News from the Noteworthy by Leaf: Audacious Gratitude

News from the Noteworthy by Leaf:
Audacious Gratitude

Definition: An intrepidly bold and daring willingness to appreciate even the smallest things of life in the face of difficult circumstances.

When I write guest editorials for this newspaper, I typically write as Julie, the Executive Director of LEAF. When I was asked to write this one, I decided to write it as just me, Julie. I am a wife, sister, dog-mom, public speaker, problem-solver, musician, photographer, and a woman in long-term recovery from addiction.

It is that last part of who I am that taught me about the wonders of audacious gratitude. I will tell you that there were times in my journey that if just one more of my recovering peers told me to write a
gratitude list, I would have been tempted to throw the nearest solid object at them. Fortunately, I never did that. There was a lesson to be learned in the sage advice of those who cared about me.

They were not telling me that I had to “feel” grateful, they were telling me that I had a choice to “be” grateful.

Wait a minute!?

I feel terrible. My circumstances are measurably terrible. I feel like huge parts of my life are terrible. And, you want me to “be” grateful? (Insert a huff and tightly folded arms at this point.)

Their advice may seem contradictory, but over time I found that it was not. They were not asking me to disrespect my feelings. They were not even asking me to deny that something was amiss in my life. My friends and my peers were simply nudging me to challenge my thinking. Things can feel terrible AND I can be grateful at the same time.

This is where audacity comes in.

I encourage you to look that word up. It’s a wonderful word that may have gotten a bad rap over the years. We might say, “Can you believe they had the audacity to…. (fill in your blank)?” On the other hand, acting with audacity is bold, and brave, and confident, and unrestrained. Those are awesome words. I aspire to words like those.

Yet, I acknowledge that we are clearly living in unsettled times. As we approach this second holiday season with various forms of grief, loss, restrictions, anxieties, shortages, financial strains, and other very real life struggles, being grateful may seem audacious.

Actually, it’s medicine. And like most medicines, one does not have to deny the aches, pains, or fears in order for it to be effective. My doctor would never ask me to wait until a wound healed before I take the antibiotic. In this same way, audacious gratitude does not require me to feel better before caring for my spirit.

Being grateful is a cognitive, intellectual practice. It’s not hocus-pocus, or magic. It is sometimes a choice I have to make in spite of how I feel. Audacious gratitude is daring to find life’s gifts even in the face of demonstrably terrible circumstances. As I practice the choice, and believe me it takes practice, something remarkable happens to my spirit. It is like a balm or a healing salve that gives rest to my soul and to my mind. If only for a few moments, they are precious moments.

I find myself being consciously grateful for rain, and grass, and leftover broccoli (okay, that’s a stretch). I thank God for my husband, my favorite chair, a wonderful friend, and music. I remember that I love purple, and birds, and the house with the beautiful Christmas lights. With that, my breathing slows and my mind rests, and I find that peace can exist in the midst of chaotic times.

I’ll take audacious any day.

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