Have you ever been told to focus on the positives, to be grateful for what you have because there is always someone worse off? Easy in theory, but challenging when you're in the throes of a difficult time.
It's something I have struggled with in various aspects of my life. I'd love to be able to say I've mastered it to the degree of the likes of Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama, but that would be a big fat lie! I've fallen short of my goal more times than I can count. When egos create havoc in the workplace, someone takes advantage of my goodwill, a love interest unceremoniously gives me the flick - all these and many more have seen my 'gratitudeometer' plummet.
The character of Elena in Peace of the Puzzle is told by her counsellor that she should thank all the men who ignored her, took advantage of her, lied to and cheated on her. Why? Because each of them taught her a valuable lesson about herself; her behaviour patterns, emotional addictions and beliefs which lay below the surface of her conscious awareness until someone came along and pressed her buttons enough times that she could no longer ignore her own reactions. That's the point at which we change our personalities and grow in wisdom.
That's not to say we should seek to be mistreated or disrespected or condone bad behaviour. But when it happens - or when it happens often enough that we can't keep ignoring it - focusing on the hurt or anger is only going to further damage ourselves. If we can recognise it as a valuable experience and find a way to be grateful to the perpetrator for helping us develop strength of character, then we make some real progress.
Gratitude is something I've been thinking a lot about this year. At a time when I've been dealing with an unexpected health issue, I've surprised myself with how much gratitude I've been able to feel. Instead of falling into bitterness about the abysmal state of our private health system, I am grateful that we have the public medicare system to fall back on. Many people across the world don't have that safety net. While initially floored at the insensitivity of some medical staff, I've since been heartened to encounter others who are caring and supportive - to the extent that one Doctor even gave me their personal mobile number in case I needed something on the days they didn't work.
The friends, family and colleagues who know what's happening have been so supportive and I'm grateful for the many wonderful souls in this world.
My husband amazes me every day with his support, kindness, positivity and devotion. I'm incredibly grateful to have him by my side through life's ups and downs. In that way, I feel I'm the luckiest person on earth.
The situation has been the impetus for me to face up to certain issues which I'd been trying to ignore or avoid. Even though I know through experience that dealing with difficult issues and addressing the white elephants in the room rarely result in outcomes anywhere near as disastrous as we imagine they will be, I still chose to avoid confronting some of them. That's human nature I guess. I'm grateful that now I feel much more at peace with myself for having faced up to them.
Last but not least, I am grateful to those who have written or spoken to me in recent months to say that they resonated with my novel and found it helpful in making sense of some of their life experiences. Especially those who found the character or her circumstances frustrating in the initial chapters, but persevered.
Even though every writer knows that not every reader will like their work, it's always heartening to get positive feedback. I wrote the story in the hope that it might be more than just entertainment value, that it might help people who have experienced, or are experiencing, any or all of the issues Elena grapples with. So thank you for your kind words, they have brought a smile to my heart. :) <3