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Scheme of Things

A Different Kind of Gratitude
By Nan S.Russell
Nov 10, 2012 - 11:42:05 PM

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As I reflect on it now, there were hints it was coming. Still when it happened, the vice-grip of embarrassment, the numbness of shock, and the adrenaline of fueled anger made being fired from my first professional job devastating.

Yet, being fired changed my life for the better. I'm grateful someone had the courage to thrust me from that ill-suited job, forcing me to explore new paths while I maneuvered from a minimum wage employee to a Vice-President of a multibillion-dollar company. I wouldn't trade that experience of learning the hard way. Career twists and setbacks shaped who I am today.

So did failed relationships, financial reversals, and missed turns. I wouldn't be this 6.0-me without these experiences, or without the impact of family illness, naive misjudgment, broken trust, mistakes, unexpected consequences, and a host of life events. While these bumps and challenges haven't made my gratitude journal, perhaps there are a few that should.

I've come to realize that without the failures, disappointments, and potholes along the way, my life would be shallower, my perspectives limited, my empathy diminished, and my heart less open. I like the perspective in Sophocles' words, "One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been." And while it's not yet evening in my life, with a more distant vantage point, I can now better glimpse how my life's "day" is progressing.

Of course, it's easier to be grateful for the things that go well, the unmatched moments of joy that can never happen again, the blessings in sharing life with a best-friend husband, raising a wonderful son, having a loving daughter-law, and enjoying two delightful granddaughters.

It's easier to notice the benefit of living in a country filled with freedom and opportunity, or being alive in this time of unparalleled possibilities. It's easier to feel warm-hearted with plenty to eat, nice places to sleep, and modern conveniences. And it's easier to have an overflowing heart with great family and friends, interesting work, and magnificent natural wonders just footsteps away.

But making a place for gratitude only for the good in our lives misses a key element of the struggles and realities of what it means to live. Unwelcomed life-happenings mold us, too. Some of them may challenge who we are, push us to tap our resilience, help us learn unconditional love, and offer different pathways for growth and understanding.

In the scheme of things, feeling gratitude for what some of life's bumps have given me is new. It's not what I typically consider when I give thanks. But as I reflect on the whole picture, I know how splendid my life is, and has been; how some potholes and bumps contributed to its shape and evolution. No one gets a perfect life, certainly. And would a life be "perfect" without a way to understand the real joys?

In the words of author Marianne Williamson, "Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." At this time of Thanksgiving, I find much joy in realizing how true that is for me.

(c) 2012 Nan S. Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Nan S. Russell is the award-winning author of "Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way." Her third book, "The Titleless Leader," was published May 2012. More about Nan and her work can be found at www.nanrussell.com.  Sign up to receive Nan's free monthly eColumn at: www.intheschemeofthings.com

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