I’m a fairly private person and don’t share much about my personal tragedies or losses.
I keep things very close to my chest. Partly because of fear of judgment and shame but mostly because I struggle with sharing my deepest emotions with anyone. I don’t like feeling vulnerable and have a difficult time verbalizing my feelings.
When I read an article on Sunday morning that moved me to my core and somehow put my feelings into words (albeit through the speaker’s personal story), I knew I needed to share it.
Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook, but I’m sure many of you did not. (You can remedy that by liking my page here). Because I found it so meaningful, I feel compelled to share it with you today and provide some of my thoughts, even as I fumble for the right words.
On Saturday morning in sunny California, Sheryl Sandberg didn’t just give the commencement speech at the University of California, Berkeley. She opened her heart and eloquently put into words the emotions that so many have felt.
Although she speaks of the anguish and excruciating loss of her husband’s death last year, we can all relate and learn from the message. Most of us have faced (or will face) devastating experiences.
For some, like Sheryl, it’s the loss of life. For others, it might be sexual assault, bankruptcy, abuse, chronic illness, divorce, addiction, unemployment, clinical depression, affairs or criminal matters (to name a few).
The kind of loss that takes away your breath and makes you wonder how you can possibly get out of bed and take one more step. The kind of heartache and pain that feels so overwhelming that you don’t know how you can possibly keep on living.
And then somehow you do. You do take another breath. You do get out of bed. You do take one more step. You do keep on living. And when you make it through to the other side, you don’t just survive, you thrive.
When you’ve gone through the depths of despair, your perspective changes. You can’t go back to how your life was before. You can stay stuck sinking at the bottom, bitter, angry, resentful and feeling defeated the rest of your life. Or you can “you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”
Even though the pain never truly subsides, there is an opportunity to embrace life in a way that wasn’t possible before.
It’s why I founded The Language of Joy. It’s why I write to you every two weeks. It’s why I share so much about gratitude, meditation, hope, love, mindfulness, peace and joy.
It’s certainly easier for me to speak to the light than the darkness but without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Whether you’ve experienced loss in the past or you’re struggling right now, I encourage you to read the words of Sheryl Sandberg as she shares her experience, strength and hope.
One thing I’ve come to learn with myself and my clients is that wisdom without action is meaningless.
We must take the insight we’ve learned and apply it to our lives in order to change. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until we’re in a crisis to improve our outlook and exercise our resiliency muscles.
Having a formal practice of experiencing gratitude is a great place to start.
In her speech, Sheryl talks about the life-changing practice of a gratitude journal. It’s something I did about three years ago with the encouragement of a coach and it really helped reframe my day and eventually my life.
If you’ve never tried a gratitude journal, or it’s been a while, I encourage you to do so. If you don’t want to journal, that’s okay. Invite your family to join you by going around the dinner table and sharing aloud. It’s a simple but profound practice.
Just name three specific things you are grateful for each day and see how your well-being and outlook starts to improve.
Want to really challenge your gratitude muscles? Never repeat the same thing twice. It may be difficult at first but soon you’ll realize just how much you have to be grateful for.
Leave a comment below and let me know how Sheryl’s words impacted you or share how you plan to start incorporating more gratitude in your life.