When I did my thesis on happiness I found there are a bunch of things we can do to feel happier. One of those is to be grateful.
What can be even more powerful, I’ve found, is to look back on the awful, sucky stuff that happens, and notice how it actually brings good stuff.
Here are 3 crappy things I’m now grateful for.
1. Thank You Unsightly 7-Month Face Rash
A mysterious rash all over my face has made me pretty miserable for much of the year.
I’ve felt ugly. I’ve struggled to work and sleep because of the insane itchiness. I’ve spent a fortune on treatments and specialists.
I now have a diagnosis: I’m strongly allergic to methylisothiazolinone and chloromethylisothiazolinone (preservatives used in shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, body wash, body lotion, face cream, and many more personal care, baby care and household products), and have also developed a general sensitivity to sunscreen.
The rash is slowly calming down. It’s way less itchy. Strangers selling me coffee no longer say, ew, what’s that on your face?
And you know what? I feel so happy to look in the mirror and not see giant red blotches. I feel so comfortable to lie in my bed at night and not desperately want to scratch.
Having had an ugly, itchy rash for so long has left me almost deliriously happy to now not have a rash. And for that lovely, almost giddy feeling, I’m grateful.
2. Thank You Sprained Ankle
About a month ago I sprained my ankle.
I’d picked up a pizza after a class at the gym and was texting as I walked home. I’m good at peripheral looking-where-I’m-going while texting. What I’m not good at is walking in a straight line. So although I could see that my way ahead was clear, I couldn’t see that I’d veered to the left and was about to step off the sidewalk and onto the street.
When my foot kept going beyond the point I expected, I did what any normal person would do: I corrected my balance in order to save the pizza. Which I did (phew!). But it was at the expense of my ankle, which landed hard and twistingly and painfully and, by the time I got home, had swollen to the size of a giant, swollen ankle.
What good came of that? Well for years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to strengthen my core. When I could put enough weight on the ankle to get back to the gym, I couldn’t move around much, and the only way I could get any kind of workout was to use my core (the core bone, mercifully, is not connected to the ankle bone).
Now, 4 weeks later, my ankle is nearly back to normal. And I have a considerably stronger core. For which I’m very thankful.
3. Thank You Bleurgh Business Quarter
The past few months have been mega-bleurgh, business-wise. The US government shut-down, combined with internal conflict and directionlessness on my part, formed a cocktail of crappiness that not even a double shot of gin and a paper umbrella could save.
I was starting to wonder if I should give up and do something different.
But as upsetting as that was, it gave me the mental space to look at my business and myself from a fresh, assume-nothing perspective. And to think about what I most enjoy, what I want my business to look like, and what isn’t working.
Without the sucky quarter, I would never have done this soul-searching. And so I wouldn’t have discovered that, lurking in the dark, there are hidden and exciting things bubbling away. Changes I want to make. Risks I want to take.
And for those bubbles of excitement I feel great gratitude.
What Flowers Is The Rain Watering?
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it beautifully:
Into each life some rain must fall.
Sometimes it’s drizzle, sometimes it’s torrents.
But after the rain, it’s worth looking at the soil of your life and seeing what’s growing there; what blossoms the rain has nurtured.
Yes the rain wrecked your hair and gave you a cold and made you miserable.
But what else did it do?
Flowers inevitably grow. We can make ourselves happier if we notice the flowers, and realize it was the rain that brought them.
And to say to the rain, thank you.