Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Breaking My Two Feet Was the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to Me."

To You:

I was recently listening to an acquaintance recount her experiences of the past year.  She was chronicling some pretty difficult times, beginning with breaking both of her feet.  At one point, in tears, she said, "Breaking my two feet was the best thing that could have happened to me."  That's not exactly what one would expect to hear.

The Girl Who Said It

This comment has been stuck in my head, and a few thoughts keep recurring.  First, I am struck by the maturity of this young college-aged friend.  She is contemplating her own life and the path it is taking.  She is recognizing causes and effects and taking ownership of where her life is heading.  She is moving forward in life with intention and gratitude, rather than a "poor me" outlook.  The way she freely contributes her experiences and the lessons she is learning shows great humility and honesty.  I am grateful for her willingness to share that with others.  I'd like to be like that.

What We Can All Learn From Her

Secondly, haven't we all looked back on hard times and realized we learned a great deal from them?  When we look back, aren't those challenges meaningful in a previously unforeseen way?  Perhaps the difficulty was unemployment or financial hardship.  It may have been sickness or the death of a loved one.  Maybe loneliness or low self esteem have taken their toll in life.  The list is endless.  I have contemplated how this scenario has played out many times in my own life.  Many of these trials don't have definite ends; we are all probably in a hardship of one kind or another right now.  Wouldn't it be helpful during these difficult times, if we could see the purpose now, rather than having to wait to look back?  Usually we are unable to see the entirety of what good will come from present difficulty, but finding at least some of the purpose in the moment (and recognizing that it really is serving a purpose in our life) can bring a measure of comfort and often-needed direction.  Knowing that our struggles are truly not in vain helps us get through them.

Getting There

So how can we find that lesson or purpose in the midst of these hard times, thus making our struggles more purposeful and therefore, just a little easier to manage?  One idea is to be intentional about our lives.  Spend time in meditation, prayer, quiet thinking, or whatever form that self-reflection takes for you.  Ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?"  Pat yourself on the back when you recognize what one of those lessons might be, and then try to learn that lesson well.  See how your mastery of that life lesson may allow you to help others.  When our struggles lead us to better serve those around us, we are surely finding Divinity in our suffering.

Another idea to help us find purpose in difficult times is to choose gratitude.  As put in one of my favorite talks on the subject of gratitude, "It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God.  But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding...Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation?  In other words, I'm suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances–whatever they may be...This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul.  It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind."  This gratitude will lighten our loads and enlighten our understanding.  We will be better able to see how our current hardship fits into the grand perspective of our lives.

My Own Two Feet Tale

This summer we took an epic road trip.  The three kids and I drove over 75 hours through 13 different states!  At one rare moment, the car was quiet as the older kids looked at books and the youngest slept.  My mind drifted to life, real life.  Things had not been going as planned for me.  For over a year, we had been waiting and working toward several desired goals, and for reasons beyond our control, things were not working out.  I was overcome with a heaviness and deep disappointment.  There I sat in the front seat, throwing myself my own little pity party.  After some tears, I chided myself for focusing on the negative and thought how much was going so very wonderfully in my life.  I should be more grateful.  One of the kids interrupted my thoughts and the moment passed.

The trip was incredible as we got to see so much family.  It ended with a Family Reunion, bringing nearly 100 of my relatives together for an extended weekend.  One highlight of the reunion was an adult devotional directed by my cousin and his wife.  Their chosen topic...gratitude.  "This was meant for me," I thought instantly, remembering my earlier notion.  As I sat and listened, it hit me.  It wasn't a new thought, but a profound realization of something I already "knew."  Here were some of the people I love and admire most in this world.  They shared their challenges freely, some of the hardest challenges this life has to offer.  Here they talked about dealing with cancer, disabilities, and death, all from a place of gratitude.  Sure, my problems are "small," but that is not the point.  There is no competition to see who can endure the hardest problems, a problem is a problem.  Instead, the truth that hit me so strongly was simple:  Gratitude is a Choice.

My situation has not changed, nothing has suddenly fallen into place for me.  Instead, as I have consciously chosen gratitude, I have changed.  I had asked myself before, "What can I learn from this difficulty?"  My list was meaningful.  However, as I have looked at my situation through grateful eyes, my mind has been enlightened, and my list is expanded.  I am learning those lessons more profoundly.  I am learning a new kind of patience.  I am learning a new kind of compassion.  I am learning a new kind of gratitude.  My priorities, while not really different, are more pronounced.  I think, I hope, I believe that I am becoming a little bit better person.  And that makes things a little bit easier to handle.

As you continue to traverse the difficulties of life, I hope you will be able to do so with intention and gratitude, helping you find purpose for your suffering and relief for your burdens.  I hope you don't break two feet, but if you do, I hope it serves you well.

Love, Marielle

What is your Two Feet Tale?  What have you learned from your difficulties?  How has gratitude changed your perspective?


  1. Life can certainly be rough and daunting. As I read your blog about when you were having your pity party, you prefaced it with your 3 beautiful and healthy children in various states of quiet on a long car ride. That's what happens when we focus on life's thorns, we truly become ungrateful for what is working right. Gratitude does change that focus. That's what I am in the process of learning. There is plenty going right if we just focus on that and gratitude opens God's blessings and miracles to us.

  2. That is so true! The other day my wise mommy said, "The older I get, the more I realize it's all about perspective." What we choose to focus on makes all the difference. One of the biggest miracles of having a grateful heart that I am seeing in my life is that not only do we see all that is going right, but we also even become grateful for our thorns. Thank you for sharing!