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Gratitude: A Single Cell

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It is so easy to get wrapped up in what is missing from our lives. The lack of boyfriend, fulfilling job or fat paycheck can loom large in our thoughts causing us frustration and disappointment.  We tell ourselves that we need certain things to be happy, which only makes us “needy.”


Our thoughts then become a self-fulfilling prophecy, insuring that our focus on what’s lacking will create more of the same. We say things to ourselves that we would never allow others to say to us. These negative thoughts such as, “I will always be alone,” “I’m not good enough,” “I’m too fat,” contribute to a deep feeling of unworthiness that will keep us from getting what we want.


Oprah’s promotion, several years ago, of Sarah Ban Breathnach made gratitude journals all the rage for a while. Her books instructed us to write down five things a day we were grateful for. At the time, I had just broken my ankle in three places, couldn’t drive, walk or carry anything because of my crutches, and wasn’t feeling particularly grateful. But I started a gratitude journal anyway and was amazed at how easy it was to come up with five or more things a day to thank the universe for.


Focusing on and appreciating what we have is the best way I know to create more good things in our lives. Let’s face it – just by virtue of living in the United States or another first-world country, we have it better than most people in the world. Access to clean water, healthy food and medical care are givens in our lives. We are surrounded by abundance and comfort, and somehow we still find a way to lament the fact that we haven’t had a vacation in a while.


Over the years, I have often complained about “being alone.” In between boyfriends or during a dry dating spell, as friends around me got married and started families, I felt sorry for myself for what was missing. The loneliness, and sometimes even despair, was so palpable in my life that it blinded me to all the good things. The truth is that I have never been alone. I could literally drown in the sea of love in which I have been fortunate enough to swim my entire life.


Getting cancer was a fantastic reminder of just how many people care about me. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from friends, family, co-workers, people I hadn’t seen or been in touch with for years, friends of friends, religious communities and cancer-related organizations just to name a few. I received more than 300 cards, not to mention all the flowers, gifts, meals and visits. Oh, and the people in my life raised nearly $10,000 for ovarian cancer research in my honor.


I am astounded that I could be in the midst of all of that and still feel alone in any way, shape or form. I may live alone in a one-bedroom condo, work from home without colleagues around and file my taxes as a single person, but I am FAR from alone! I am truly and deeply loved by so many people. If you took stock of your life, you would realize that you are too. Sometimes it takes something “bad” such as an illness or injury to help us realize all the “good” in our lives.


Recently, a friend from high school committed suicide. I hadn’t seen him in years or been in touch with him other than becoming Facebook friends.  He still lived in our rural hometown in Kentucky and had recently gotten a well-publicized DUI. Speculation runs high that it strongly contributed to his decision to take his own life. Many on Facebook have commented about how many times they considered reaching out, but didn’t. He clearly felt desperate and alone to have made the decision that he did.


There are times in life when we all feel alone and lonely. That feeling is not reserved for those of us who are single or divorced. It is possible to be standing in a river of love and support and feel as if you are dying of thirst. And you don’t have to create an illness or injury in your life to be reminded of the love that is there. Just reach out. It is when we are feeling the most alone and vulnerable that we have the most difficult time opening up and sharing what feels shameful to us.

I am profoundly grateful for the love of my family and so many friends, and I love my life so much! I know that it will be enhanced when I find a partner to share it with, but it’s pretty freaking amazing right now. Take stock of what you have, and I know you’ll feel the same way. And if you haven’t done it in a while, reach out and tell someone in your life how much they mean to you.

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