Gratitude In Joy & In Sorrow

I read a wonderful book recently - Five Years In Heaven by John Schlimm - in which John tells the very real story of a friendship he made with Sister Augustine, an 87 year old ceramic artist and nun. He shares their many enlightening conversations with humor and grace.

At one point in the story Sister Augustine tells John how she expresses gratitude for the sorrows in her life. For instance, when one of her ceramic creations breaks, she says thank you to each broken piece as she throws them away.

This lesson of expressing gratitude not just for joys, but also for the sorrows, has remained in the back of my mind day by day (along with many other lessons from the book!) and became even more poignant on a day full of sorrows a few weeks ago.

I had just enjoyed a nourishing and supportive weekend at the WELL Summit in Boston, MA - all because I won a free ticket from the stunning, Latham Thomas!

The weekend was filled with abundance and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Then came Sunday and it was time for me to go home.

The very brief rundown of the day goes like this:

Left in a rush and forgot my phone at my friends house. Deep breath. Gratitude. Trust that everything happens for a reason. Got my phone. Made it in time to enjoy the end of the WELL Summit brunch. All was well.

Had some time to spend with a friend, was told the drive to the bus station would only take a few minutes. Miscommunication. Ended up having to sprint for 10 blocks to make it in time. Sweaty. Tired. Hungry. But grateful for making it.

Then I realize my food is in my bag under the bus and we’re already on our way. Deep breaths. Cry a bit. Let it all go. 

Finally arrive in NYC. Get out my snack, head to the subway.

Then, the final kicker... I choke on my snack.

A piece of food gets stuck in my throat. I can barely breath. I’m heaving and coughing and choking on the subway train platform.

No one comes over to help me.

I’m thinking, I could die right now.

I’m heaving. Coughing. Swallowing air. Barely breathing. Trying to dislodge the food.

I’m terrified.

A few minutes pass like this. The food finally moves enough for me to breathe. My throat hurts, my chest hurts, I’m crying again.

Finally a woman comes over and checks on me.

I made it home safe. It took me a few days to recover. And for those first few days it was really hard to be grateful for the experience of choking. It was horrible and traumatic and I wish it on no one.

And yet, from this horrible and traumatic experience, there really is so much to be grateful for.

First and foremost, I am alive.

Second, it has forced me to slow down, to give myself time, to take care of myself even more than usual.

And third, I have a renewed sense of compassion and have been reminded of the importance of basic human connection.

As a result of this trauma I have boosted my self care routine and I have connected with more people on the subway in the past few weeks than in the past year.

I am so very grateful.

All of this is to say, whatever your experience this Thanksgiving, remember: We need each other.

Do your best to love yourself, spread love to those around you, and be grateful for all the joys and sorrows along the way.

A few Thanksgiving activities from years past: Click here to learn a simple and powerful gratitude activity for kids (and you, too). And if you're needing to ground yourself in gratitude, click here for a how-to. 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. Sign up here to receive free updates and practices in your email inbox.

So much love,

Kelsey