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, for the first couple of years in the new country we were to call “home”, my husband and I both struggled. We both absolutely loved the country and the city that had become our new home, and we still very much do, because it could and does offer such a wonderful lifestyle.
However, when we first moved, decisions, choices and demands, outside of our control, left us feeling challenged, controlled and claustrophobic. So, we made the difficult decision to cast out our net and see if we could catch any fish. We made the decision to see if life would be more comfortable in another country and if another country would open its doors to welcome us.
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 was looking good and sounding positive.
We did everything to get on the same vibration as this opportunity. And truly believed it was going to happen.
Unfortunately, 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 – the fear that I had experienced after we had given up a life I had loved, to move to our new home in this new country with its new unwelcome restrictions and demands.
The dip into fear didn't last long however, 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 opportunity. And I kept repeating that: "thank you Universe for providing something better for us".
However, the words felt empty because I was hurting. It had seemed that something we both dearly wanted had been presented to us and then suddenly taken away. And I was struggling to come to terms with that.
I knew in 6 months, a year, 2 years... however long it may be, I'd 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 may have been empty and even tinged with falseness in the moment when I was expressing my gratitude to the Universe and life for letting this opportunity pass us by because there'd be something better for us, I knew in a few days or so I would believe those words, my faith in the Universe would return, and I'd be back on track with my gratitude practice. In comparison, in the past, this seemingly missed opportunity would have weighed me down for weeks.
I have also learned to appreciate 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, it has also helped me to understand that a gratitude practice, like any other habit, follows 3 phases. And it's not that I had stopped or failed in my gratitude practice when I felt a good opportunity had been ripped away from us, it was just that it had moved to another phase.
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.
During this challenging time in our lives, I was experiencing phase 2 in my gratitude habit. Thanks to what I knew about this phase, however, I could work through it so I could return to phase 3... until the next challenge strikes. Even though I have been practising gratitude for some time now, I know that I'm not yet fully and permanently residing in the pinnacle phase, phase 3.
I wonder, in which phase are you currently residing in relation to your gratitude practice?