Gratitude isn't always easy.
When you feel let down by someone or something, when you feel hurt by someone or something, when something hasn't worked out the way you expected, it can be difficult, indeed challenging, to be honestly and truly grateful in that moment.
For our own very different reasons, my husband and I were struggling in the country we had recently moved to; the country we had expected to call our new home. We both absolutely loved the country and the city we lived in because it could offer such a wonderful lifestyle. However, decisions, choices and demands, outside of our control, left us feeling challenged, controlled and claustrophobic. So, although we had only lived there for a matter of months, although moving would cause a lot of upheaval for us and our furry family, we made the decision to cast out our net and see if we could catch any fish swimming in a different country.
And, indeed, one very large and attractive fish jumped in. My husband went for an interview in a country which would give us back our sense of value and freedom. It looked good and it sounded very positive.
We did everything to get on the same vibration as this opportunity. We talked about living in that country and places we would and could explore each weekend. We imagined the type of apartment we would call home, its location and view, and the friendliness of our neighbours. We talked about how free we would feel again, open to live how we wished to live without feeling suffocated by restrictions and prohibitions.
We breathed and lived this new life. We truly believed it was going to happen.
However, it didn't work out.
And that didn't make sense. When I heard the news that we wouldn't be moving, my heart broke a little and my immediate reaction was to fall back into fear - fear that I had been feeling living in the country we currently, regrettably, called home.
The dip into fear, however, didn't last long, thanks to my gratitude practice. I picked myself up by my bootstraps and thanked the Universe for setting us on the path to a better oppportunity. And I kept repeating that: "thank you Universe for providing something better for us".
But, you know, the words felt empty because I was hurting. Something we both dearly wanted had been presented to us and then suddenly it felt like it had bee ust as quickly taken away. And I was struggling to come to terms with that.
I knew in 6 months, a year, 2 years... however long it would take, I would see and understand that we didn't get that opportunity because something better was waiting for us. However, in that current moment, it was challenging to be truly and honestly grateful and, therefore, to truly and honestly trust.
When something like this would have happened in the past, before I practised gratitude regularly and daily, I would have sunk into the depths of despair and victimhood:
How can life (and the Universe) be so cruel?
Why do things never work out for us?
However, even though my words of gratitude may have felt empty and even tinged with falseness in the moment whilst I was expressing gratitude to the Universe and life for letting this opportunity pass us by because there would be something better for us, I knew in a day, a week, or so, I would believe those words, my faith in the Universe would return, and I would be back on track with my gratitude practice. In comparison, in the past when I was not practised in gratitude, this seemingly missed opportunity would have weighed me down for weeks and, indeed, months.
Through this and similar experiences, I have learned to appreciate and value that a gratitude practice is a habit. It takes time to programme yourself into expressing gratitude naturally, openly, truthfully, and with ease for everything that comes onto your path, especially the challenging stuff.
However, through this and other challenging experiences, I have learned that a gratitude practice, like any other habit, journeys through distinct phases, 3 phases in fact. It's through this learning and understanding that I have come to know that I don't stop or fail in my gratitude practice, it's just that it's moved onto another phase, sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards.
That's the thing about habits and their phases. Once you know the 3 phases of a habit, you can see and appreciate where you currently stand in relation to that habit and you know what you can do to move past that phase and into the next.
To give you some insight, in the life example I have just shared I had fallen back and was experiencing phase 2 of my gratitude habit, the aptly named fight-through phase. Thanks to what I knew about this phase, I could work through it so I could return and make my way back to phase 3... until, of course, the next challenge arose and again pushed me back. The thing I have learned which I believe is a gam-changer in understanding and living with an attitude to gratitude is that whilst I may have been practising gratitude for considereable time now, I know that I'm not yet fully and permanently residing in phase 3. Challenges will continue to come onto my path which will push me back somewhat.
I wonder, in which phase are you currently residing in relation to your gratitude practice?