“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou
A few years ago I found myself in a place of trouble, a place where I was broken and banished to live unhappily alone. I had fallen in love for the first time and after two years my world which I had built with my beloved came crashing in on me. He had lost his job and through his own struggles with depression, he had effected the way that I felt. I became depressed around him. The things we use to do together for fun like hiking became a source of turmoil and agony. We would attempt to go on a hike and something would be said that would lead to an argument. If you have ever been trapped in the woods during an argument then you may know that what started out as a beautiful day walking for thirty minutes into the trees becomes an eternity to get back to the car. When we would argue in the woods among the trees, the solitary silence that would follow as we made our way back to the vehicle would cut a wound with every step. We could not escape each other, the only distance would be the steps between us as he would rush ahead of me to the point he would disappear behind the hill or bend along the trail. The distance between us was not only physical but an emotional disconnect that ached with such pain and misery I couldn’t understand why it became this way. I loved him with all my heart and had pictured my future with him. I truly felt we were soul mates and that we could get through whatever it was that caused this. But we didn’t overcome the divide. Instead the relationship ended, and after months of us both trying to hold on just a little bit longer, it was done. He came out and said it…..it was over. I was heart broken.
Over the next year as I began to mend my broken heart I went through the beginning of a transformation in attitude. After we broke up, things were not really over. You see we had been living together for over a year and had recently switched apartments. The apartment building would not let us out of our lease unless we paid off the rest of the lease, and to pay rent for seven months was not an option. Neither of us had that kind of money, nor could either of us afford the apartment by ourselves. So yes, I lived with my ex-boyfriend for seven months. To call it an emotional roller coaster is an understatement. It was a disaster. He took off right after the breakup for a few moths because his job had work for him out in California. We had agreed to not speak until he got back, but that didn’t work. three weeks later he called me to check up on me saying how he missed me. When he returned we still were doing things together just not being together or sleeping in the same bed. For the next two months it was back and fourth between us, should we or shouldn’t we try again. I was still so in love with him. He had become my best friend and the thing that hurt the most was the idea of loosing his friendship too. Then I was laid off from my job. It was unexpected as many lay offs are. My whole that I had been sinking into was now deeper. The day I got laid off I had had a gynecology appointment. A week later I went in for some test results that they had ran and found out the I had a small cyst in my uterus. It wasn’t a major concern but could possibly mean having surgery. But because my insurance was canceled I would have to go to another doctor.
I was so deep down the rabbits whole I didn’t know what to do. I was calling my family crying almost every night. This happened in November right before Thanksgiving. I had been invited to me ex’s families house for dinner because my family lived so far away . I had moved to Boston in 2010, my family was back in West Virginia. I had been so close to his family they were like my own, and they loved me. The day before thanksgiving I was in the kitchen making something to take with me like I always did when I went as a guest to someones house for dinner. When my ex came in and said he was going out. He was all dressed up, he had a date. Of course you know I was upset. We had been going in circles for weeks about trying again, even had a romantic movie night a few days before cuddling on the couch. So, to hear he had a date was hurtful. It was like he broke my heart even further. If that was even possible, but what could I do to stop him. Thanksgiving came and I really had nothing to be thankful for. My life was in pieces. I would often cry myself to sleep at night. We both stayed the weekend at his parents, and I can say that I enjoyed his family. They put me in the sowing room on an air-mattress for the two night. And Saturday I went to his sisters bridal shower. I will never forget what his mom and aunt said to me in the kitchen as I was helping to get the food to the table. “You are the best thing that ever happened to him and one day he will realize it. You are better off without him.” Yes, his family really did love me,and want to see me happy even if it was without their son or nephew. In a small way their words made me feel a little better about things. It was the one thing I knew I could be thankful for that day. And I thought maybe they were right about him realizing that I was so great. I mean even he said that he felt I did nothing wrong, and it was all him. I do take responsibility for my part in the ending of things, I know it was not all on him. Maya Angelou once said”I did then what I knew how to do.Now that I know better, I do better.”
The Saturday we got back to the apartment, he took off again to go on a second date with that girl. He did not plan on coming home. So, in my misery I called my mother. She consoled me the way mothers do, but she did something else that pushed me forward towards healing and climbing out of the hole I had fallen so far into. She asked me to do her a favor and go to church tomorrow. I did just as my mother asked. Silly to think I found the River church through googling it. After I hung up with mom, I typed into google churches near me. The River came up first and I figured it was as good as any other church. It was God’s saving grace that sent me to that church that day. As I remember the nerves as I walked in, to the seat I took, to being ushered around by the gentleman who would become a dear friend…..I know that in that moment I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Most of all I remember the time at the end of the service and how all the emotions I had been fighting with all weekend came flooding forward like a river with no end. As I stood there crying with my head bowed and my eyes closed I felt a light touch on my shoulder. I opened my eyes to a woman with a baby strapped to her belly, and she asked to pray for me. She started saying the exact words I needed to hear. Even though I can’t specifically recall ever phrase, the one thing that stands out is the image she share of me being held in the father’s arms as a small child , he wanted me to know that I was not alone. That he was with me holding me in my sorrow. As i write tears come to my eyes as I relive the comfort those words had. The tears are those of gratitude for the woman he used to speak words that I would really hear. Until that day it had been sometime since I had been to church, well unless you count the couple of times I went with my family for Christmas. Immediately after the closing song was over and my tears had slowly settled into my cheek, I was greeted by a bald man from India. he had an accent, but his English was quit legible. He introduced himself and asked if it was my first time there, and of course I said yes. We started with small talk but then he wanted to share with me information about a faith group bible study he was a part of. He proceed to usher me with introductions to one person after another, they were all so warm and welcoming. It had been years since I had felt so welcomed as a new comer to a church. I met the faith groups leaders and was invited to their weekly Wednesday night meeting. It was held at their house which was just right around the corner from my apartment. Yes, I showed up on Wednesday. Who wouldn’t go after all they were so nice. It was the beginning of my transformation. It was the beginning of healing my heart. That first bible study we talking about being grateful. And what it means to find gratitude in what we did not want in our lives. Like ending a relationship that you wanted to be forever. How do you be thankful for being laid off from a job? Or from being told that you have a health problem? How do you find joy in one of the worst times of your life?
It’s all about attitude, having an attitude in gratitude. I know its not an easy thing to change and it will take some time, but I have found the hope always comes. Because like one of the people I have found the most inspiration from these past few months, Maya Angelou…….”God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us- in the dreariest and most dreaded moments – can see the possibility of hope.” The River and each person who became like family while I was a member there, well they were my rainbows. They showed me hope. So I kneel in gratitude for each rainbow, and for the bridge that finding my faith again has welcomed an “Attitude in Gratitude”.