How Can I Be Thankful For This?: Take 10 minutes to find gratitude in the darkness

I've been exploring thankfulness for the last four weeks - intentionally contemplating what gratitude looks like - and I realized that sometimes we're in such dark places that it's difficult to be thankful.

I know about darkness, and you do, too.

Fear. Shame. Guilt. Poor health. Poverty. Violence. An uncertain future. The list could go on for days if we allow it.

I have a rare disease called myofibrillar myopathy (MFM). It's a form of muscular dystrophy that is slowly progressive yet highly variable in symptoms. There is no cure or effective treatment. It affects every muscle, including my heart and lung muscles, and limits my mobility. Dark indeed.

However, I am able to find pockets of light through gratitude.

I am thankful for my diagnosis. I've read stories of fellow MFM patients who experienced severe symptoms and many frustrating visits with doctors for years before receiving a diagnosis. Mine came early enough in the progression that I knew what was happening when my symptoms worsened.

Though my legs have lost most of their strength, I am thankful that I still have use of my arms and hands. Other people with MFM have trouble lifting a fork to eat or struggle to use their fingers to type. It's like I'm playing a real game of "Would you Rather..." (would you rather have strength in your arms or your legs?). Though it sounds cruel, it helps me gain perspective.

You can choose thankfulness to bring light in your dark places, too.

Set the timer for 10 minutes. As in meditation, focus first on your breaths... in... out... in... out... Feel free to close your eyes, or you may want to fix your gaze on something quiet - the falling snow, the green leaves of a house plant, or your favorite photo or painting on the wall. 

Now bring to mind your dark challenge, and give it a name (health issue, grief for someone, estrangement with your family, etc.).

Ask yourself, How can I be thankful for [insert name]?

Continue to focus on your breathing as you search for the answer. Beginning as close to the subject as you can, then moving outward in radius, look for one thing you are grateful for that's related to the challenge. Maybe it's a person who is supporting you. It could be a box of photos or memorabilia. Maybe it's the warm bed to where you have retreated. 

Your hurt might be so overwhelming that the only thing you can find gratitude for is a functioning sense in your body: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. That's okay. Just find one small thing.

Once you've found your item, visualize placing it in your pocket. Make plans to carry it with you each day so you can access the light when you need it. Let the timer wake you from your imagination.

This exercise will not get rid of the difficulty, but it will give you moments of solace and comfort. And if you've got your gratitude in your pocket, you can always find a bit of light in the darkness.

How did this exercise work for you? 

What other ways can you access the light?

Some Doorways from this week:

  • My sister invited me over for lunch last week, and I enjoyed reconnecting with her and sharing in her joys as we discussed future plans.
  • My physical therapist called unexpectedly with a potential lead on a mechanic for my wheelchair van. It was another serendipitous chain of events that presented a positive opportunity.
  • I took time to watch the newest version of The Lion King, my favorite of all of the Disney animated movies. When the opening song began, I was instantly transported with joy to my childhood, and I delighted in the message of the lyrics about the circle of life.


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