I’ve been working on a gratitude practice for several months, and it was going along pretty well for a while, but then I had a rough month. November started with a car accident and the death of my cat and ended with a cold that knocked me out for a week and a new kitten who is very ill. On the one hand, I realize that all of my concerns are problems some people would love to have, but they’re my problems, and to have so many of them pile up on top of each other made it difficult for me to handle even the small, day-to-day problems that we all experience.

I was looking at December and the end of the year with a sense of dread because, even though I didn’t see how things could get more stressful, I had been thinking that for weeks, and it wasn’t changing. Needless to say, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was not feeling very thankful for anything.

It was at that point (sometime yesterday!) that I remembered that we notice what we are looking for. Since I’d been looking so long at all of the negative events happening in my life, I’d forgotten to look at the good stuff, and I simply couldn’t see it even though it was happening all around me every day. Through all of the illness and dealing with insurance companies to get my car fixed, there were things every day that were going well. There were times when I smiled and laughed, there were great moments of caring from good friends, and there was the miracle of everyday life that I ignored or simply didn’t take notice of.

I’m not proud of this, but I also realized that I need to cut myself a break. What better way is there to practice gratitude than when some pretty terrible stuff is staring you in the face? Gratitude isn’t about loving every aspect of my life or never suffering, it’s about finding what lessons I’m learning through the suffering. And this lesson is a tough one to learn again. I haven’t quite gotten out of my funk, but I’m getting there. I don’t remember, but I imagine it took me a while to get into it, too.

I can’t go back and fix the last month and all of my negativity and frustration, but I can move forward with a new perspective. I can look for the positive things while I am also looking at the negatives. I can’t avoid bad things happening, but I can be grateful for the good things when they occur. And that’s what gratitude is really all about.