what I was grateful for just in the last 24 hours.
In Al-Anon, I've heard of many variations on this theme. Some people keep a gratitude journal. Some e-mail their gratitude list every day to a friend in the program. They say it keeps them accountable. Scott W. publishes his gratitude list on the blog Attitude of Gratitude.
My own practice is to send up my gratitude list in my daily prayers. I have prayers I say regularly, and I have one that I compose daily that begins with my gratitude list and ends with the list of people I am praying for. It seems like the right order.
I live in the West, where the culture and traditions of many Indian nations are woven into the fabric of life. In the Navajo tradition, it's impolite to ask for something without offering something first, a gift of tobacco, say. That always impressed me. And that's the way I pray.
Here's what I'm grateful for today:
1. I'm grateful for the leaves that fall and swirl outside my window like snowflakes. I'm grateful that they are not snowflakes.
2. I'm grateful that it is 54 and not minus 54. I'm grateful that I am still minus 54.
3. I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with my stepson and grandchildren, for the excitement that swirled around the house while they were here, and for the peace that's settled over the house since they left.
4. I'm grateful for a Barnes and Noble gift card, which allowed me to buy a book I've been wanting, and grateful for pleasurable hours spent reading it yesterday.
5. I'm grateful for my friends David and Martha and for the Christmas basket of goodies they delivered, which included the delicious frittatas my husband and I enjoyed today for breakfast.
6. I'm grateful for a husband to share them with.
7. I'm grateful for toast with apple jelly.
8. I'm grateful that my daughter is alive. That she called to wish me a Merry Christmas. That she will be arriving later this week. That her final chapter is not yet written.
9. I'm grateful that my final chapter is not yet written.
10. I'm grateful for my Al-Anon sister Ginny and all my Al-Anon sisters. I'm grateful to have a sponsor who provides such an example of the Al-Anon way. Who shows me that it's possible to walk through tragedy with grace, dignity and, yes, even joy.
I wish you a joyful, gratitude-filled day.
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