Gratitude is an admirable trait. Within the context of a 12 Step gathering, it has a potent highlight.
You hear dark stories of this disease called addiction. Blackouts, tragic accidents, broken relationships, imprisonment, fortunes gained and lost. A respected college professor who awakened in a piss-stained alleyway. A mother of three who lost her children for years. A young woman in a coma, struggling back to the light.
Grateful? Why? Surely because the disease is at bay, the downhill descent arrested by a new way of being. But the gratitude is more than a celebration of this miracle. It’s a bold statement, a candle held against the darkness, a sweet melody flung into the abyss.
I am free from regrets and bitterness! I am grateful for every trial, even this disease, because it awakened me to abundant life!
Katherine Mansfield, modernist writer, friend of D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, died of tuberculosis at age 34. She said, “Make it a rule to never regret. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only for wallowing.”
Many of us continue to unearth our regrets. These caustic, unreleased wounds, are self-fulfilling prophecies. They cause the same squandering of the present moment as their mental ancestors.
I digest the texts of many world religions. In Jewish scripture, I have always loved these words from the Prophet Habakkuk: Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord…
I remember a simple moment.
I was hiking above the timber line in an alpine meadow. Like many “peak baggers,” I was myopically intent on my objective, one of Colorado’s summits. I was moving at a quick pace, determined to ascend and descend on a tight time schedule.
That’s when I became aware of a small rock that had wiggled its way into my boot. Slightly irritating at first, it quickly became painful. What a nuisance! I stopped, exasperated by the pause, and sat on a boulder to untie my laces.
In my peripheral vision, I sensed movement. I lifted my eyes. I saw a soft breeze rippling across the meadow, stirring a riot of wildflowers, butterflies dancing above them. And then, from the tree line on the right, a small herd of elk emerged, led by a majestic buck.
I sat absolutely still, immersed in the present, the Shekinah. The elk began to lope across the landscape, poetry of motion, glossy flanks reflecting the sunlight, until they entered trees on the far side.
Thank God for that rock in my boot.