As I enter the second half century of my life, I continue to look back and examine all the blessings I have had in an interesting and diverse existence. I have accomplished many things. I have also had a lot of help along the way. I look back and acknowledge the high points such as athletic accomplishments in my youth and through college, my family, children and grandchildren, the success of my entrepreneurial business ventures, my leadership, management skills, and executive positions in the private and public sectors, and most fulfilling my non-profit and service work that I have gotten so much from by simply giving.
A big part of what I am committed to today is teaching gratitude and examining simple ways to express that gratitude. I speak to youth, educators, and parents on ways to bring the concept of gratitude front and center. I am always committed to looking for the positive in every situation no matter how bleak that situation may appear.
To provide more perspective, allow me to share a short summary of the last 20 years of my life. Since the year 2000, I have been able to achieve more than I ever dreamed. This includes purchasing a home(s) for my family, raising three beautiful daughters, and getting valuable experience in the workforce. In 2003, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a team that caught ‘lightning in a bottle’ with the rise of Internet-based businesses and made more money than I ever imagined. With those blessings, I was able to start my own non-profit that served youth by designing and facilitating mentoring and life-skills. For the next 7-8 years business was flourishing, and my non-profit was serving more and more kids each year. Things were good, at least they looked good on the surface.
However, I was being spread too thin by leading the booming internet business and running my non-profit for youth. So, one day I asked for help. I closed the door to my office and asked my higher power to solve my problem of trying to build two thriving entities: the non-profit and the internet business. My life was out of balance. Here’s what that looks like; I was overweight, over worked, on several medications, and simply unhappy. I needed change on a deep level, and I couldn’t figure it out on my own. I had been grateful for EVERYTHING up to this point. And then…in 2008, the financial crisis reared its ugly head. I lost everything. I lost my business, and ironically because of the economy I lost the two major funding sources that supported the majority of my non-profit services. The answer to my “help” question had been answered.
I was broke, lost all the materialistic things I had accumulated. And even worse my source of spiritual fulfillment through service was gone as well. I felt the burden of the world on my shoulders, I had to support my family. There were some days the water and the electricity were cut off because I was juggling so many bills just to keep the services on. Eventually, time ran out and I didn’t have to worry about those utilities anymore. We had to move on and leave our home. The guilt continued, and at the same time, I knew that this would not be the end of the road.
I made a decision to get healthy (mind, body and spirit), focus on my passion, and my passion was/is the ability to serve others. Change was happening whether I liked it or not. I kicked and screamed but alas, I can say, those efforts didn’t provide much relief, but any effort is movement and any movement, if it is forward moving, it is positive. During this time of crisis and painful change, I did one especially important thing– I gave thanks for all I had. The fact that I was alive and knew that I was capable, I had coping skills. I kept practicing gratitude, even at the most challenging times. I kept working at working, finding new avenues of income and found my way out of this financial and personal hardship.
What is my message to you during this turbulent year you might wonder after reading this?
The message is this: I became more grateful for EVERYTHING. I think it is easy to be grateful for all the good things that happen in your life and how blessed you may feel for your blessings but gratitude to me is about lessons, teachable moments, and acceptance.
A few takeaways…
Be grateful for everything / celebrate everything. It is all happening FOR you instead of TO you.