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How do we live a life of gratitude? It is not always easy. To be honest, I think it’s more challenging than we choose to acknowledge. And being grateful is particularly difficult when we are experiencing detours, curveballs, and bumps in our journey. Yet that’s precisely when a grateful mindset is needed the most.

One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown. Her words, research, and writing resonate deeply with me. I recently posted one of my favorite quotes: “WHAT SEPARATES PRIVILEGE FROM ENTITLEMENT IS GRATITUDE.” Brene’s statement, as always, is a true, powerful, and timely.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reflecting even more than usual. Many souls have so little (emotionally and/or materially) yet they live with such appreciation and abundance. Other people have so much yet live with entitlement due to their perceived status or inflated sense of self.

I have lived a meaningful, intentional, and thankful life. It has not always been easy. And I make conscious choices to do so. I often ask myself, “What is this moment or feeling teaching me? What is the lesson?”

I am blessed with an incredible, loving husband; he is my best friend, life partner, and soul mate. My two children, Zoe and Alec, are lifetime gifts; and they are unquestionably the most impactful teachers I’ve ever had. I’m riding the waves, and not always gracefully, as they navigate the perpetually changing tide of the teenage years.

My friends are authentic, supportive, loyal, and steadfast. My family and friends who have become family form a nurturing nest of love. I’ve finally learned to trust others enough to share with my whole heart. Every single second of each day I am thankful for my blessings.

In recent months, I’ve experienced some excruciating, emotional moments and searingly stressful situations. I have had days in which finding the silver lining has been nearly impossible. This has scared, shook, and rattled my core. And the curveballs keep coming!

Here is what I have realized: It is ok to not be ok. You can be both grateful and grieving at the same time. Life is a series of contrasting events and encounters. How can we deeply appreciate our relationships and realities without learning from our past? I am blessed. I am grateful. I am embracing being comfortable with vulnerability.

I rarely allow myself to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Perhaps it was a learned behavior or a way to cope since childhood? As I parent my own children, I am growing up, too. I have worked diligently and consciously on my own personal growth for years. I have had positive quotes all over our home for a decade. Words inspire and infuse creative energy within me.

For some reason, it seems I used to equate being grateful with dismissing  negative feelings. My earlier perception and practice of gratitude was to only see the positive in all people and situations. I shoved away sadness, disappointment, and frustration. I realize this may sound absurd, but I truly didn’t feel anger until a few years ago! One of my best friends said, “Welcome to being human, Dara!”

And I love to be here for others as much as I can and in any way possible. But I am understanding that I need to be present for myself, too. What I now know to be true is this: You can live with gratitude while also expressing and owning your pain.

I still tend to focus on the rainbow rather than the storm. However, I am finally in the storm without defensive, protective gear. I observe what it taught me when it passes. My gratitude has become more inclusive and expansive. I am allowing myself to feel deeply and with my whole soul.

Could things always be worse? Yes. Do I still catch myself tossing aside my own needs and emotions? Absolutely. I sincerely believe that without the rocky roads we travel, living a life of gratitude would be superficial. When you are living in and with gratitude, you appreciate intangible qualities in yourself or others. For instance, you may be fighting a disease while being thankful for your strength. Or you may mourn the loss of a friendship yet also appreciate what you learned from it.

Every passage and phase IS a privilege—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I will forever focus on the rainbow but I am thankful, too, for the rain showers that preceded it. I am grateful for it all.

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