Shopping lists, to-do lists, , packing lists – lists are an easy way for busy people to retain information. Of all places, I found myself making the most lists in the hospital. And of all kinds of lists – after a surgery that went terribly wrong – I found myself creating a gratitude list.
This was one of many lists I created every night in the hospital. I'd make myself think of something I was grateful for from A to Z, even when I hated my circumstances. By rummaging through my angry and frustrated thoughts, eventually, some positivity submerged. By the time I reached “Z”, my life had not changed dramatically, but my thoughts had.
You don't need a set of fancy paints to create art, you don’t need a picture-perfect life to find every day gratitude, and you certainly don't need a fancy hardcover journal to start a grateful list. Take a blank page, letter it A to Z from beginning to end, and just start. It doesn't have to make sense. Some words can be a bit of a stretch. It’s even okay to get away with “x-citement” or “quanberry juice.” It's just to get your head in a different place.
And sometimes, when your head's in a different place…
Your body will be too.
Where's the most outlandish place you can find gratitude today?
In the hospital, I made daily gratitude lists when there wasn’t much to immediately be grateful for. But finding gratitude was a way to make “sense” of my story. If I were grateful for things happening, it could fit into my life. I could own what happened to me and make something from it. These grateful lists were my life story being spelled out night after night.
This taught me a valuable lesson: Stories make us stronger. Stories make us think differently. And there is strength in thinking, seeing and doing things differently.
Everyone loves a good story. Is there a book or poem you’ve read that has always stuck with you? A certain metaphor from a whimsical children’s story that resonated with you as a child? I remember always loving the book Harold and the Purple Crayon. I loved the idea of a little child being able to create his own world. It made me feel like I could too.
That’s the beauty of a metaphor: through a larger vision, we can relate with our own unique stories.
That is also the power of storytelling. Everyone's story is different. But we all can relate to emotions. If you're human, you've felt sadness. You've felt hunger, pain, joy, loss, .
If you're a human on this earth, you've felt life. Look all around you, and you'll see life growing, dying, changing and regenerating daily.
And THAT is something we can all be grateful for, right? That even though we're dealing with difficult times, we are not alone. We never have been.
As I contemplate the next steps I wish to take in my own personal journey, my own beautifully messy detour, I find myself wondering how to best share my story and have it help others.
Then I think about some of my favorite movies.
But I've felt betrayal.
I've looked for hope in the oddest of places.
I've lost hope.
I've been so angry I haven't even known what to do with myself.
I've felt love when I thought I couldn't feel at all.
I've felt fear.
I've felt bravery
I've felt life.
I can't really compare my life to a Disney movie, but I can say this: We all have ebbs and flows in our lives – our peaks and valleys. My story, your story, our stories – they're all the same. The specifics are not the importance in the end. What's important is that we keep telling them.
That's how we know we're not alone.
You have a story too.
Our stories make us stronger. So today – tell yours.