A Different Kind of November Challenge

It’s November.

The leaves are falling. The turkey recipes are circulating. The mustaches are growing. And the internet is awash in NaNoWriMo and gratitude lists.

I love those lists. I enjoy reading how people are thankful for their families, their jobs and their health. I smile when I see their pictures of cooing babies or mischievous puppies. I appreciate the renewed energy that spills from accounting one’s blessings.

Those lists are beautiful.

Heart warming,

But I also think they’re a cop-out.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in your life. It’s easy to summon gratitude for the people and situations that bring us joy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s valuable to take the time to enumerate those things you appreciate.

But it’s even more valuable to find reasons to be thankful for those things which bring us pain or grief or anger.

 

Which leads me to my November challenge.

It doesn’t require that you forsake your razor.

Nor must you write for 30 consecutive days.

You do not even have to share your results with your Facebook feed.

 

But it won’t be easy.

I call it radical gratitude.
Radical because it’s intense.
Difficult.
Almost unthinkable.
But also because it has the chance of being life changing.

Identify the one person or thing or situation in your life that has caused you the most grief. The most pain. The most anger.

Find that dark hole that bleeds you.

That curse.

Maybe it’s an ex. Or an abusive parent. Perhaps it’s your job or lack thereof. Possibly, you face an illness that has stripped your body or had an accident that stole your health in one fell swoop. Maybe it’s not the presence of a person, but the loss of one.

Whatever it is, identify it.

And then be grateful for it. Create a list of ten reasons that you are thankful for your biggest challenge.

You can share it – here or elsewhere – or you can keep it to yourself.

But write it. Believe in it. And then release it.

 

You cannot choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you respond.

You have the power to turn your greatest challenge into your biggest blessings.

I took this challenge myself several months ago and listed ten reasons I am thankful for my ex.

Read it.

And then write your own.

 

wrapping paper

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15 thoughts on “A Different Kind of November Challenge

  1. Absolutely love this approach. I concur, it can be absolutely lifechanging to be grateful for the difficulties. Great post, great reminder, and a great challenge, I may just take you up on that!

  2. Hello. I don’t want to be pedantic about semantics because I think the direction of this post is fantastic. You have suggested to find 10 things about your greatest “challenge” to be grateful for. However, in the post that you link to, you have listed nine things to be grateful for your ex-husband / ex-marriage and only one thing to be grateful for the challenge of the break-up itself.
    I would love you to expand on your tenth point.
    I say that with the greatest of respect for you. That is because many divorce websites focus on getting over ‘it’ and then leave you stranded. Your website has been different because there is positivity in the moving into a better life. That better life would not have occurred without the challenge in the first place.

    1. He was my biggest challenge. More specifically, getting past the anger I carried was my largest obstacle towards healing and the issue that held me back the most. The post was me facing my biggest challenge – allowing the acceptance of the positive feelings I once had so that I could release the anger. Hope that makes sense:)

      1. I understand now your linked post. Reading it again, I feel that is is great. I have now made a similar list. thanks
        I have two more questions. Firstly, did you ever send him the list? Secondly, when you look back now, does the anger spring up, or the gratitude?

        The reason I ask is that i too am finding this bit one of the hardest to deal with – the subtle anger that still lives underneath, even though I am not inherently an angry person.
        Sometimes I feel that i can let go and ‘forgive’. At other times I think that he knew that I am by nature a caring forgiving person and that I would forgive him. So it is almost that the very nature of my being able to forgive him gave him the licence to offend me in the first place.

        This (forgiving the offense) of course is different than a gratitude list as that list (for me) goes right up until the time of the offense and then there is still this huge big hole of why, why, why?

      2. I have never sent it to him. I have had no contact with him since he sent the text that it was over. I do now feel more gratitude than anger most of the time. I have to work to maintain this. For example, every month I send 1/6 of my paycheck to pay for a debt he ran up in my name (a debt that includes charges he spent on his other wife). Every time I make a payment, I add to a gratitude list of what I am thankful for in my current life. That’s not to say that the anger never rears its ugly head:)

        As to the “whys” – they are there (and will always be) but I’ve made peace with them. Some of that comes from the assumptions I choose to make about what led him down this path.

        I forgive because I choose to believe that he was suffering and lost and did the best he could. I forgive because it is a gift to myself. I forgive, even though I have no hope of true understanding. I forgive to release myself not to release him from his actions and his behaviors – those are his and his alone to deal with.

  3. I’ve read similar lines of advice before and find them so insurmountably intimidating that I can’t even attempt it. Off the top of my head I can think of 1 or 2 things to be thankful about the worst thing I deal with, but . . . those are kind of those generic sorts of cop out responses we use in moments of coping. I’ll have to read yours and see if I can get inspired 🙂

    1. It took me a looong time to be able to write the list – years to let it percolate and many hours to get it down. It was not easy. But it was so cathartic when it was over. Good luck with yours:)

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