My parents could have named me Polyanna. It would have fit my personality. Mostly, at least as a kid. I skipped my lanky legs around a lot and sang in perky children's choirs and even danced with a group called "The Sunshine Generation" where we wore orange and yellow dresses that were miniature versions of old-people square dancing get ups.
I've held to a sunny-side-of-the-street persona like an armless cowboy clinging the the side of a runaway train.
Somehow in all of the bottom-falling-outs of life, I've always been willing - wanted even - to see truth. Not just the parts that explain away bad things bringing momentary relief or justify feeling sad/angry/lonely. I wanted the real truth even if it meant seeing my own gaping flaws because I knew I didn't want to cling to that train if a real paradise existed in letting go.
There is something about being grateful that keeps the truth coming. I've found nothing even close that can replace it. It makes truth vibrate with freedom even if it doesn't always carry joy with it. I've noticed that when I feel a hard truth coming to a head - which it often does slowly and laboriously - I often revert to a super-positive-look-on-the-bright-side-I'm-totally-okay-see-me-huge-smile?!?! way of being. But something I'm learning about gratitude is that it is not the same as positive thinking and that stepping into positive thinking too fast and furious too soon before the truth has become clear, actually keeps real gratitude at bay.
We've had our younger pup for exactly a year now. Giving her what she needs has been way harder than I thought it would be and I even thought I knew exactly what I was getting in to. Her arrival into our family coincided with a particularly intense shift in my relationship with my oldest beatuiful wild pony. At 15 she's a lot of bark and protest and even more sweet doe eyes and whining. Elsie, the pup, was a holy terror. She was snotty and rebellious and determined to not comply. No matter how much I tried to convince her that I knew what was best for her - to please just not run off to figure things out herself - she seemed to bolt that much more quickly. And much more intensly.
There was a point at which I was very tempted to just keep thinking positive in our progress with Elsie. I watched enough Dog Whisperer to know that she'd totally pick up on my hopelessness and that my job was to be super positive and trusting.
But for the grace of all that is good and merciful in my life, I realized that there was way more too it than just acting positive. There were two very intense relationships in my life with shockingly similarities. From both sides.
I was standing out in the lower pasture on the verge of tears one late summer day trying to get my dog to just come home from terrorizing the horse next door. I was struck with the realization that I felt lost to myself. All my capabilities felt pointless. I had no idea who I was in this situation and I wanted...needed...to know who I was - who I was going to choose to be in the face of loosing adoration from someone/thing I cared for as they simply grew into themselves. I saw that what it was going to take to feel at peace with this pup was exactly what it was going to take to feel at peace with my pony.
Patience. Non reactive clarity. Firm boundaries = fewer than I initially thought. I had to choose my battles. I had to make being with me way more appealing than pushing against me. I had to be the loving leader, not the boundry-less playmate and I had to figure out how to be the playful leader too. It was a big job and I didn't know if I was capable of doing it well in either my relationship with my pup or my pony.
I've spent many a contemplative moment since then overwhelmed with gratitude for seeing that connection. It took the struggle with my pup to help me see how to improve on the struggle with my precious pony. Even though both still kick and run and buck and poop and stir up trouble when I'm not looking, the tension is far less, the affection dolled out more freely, and there is a lot more laughter going on.
It feels so much better and it was absolutely, with no question, a result of shifting into gratitude for what the experience, as challenging as it was, had to teach me. This is what gratitude can do.