When we think of gratitude we often gravitate toward giving thanks to the people and things that have made our lives better – usually the people that have shown us kindness, or the things that have helped paved the way to our success. It’s often the shiny, happy things that we express gratitude for. But what about the ugly stuff? Our lives are full of pretty people and wonderful moments, sure, but life is also full of pain and irritation. We meet with defeat and disappointment on a regular basis. The brutal parts of life make us who we are just as much as – or possibly more than – the beautiful stuff does. Why don’t we thank the pain?
At this stage in my life I’m much more grateful for the failure and disappointment that has made me the woman I am today than I am for any of the perfect or pretty things. What follows is my gratitude list for the painful stuff. I’m infinitely grateful for every crushing blow.
Now, let me express my gratitude to the pain:
Thank you, Fifth Grade Teacher, for embarrassing me by reading one of my love letters aloud to the entire class. You showed me humiliation is temporary and that love should never be kept hidden.
Thank you, former drama teacher, for telling me I had an “unlistenable” singing voice. You helped me find a strong and courageous voice of authenticity inside of me.
Thank you, Tinkerbell, for telling me you didn’t want to be my friend anymore. You helped me define friendship on more authentic terms so I could be a real friend to the people that matter.
Thank you, credit cards, for enticing me to rack up more debt than I could manage. You gave me compassion for the poor, and you’ve helped me recognize the significance of simplicity.
Thank you, layoffs, for showing me that someone’s worth is not defined by productivity.
Thank you, hot guy who didn’t think I was pretty enough to talk to. You’ve shown me that beauty needs to be more than skin deep.
Thank you, hot guy who does talk to me. You’ve shown me that honesty and vulnerability are way more attractive than big muscles and a brilliant smile.
Thank you, broken shoulder, for giving me empathy for the disabled.
Thank you, con artist ex-boyfriend, for getting arrested on my parent’s porch. You helped me discover the value of truth.
Thank you, alcoholism. Without you I never would have been forced to face ugly realities about my past and my inner self. You’ve helped me heal and given me a life I never expected.
Thank you, Casanova, for telling me you loved me on our second date and then abandoning me forever. You helped me realize that love isn’t something I have to win, but rather something I am. You showed me that love truly needs to be patient and that the best things in life can’t be rushed.
Thank you, piano teacher, for telling me my scales sounded crappy. You made me want to quit, and then I started playing again on my own when I was ready. You gave me the motivation to sing my own songs. You helped me find harmony.
Thank you, former roommate, for getting legitimately furious when I couldn’t manage my share of rent. You helped me realize how important it is to live up to my end of the bargain, carry my load of work, and be there for people who need me. You taught me responsibility.
Thank you, cool girls and popular boys, for never inviting me into your circle or even coming close to voting me onto Homecoming court. You taught me that popularity and fame aren’t all they are cracked up to be and helped me find honesty, loyalty and acceptance instead.
Thank you, college professor, for giving me that F. You took me off my cocky pedestal and put me in my place. You helped me understand that my work was a reflection of me and I couldn’t slack off and expect undue rewards.
Thank you, Donald Trump and every corrupt man of power out there. You’ve helped me hold men to a higher standard rather than settle for excuses and weak rationalizations. You’ve given me a different definition of power.
Thank you, rich and spoiled ex-boyfriend. You showed me that money cannot buy happiness, respect or love.
Thank you, men who have harassed me and treated my body like a toy. You helped me see that defining one’s worth on the basis of his or her sexuality is ludicrous. You helped me see my body as a temple, not a trophy. You helped me develop empathy so I can be of service to others today.
Thank you, abusive ex-boyfriend. You helped me develop resilience and strength. You taught me that tolerance should be reserved for those that deserve it. You taught me how to fight for myself, and you showed me I was worth fighting for.
Thank you, clock, for only having space for 24 hours every day. You’ve helped me discern my priorities.
Thank you, jealous friend who criticized me and my life. You tested my patience. You tested my resolve. You made me see I had no business rescuing or fixing anyone and showed me that I can’t make everybody happy. You gave me permission to let you, and other toxic friends, go.
Thank you, interruptions and budgets and time constraints. You’ve helped me realize that “good enough” is often more than good enough.
Thank you, lump in my breast. You helped me appreciate my body and my health on an entirely different level. You made me appreciate life itself.
Thank you, girls who called me gross and boys who pulled my pigtails on the playground. You gave me coping skills that I can pass on to my sons when the same thing happens to them.
Thank you, road ragers. You’ve given me perspective.
Thank you, insomnia and anxiety, for showing me the luxurious necessity of sleep and serenity. You made me find treasure peace. You forced me to find solutions. You made me address the crippling doubt and nagging worries that plagued me and held me captive. You gave me freedom.
Thank you, noisy and overwhelming crowds, for making me appreciate the pleasure of my own company.
Thank you, superficial meathead, for calling me fat. And thank you, fad diets and exercise contraptions, for making an ideal body unattainable. You’ve made a mockery of perfection and body image so I can appreciate health and strength instead.
Thank you, injustice, for connecting me to my fellow humans and giving me something to fight for.
Thank you, needy toddlers, for keeping me from “important” things, so I learned what was really important.
Thank you, noise, for opening my ears.
Thank you, labor pains, for giving me my children.
Thank you, people that labeled me and pigeonholed me and underestimated me. You gave me compassion for the marginalized.
Thank you, chauvinistic males who wouldn’t let me do stuff because I’m a girl. You helped me understand in my bones what it feels like to be held back from doing something because of an arbitrary attribute. You connected me to everyone who has ever been labeled as different. You opened my heart to everyone who has been held back because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, background or appearance. You gave me the motivation and fortitude to fight for equality in all its forms.
Thank you, workaholic boss, for assigning me the work of three employees, so I couldn’t handle it and broke down. I learned what I wasn’t capable of and started to set limits.
Thank you, difficult people that challenge me daily. You ask the hard questions that open my mind, solidify my values, cultivate courage and motivate me to change my corner of the world.
Thank you, pain, for making me feel.
Thank you, failure. You make me try again.
Thank you, heartbreak, for making me tender.
Thank you, closed doors, for forcing me to open new ones.
Thank you to everything that almost broke me for making me realize that I don’t need to be fixed.
Thank you, life, for being brutal. Because there’s so much beauty in this messy life.
So much beauty.
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