At some point in this last year, I became the person who always used to annoy me. The person who is so full of joy and is always posting positive things on social media. If you didn't know me before my surgery, you may find it hard to believe that I used to be a huge pessimist.
I actually remember lying on an "about me" project in second grade to say that I was an optimist, even though I knew that I wasn't. (I used a sunshine happy face with sunglasses to represent my favorite season, summer, as well as my optimistic attitude.)
My life has been full of struggles. Poverty, family health issues, etc. I hated to hope because I knew that bad things would happen to me and that I would be let down. However, since my diagnosis and surgery last August, I realized that I couldn't control what was happening to me and around me. So I needed to focus on what I could control: my attitude. Bad things happen all the time, but I could still find positive elements in the midst of the pain. I could see God's hands on my life, even in the worst situations. On a very practical level, of what benefit would it be for me or for anyone else around me if I were to be angry or bitter about something I couldn't control?
That is when I started talking about #practicegratitude. Instead of asking "why me?" with my brain tumor diagnosis, I thanked God for providing me with the best neurosurgeon in the country. Instead of being angry at the doctor who misdiagnosed me for two and a half months, I chose to thank God for using that time to strengthen my faith and to prepare me for the rough times ahead.
Once I made this intentional shift in attitude, I started to experience inexplicable joy and freedom. I used to live my life captive to fear (fear of failure, fear of what others thought about me, fear of the unknown, etc.). I could and probably will write a whole separate blog post about that. But once I shifted my attitude to one of gratitude, I realized that even when I made huge mistakes, I could laugh and be grateful for the lessons that I was learning. Previously I would have felt so terrible about myself and would have had a really difficult time getting over those mistakes.
Let me be honest with you. It is often very challenging for me to be grateful and positive. The hardest year of my life isn't over yet. Recovery has been much more difficult than I could have imagined. But I don't want to return to my former way of life. I want to choose joy and freedom. So I am very intentional about reminding myself about all the reasons that I have to be grateful. Many of the Instagram or Facebook posts you see are actually because I desperately need those reminders. This is also why I am such a big proponent of journaling. My journal entries remind me that no matter how I am feeling, God is faithful and that He will not leave my side.
Even now, I find myself in a place of much uncertainty. I've been feeling discouraged and disillusioned. So I've made an effort to write thank you notes during some of these low moments. It's such an easy way to bring a smile to my face or joyful tears to my eyes! In my prayers that I journal, I talk to God about all the things that are troubling me, but then I make sure to thank Him for the lessons that I am learning or hopefully will learn through these trials.
Please know that I am still struggling. For every one #practicegratitude post, there are probably five complaining posts that I have churning in my head. I am not ignoring or downplaying the difficult moments. I am instead choosing to be grateful in the midst of them.