Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.

It’s November and, of course, all the gratitude posts start filtering through social media asking each of us “What are you grateful for?” An unlikely and unexpected whisper said, “I am grateful for my struggle.”

WTH?! I don’t want to be grateful for my struggle, my divorce, that constant pulse to push myself into a new life. It sucked. It was hard. It hurt like hell and I don’t ever want to face that struggle because then I may remember the pain and feel it all over again.

But, what if I’m wrong? What if I need to face that pain in order to just look back over my shoulder to my past and say Thank you, I am grateful for the lessons you taught me.

Looking back, I have come to realize that I had to go through the worst life could bring in order to make space for what could be my best life. It reminds of when farmers perform a slash and burn “Shifting Cultivation” in their agricultural cycle. Once the field is burned, the ground becomes very fertile for growth. Our struggle is our opportunity to shift and cultivate our new life by creating awareness for what no longer serves us or who we want to be. That pain, that burn, is necessary in order to remove all the roots of our limiting beliefs that hold us back.

We are all farmers farming something. In a nutshell, I was tired of tending thorny weeds and made the decision to burn my old life when I shifted from marriage to divorce. I looked at the field in front of me, held that burning match, and let go. Uncertainty filled me with unanswerable questions: Will it be self-contained or burn out of control? The irony is that once you release control, the match, you actually gain control of yourself because the fire burned away the pieces of your life that were creating discord. Your whole being clears as the embers settle and the smoke dissipates.

Peace comes with clarity. The struggle taught me what I didn’t want to plant again. It cleared space for my seeds of hope, love, comfort, and joy.

Now, when I look out onto that field, I smile. There is so much good sprouting up everywhere as far as the eye can see because now I know how to tend to myself and my life properly: With love, attention, and most of all gratitude.

The more I work at keeping the weeds at bay, the more abundant my life is.

I am grateful for the struggle because now I understand how it is to feel independent and strong.

I am grateful for the marriage and it’s dysfunction because now I can appreciate a loving relationship.

I am grateful for financial stress because it pushes me to keep thinking out of the box and problem solve.

My list can go on and on about all the things I am grateful for in my life, but one thing is for certain — if I had never stepped actively into the struggle, then I wouldn’t have found my strength. So, I guess the whisper was right after all. Be grateful for all that comes your way because it is in the hardest of times that we learn the most. We just need to take a step back and see it.

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoPriscilla Du Preez

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