Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gratitude in the Face of Grief

Loyola Retreat House Gardens (Guelph, Ontario)

I think I'm going to do most of my blogging over here for the next few weeks.

A disjointed but nevertheless connected concoction of thoughts:

Some weeks ago I heard myself saying out loud, "I don't want to be grateful to God for anything." I knew, even as I made that statement, that it was a bad sign. It's a beginner's mantra, that gratitude is the foundation of any spiritual life, in any tradition. But I didn't take back what I said.

Of course, we are all beginners, always. Fortunately I remembered that, before I turned on myself as well as the world at large.

Then a few of the RevGals started to post ABCs of gratitude, something, or a list of somethings, every day or so. Hrrrumph, I muttered to myself, in my best imitation of Scrooge. (Actually, what I said, possibly even out loud, was something closer to an emphatically italicized and enlarged "B.S.")

Then I went on retreat. I had practically counted the minutes, all through summer Hebrew, looking longingly at pictures and imagining a respite of silence and perhaps even the company of God. And then my five days there manifested another form of desert: a parched and unsettling place in which I couldn't breathe.

And now, I can hardly look up or incline my ear without someone saying, "Almost the first anniversay." Two emails today alone: "How are you?

Well, I am OK. Since returning home, I have avoided that raw place inside, the one that simply will not be healed yet. I think I'll know when I can take another look, but this month probably isn't the time. I need something else right now, and I'm heading for the gratitude thing.

Not every day. Not alphabetically. Or poetically or literarily or musically or gracefully. Or even consistently. Just whatever I can manage.

Coming to a blog near you: Gannet's Non-Bullshit Gratitude. Photo illustrations courtesy of The Retreat that Wasn't.

15 comments:

Stratoz said...

it is our chat this weekend that has me wondering how you are, so I will keep reading. many before us have left gratitude to murmur so we stand in a fine tradition.

Shalom said...

thinking of you often.

Joan Calvin said...

You are in my prayers.

Mompriest said...

yep....It's like this. If I keep saying it and doing it and writing about it I may just actually feel it (gratitude). Under it all I wonder, Is there a God? and if so, What is God thinking/doing? Such is life in the desert....

karengberger said...

I like the No B-S idea. That's one of my favorite ways to live: Bullshit-free. Let freedom ring!

Cynthia said...

Gratitude is still exceptionally hard for me. It's one of the reasons why I make such a big deal out of it when I actually experience it.

Sarah S-D said...

i hope my counting of things i love hasn't hit a nerve. in any case... you're in my prayers... frequently. i will always remember this painful anniversary as it is my birthday and i will remember you with tender love as i do.

Karen and Joe said...

Gratitude and trust, after such a tragedy, feels like taking vitamins when you have a raging fever. Eventually it builds you up, but it doesn't cure the immediate sickness. But since nothing but tears and torrents and time cure the immediate sickness, I'm in support of you doing anything that helps, long or short term. Counting blessings helps to balance the scale.

I'm always in awe of your courage and your ability to express the internal storm. I want to express my gratitude for you and the help you have given me.

Rev SS said...

Ditto what Karen said!

bean said...

i still think of you and your family - all the family - every day.

Carol said...

I'm with Bean.
And also wondering if the "retreat that wasn't" really was, on some level, exactly what you needed. And that the reaction was absolutely appropriate and healing in its own way. Or perhaps I'm full of the BS to which you referred in this post. If that's the case, tell me to shut up.

Beach Walkin said...

I didn't do the gratitude meme thingy... because there are more days than not... that I don't feel very gracious... and that I don't feel like God is being very gracious. I know that we are supposed to fake it until we make it... but a lot of days that is nothing but stinky bullshit.

The Holy Spirit knows your heart... and that's enough for now.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I like non-bullshit gratitude . . . or anything for that matter. It's the best kind.

MikeF said...

"Just whatever I can manage."

Yes. That's all he asks... "I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name..."

This is so much my own place, too, Barbara, just now... blessings more than I can say, truly!

Michelle said...

I keep coming back to this photo...to contemplate, to pray. I have these same flowers in my garden, but mine are all white and now when I see them, I see them tinted with these vibrant shades.

The word verification for this is "thics" --- thickets and in the thick?