I’m seated at my desk at by new job, looking out on to the wet roads of Johannesburg trying to overcome the disbelief that a little over an hour ago I was stuck on the main road with a car that was overheating.
My attempts to cross over 3 highway lanes in the middle of commute hour were met with nothing but cars honking at me non-stop. It’s been 7 months since my move to Gauteng, and I’ve only been at my new job for a month, so many things are still unfamiliar to me.
Witnessing the temperature of my car exceed 130 degrees celsius while traveling alone and finding myself nowhere near anything familiar pushed my insecurity buttons to the hilt. While fighting back tears, I called my husband who stayed on the line with me as I navigated off the highway.
With steam rising up from the front of my car, I somehow managed to find a petrol station while being lost in an unknown suburb. Rain had started to fall, and with all the running around I was soaking wet. There was a shop nearby where I was able to buy a new jersey, but the minute I got back into my car and started driving to work, I started to cry form the morning’s experiences.
I completely forgot to practice being grateful.
To be grateful that I wasn’t hurt. To be grateful for finding the petrol station. To be grateful for my husband answering the phone and staying with me until I was safe and being helped. To be grateful that the car was fixed. To be grateful for my new jersey.
All that I could have been grateful for was all around me, but I could only focus on the negative.
My team at work was supportive, but I still found myself in the office kitchen tearing up while I made a cappuccino. The tears flowed for a good two minutes.
I finally took a breath and told myself,
“Sue, it’s just one day in your life. This too shall pass. You made it safely to the office. It’s all ok.”
The thing about life is that from time to time it is going to throw some sour lemons your way. What is important is using the sour moments to remind you of sweet moments in your life happening simultaneously and this is where gratitude can help.
When you feel yourself caught up in a morning, or a day, or a month of negative “lemons” look for where you can be grateful in those moments. For whatever reason, the universe wanted to slow my ride to work and challenge me to rise to the occasion. Even though people on the freeway seemed negative, there were those who did let me cross three lanes to get to where I could get off the freeway.
I can choose to focus on the negative drivers, or be grateful for the ones who let me pass.
Gratitude forces you to look at what is working in your life rather than always focusing on what isn’t. While I was dealing with my car a woman somewhere in this world was saying goodbye to her child, a father was burying a son, a daughter was holding a mother’s hand while being told she has cancer, a family was being evicted from their home, a child was going another day without food.
Compared to what life could be throwing at me I am grateful.
I am lucky because I know that the key to a happy life is practicing gratitude on a regular basis. There is no other way to be.
Use gratitude to prove your negative-self wrong and fuel the inner strength you think you don’t possess when life is getting you down. I promise it will give you the strength to carry on — even through a bucket of tears.
But don’t be too hard on yourself if you forget from time to time like I did. This business of practicing gratitude is a work in progress and that’s the one thing I know for sure.