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give thanks

I know, I know. Tis the season. Everyone is talking about what they are thankful for. Now I am going to jump on the bandwagon and do the same thing. Personally, however, I am grateful we are reminded—at least once a year—to give thanks for what we have. Most of us, even if there are some struggles in our lives, or we have lost loved ones, or whatever the “bad” things might be, are actually still doing pretty well overall.

To say the last couple of years have been rough for me would be an understatement. What I want to focus on, however, is what I have gained through the struggles. Yes, it may be cliché, but I am grateful for what I have learned and how I have been forced—yes forced—to grow.

I will willingly say, I haven't necessarily struggled or faced many truly difficult things in my life. For that I am forever grateful. However, that has also made recent years all the more difficult. It has been a sort of “reality check” shall we say, and it has been very good for me.

Over the last couple of years I have gained an appreciation for my family whom I had sorely taken for granted. The reasons behind that are not my focus here. Instead I am grateful for the unconditional love that comes from family—both immediate and extended. When I was down, when I was broken, when I didn’t have any clue how to continue forward, my family rallied around me to buoy me up until I could swim on my own again. Even then, they stayed nearby just in case I needed relief.

I have come to appreciate honest, true, unwaivering friends. For a time I focused on all I had lost. Then I realized I hadn’t lost many of them, our relationship had simply changed. The relationships changed because of many factors. Ultimately, though, it changed because I recognized the need for the change—a change in my focus.

I was so focused on maintaining all of these outward relationships and not focused on maintaining myself. Friendships are important, yes, but self is most important. I believe you can’t fully contribute in life, in relationships, friendships, work, volunteering, anything if you are not at your personal best. If you are constantly contributing to others with little to no focus on yourself, you are simply draining yourself, and that supply will be exhausted eventually.

I am grateful for my friendships and for the fact they have been able to adjust. In many instances I may not be as close to many of those people, but I know in a pinch I could ask any one of them for help and they could ask the same of me. Most important, I am grateful to have learned the not to allow myself to be taken advantage of. It is still a struggle and I often have to step back and remind myself, but I know how important it is to my well-being. Me first doesn’t have to be selfish. If I give away everything—to my own detriment—not only do I have nothing left to give, but I have nothing left for myself. I am grateful to know that is OK to retain things for me.

I’m grateful for a new-found respect and admiration for myself. I don’t mean that in a arrogant or self righteous way. I just mean, I recognize that it was something I had lost—something I had given away, unconsciously. I recognize that regaining this is infinitely more difficult than holding on to it. I recognize that I am a deeply flawed person, but so is everyone out there. It doesn’t make any of us less than. We are all on a journey, and I believe most of us are trying to be better individuals—better friends, better co-workers, better family members, better people.

That’s what matters. No matter how far down we fall. No matter how many times we fail. No matter whether we meet every goal we set for ourselves. No matter how frustrated we get. I (we) continue to strive to be better. That’s what matters. Today I lift my head up, face the world and present a better version of myself than I was yesterday, because I have learned that much more than I knew before. I have one more day of experience and growth under my belt and for that I am thankful.

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