The practice of grateful living has had something to teach me about the tenacity of my heart, especially in moments of unease or discord.
When I applied for a position with A Network for Grateful Living nearly six years ago, I included my favorite quote with my cover letter:
“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and be grateful for another day of loving.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
The poetics appealed to me, but the quote was purely aspirational. I wasn’t waking every day with a winged heart. Rather, I often began my day with a vice-like grip on my little thumper; my head full of anticipatory anxieties and preoccupations before my toes ever touched the ground. But the quote whispered to me of something I longed for.
I was elated to ultimately get the job, but I immediately had a case of imposter syndrome. Did I belong? Could I show up to grateful living just as I was – the good, the bad, and the ugly? I arrived to this work thinking that I needed to ostracize parts of myself in order to sit at the table of gratitude, as if that table was dressed in white linen and my presence would be a smudge. I had the notion that gratefulness was about having a perpetually sunny disposition and an easy going heart. Thank goodness, I was so very wrong.
I’ve discovered resilience and joy that is not intellectually manufactured – it arises from the inside.
Slowly, I’ve relaxed into the wide embrace of gratefulness. The practice of grateful living has become an embodied experience – that is, gratitude isn’t an intellectual practice, it is something I actually feel in my body. The invitation has showed up in surprising, often mundane ways. Dust motes once interrupted a fury about cleaning my sons’ bedroom. I remember literally feeling an expansion in my body as my perspective shifted, caught in a state of awe of those little sparkly dust motes in a beam of sunshine; I counted my privileges – my physical ability, my sons’ health, the roof over our heads, our safe neighborhood, the leisure of cleaning. The list was endless, but it wasn’t just a mental exercise. It was a felt experience of great fullness.
The practice of grateful living has had something to teach me about the tenacity of my heart, especially in moments of unease or discord. I’ve discovered resilience and joy that is not intellectually manufactured – it arises from the inside. It is my true nature – I belong to life. With that greater capacity of presence, resilience and ease, I have become more available to life. I am not a perpetually sunny person, I haven’t arrived at some destination. My heart still twists in anxious knots, I’m prone to bouts of inexplicable sadness. But I no longer ostracize these parts of myself – the practice of grateful living has brought me home to the wide embrace of my own heart, where it all belongs. I trust this, I trust the gift of my life. My heart has wings.
And so I fly. Living into the gift of my life,…
And so I fly. Living into the gift of my life, I am answering what has long been my calling of working in service of birthing families and the field of maternal health care. Bittersweetly, I am leaving my position with A Network for Grateful Living to help open the first midwife-owned and operated, out-of-hospital birth center in Massachusetts. It would take an extraordinary opportunity for me to leave my position – this is that opportunity.
“Waking at dawn with a winged heart” is something more than poetry for me now – it is a cellular experience which invites me daily into full embodiment. Accepting that invitation is no easy task, but the practice of being attuned to the opportunity has deeply changed me. I am more alive – words cannot express my gratitude.
Life, what an exquisite privilege.
“Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.” ~ Maya Angelou
We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”