One important message has been blasted loud and clear to me this year is that with the good comes the bad and with the bad comes the good.  This whole year from the very beginning, I’ve had magical amazing experiences, travel, career successes and a wedding, but also mixed with extreme stress, very unfortunate life, country, & world happenings, and tragic losses.    And this unique blend of good and bad has actually forced me to question my existence, my purpose, and my life. And oh, did I question: What is the purpose of life, if tragedy, challenge and heart ache is an inevitability creeping around the corner?   My mom would say to me sternly: “Laurie, life is meant to be lived.  THAT is the purpose of life”.  (She’s so wise!)

So with the hardships and heartbreak that comes with life (and we all experience it in our own ways), finding peace and solace through it all can feel like a hurdle we can barely face.  That is why gratitude can your best line of defense, your biggest ally, and your internal support system.  In looking back, I can see now that gratitude is my cure for a worn down soul and finding gratitude during tough times is the muscle, I’d like to continue to grow.

I’ve been facing this dichotomy all year.  A romantic engagement, then a crash meshing of two perpetually single, living alone, 30 somethings, adjusting to having roommates for the first time in over 10 years.    A last minute dream trip to Israel and Greece?  Then a flood that wiped out our bathroom, closets, walls and more.  Nine months of wedding planning, which I think is both the good and the bad wrapped into one.  Happiness, and stress all combined together.  Then Charlottesville happened. And the proud and strong Jewish girl inside of me felt afraid for the first time.  The rise of very public and very hateful Neo-Nazism has come back in full force just a month before I’m supposed to have the happiest day of my life.  The world felt in such disarray (which really has been all year) and it affected everything in my being leading up to my wedding.   But then the day comes…my beautiful wedding!  The most magical day of my life. (I promise a story to come about that.)   Two weeks later, the Las Vegas shooting happened. I was devastated again.  The morning after, as the news was continuously breaking, Mike and I left for our honeymoon. I cried the whole plane ride to Hawaii.  But our honeymoon was wonderful; we put the world behind us and focused on each other having the most romantic, fun, and adventurous time together.   Fresh off two weeks of vacation, the night before we had to go back to work, my sweet kitty, Molly’s kidneys began to fail and it’s now it’s officially been one of the hardest times of my life.  If you asked me anytime after the wedding if I was in wedding bliss?  My answer was no, my baby is incurably sick and I was heartbroken.   Today, a little over a month later, my baby girl has passed onto her next life.

When I look back, I can barely wrap my mind around what has happened.   The good and the bad. The light and the dark. The happy and the sad. The beautiful and the ugly. The life and the death. The beginnings and the endings.   But that’s the point. 

The good and the bad have to come hand in hand.  Because, you can’t appreciate the good and live life fully through it with out experiencing the fire and walking through the bad.  In my spiritual studies, I’ve learned that light cannot define itself without having darkness to contrast it.  And it requires all the strength, mental acknowledgment and forward movement we can muster to surrender to the ride and coast through the waves with grace, gratitude and big picture vision.  It also requires taking action to push you through those days.  They say gratitude is a practice.  Indeed it is.  So this holiday season, let’s start practicing now. Together.

Here are some of my favorite and easy ways to find gratitude in tough times.

  • Calling a trusting family member or best friend to just talk.
  • Meditating morning or night (Try it daily!  It can be life changing.)
  • Immersing yourself into Yoga or an activity that supports mind, body and soul connection.
  • Writing a gratitude journal before you go to bed.  My colleague Katie Bressack recommended this one to me.  I have been having nightmares for months now and this tactic was to help me feel more grateful overall and to set my mind on happier thoughts before I shut my eyes.
  • Deep Breathing. When I am stressed out or scared, taking in new fresh energy as you breath in and letting go of what stresses you as you breath out can be a very powerful act for your body.

So no matter the good and no matter the bad, we must surrender and be grateful.

We must be grateful for the bad experiences as they teach us, strengthen us and give us the definition of dark, so that we can experience the grand brightness of the light.  And we must stop, pause and take in the gratitude for all the wonderful good things in our lives as well.  The saying goes; “this too shall pass”.  And so it does, over and over and over again.  Up and down, up and down.  The only difference you can make each time is to be aware of your place in that seesaw of life and be ever so grateful that you have a life to experience it.

Remember:

Life is meant to be lived, to be loved,

and to be appreciated, however you may endure it.

But the good news?

You are NOT alone.  We are NOT alone.

And TOGETHER we can get through it all.