What Is Gratitude?

Lately, this word gratitude keeps popping up in my mind. I keep thinking about it, wondering what it truly means to be grateful. I keep thinking about how to find gratitude during times of tribulation and adversity. It’s easy for us to find gratitude when our lives are running smoothly, when things feel like they are going in the right direction, when happiness is all that can be felt. But, what about when the times get hard and there’s mountains to climb, peaks to summit, large waves to cross, and storms to endure? It’s during these times that we forget what gratitude is. We tend to move inward during times of hardship, reflecting our fears and our anxiety outward in the form of bad attitudes, crudeness, and stubbornness, accompanied by muscles aches and pains.

41619177 - young woman in yoga pose sitting near watefall rear view

Recently, I have been going through my own trials and tribulations with my health. As if pregnancy doesn’t put enough strain and stress on the body, I came to find I have other serious health issues that are unrelated to being pregnant, yet the pregnancy have progressed my issues. Two weeks ago, I took myself to the hospital complaining of severe pain and swelling in my left leg. My leg was twice the size of my right, and it was turning a far darker shade of purple than what my olive brown skin usually appears to be. The pain was so intense it was difficult for me to walk, it radiated up into my lower back and hips, and at that point was sending me to tears. It was discovered I had a massive, two and half foot long blood clot running just about the entire length of my leg, with smaller clots creating blockages in the surrounding vein systems. The condition is known as deep vein thrombosis, or simply DVT. I was kept in the hospital for six days, unable to walk to the bathroom three feet away from my bed without calling a nurse to help me, unable to sleep through the night without crying in pain, all the while wondering why this was happening to me. I’m young, I’m fit, I’m active. Pregnant or not pregnant, how could this happen?

Once I was discharged, things began looking up. I had a home health nurse coming to visit me three times a week, a physical therapist coming twice a week to help me strengthen my leg, and family that flew in from 3,000 miles away to help cook meals, help around the house, take care of my six-year-old kiddo, and allow me to rest when I needed it. By day seven of being home, tragedy struck again. My mom called 911 while I was keeling over in pain from strong contractions that were coming two minutes apart and gushes of fluid running down my legs, not knowing what was wrong with me, all of us fearful of preterm labor or something worse. After hours of screaming in pain, vomiting, and a team of doctors all scratching their heads wondering what was wrong, it was determined I was not in labor (thankfully), but clearly something else was causing all the chaos. After doses of pain medication that was presumably safe for baby, my body was finally able to relax enough that some tests could be done. But nothing of concern was found. The clot at this point had been dissolving and significantly going down in size, it was clear it had not moved anywhere else in my body, and there was nothing that seemed to be directly causing the pain or the contractions.

After being monitored for 24 hours, and with the contractions under control and certain they were not labor contractions, I was discharged from the grasps of western medicine and brought home where I could manage the pain and the fear with my holistic ways and oils. Again, the word gratitude kept coming to mind. Why am I thinking about gratitude when everything around me is gloomy and filled with dismay? Why is gratitude the first thing that comes to mind when the waves of intense pain strike?

It was then that I started to embrace the resonance of this word and I started thinking about what it is I need to be feeling grateful for right now during my time of pain and hardship. Of course, the first thought was I’m grateful for my family for coming to me and standing by my side in this time of need. But that wasn’t enough. Gratitude continue to come to me and I felt something in the universe was really trying to tell me something. So, I started doing some meditation and deep thinking about it; which inevitably led me to writing about it in this post.

According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary: New Edition, the word gratitude is literally defined by one word, bolded and in all caps: THANKFULNESS. But does that really define gratitude? Isn’t gratitude so much more than just the act of being thankful, feeling thankful? You can be thankful for the clothes on your back when you have no other possessions, but how can you project that gratuity outward when you’re feeling down and in need of things you cannot manifest? I’ve seen so many fall down spiraling holes of depression and sadness because they have blocked themselves from finding gratitude during times of angst and chaos, which is a time when it is needed most. I have been one of these “victims” multiple times in the past. During each dark time, I have never once thought about gratitude; but instead have repeatedly brushed off feeling thankful thinking I was undeserving of being grateful for anything. It is taking this current moment of despair for me to realize that gratefulness can be found at any moment in time, and it is during these times of need especially, where finding gratitude can help you through pain, suffering, and darkness; guiding you to a place where you can find the light. Find a place of peace and calm in the middle of a storm.

thank you

I leave you with these last thoughts of what I feel gratitude means to me, and I hope you can find your own words of gratitude during times of chaos and fatigue, as well as during times of sunshine and happiness.

Gratitude is finding the good amongst the chaos.

Gratitude is being thankful for the things you have without being envious of the things you cannot obtain.

Gratitude is a hug in a moment of despair and fear.

Gratitude is feeling calm when your heart aches.

Gratitude is giving love to those around you who are suffering more than you in that moment.

Gratitude is finding peace when you’re standing in the middle of a storm.

Gratitude is giving to someone you love when you don’t have much to give.

What are some things you’re grateful for?

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings”

~ William Arthur Ward

Buddha