How to be Grateful When Life is Shitty

Life can feel really shitty sometimes. You wake up groggy, your stomach grumbling from overeating the night before. On your commute to work, you encounter traffic, lunatics, and too much rain. Your job is unnecessarily stressful, and you feel stuck, like you’ll never be able to leave the 9 to 5 rat race. Your partner’s an asshole, and oh yeah, you’ve amassed so much credit card debt that you suffer from migraines and insomnia.

This is probably just the start of your list. Life can feel shitty for so many reasons, and we’re all driven by this compulsive urge to do more, be more, and have more, while, at the same time, we unconsciously beat ourselves up for not being thin enough, smart enough, organized enough, or motivated enough to actualize the plans we’ve made. While it’s true that life can be shitty, there is a way to feel grateful, to notice the workings of God and experience peace, even when you’re stuck in traffic, or responding to passive aggressive text messages from your sister. Even then, it’s possible to experience the peace of God, which is really not just peace, it’s ecstatic, bursting bliss. Here’s how you do it: 

Step 1: Admit that you’re wrong.

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The human mind reaches a conclusion (arbitrarily), and then it clings to that conclusion like a child refusing to give her parents back the cookies she took without permission. Your mind develops narratives, which loop all throughout the day: I’m going to be single forever. I can’t believe I had such a bad date last night. I’m getting so much older. I’m going to die alone. You hold onto past occurrences and create narratives about things that haven’t even happened. Growing up, my mother favored my brother. I was never treated fairly. Next week, I’m going to bomb my presentation. I have to have dinner with my aunt, and it’s going to be terrible. 

Admit it: Your mind is an asshole. It’s complaining, judging others, judging you, and living in the future tense, saying things like, I’ll be happy when it’s the weekend. Now, here’s the key: You identify with your thoughts. You believe that they are not only inarguably true, but that they are an expression of your very identity. The first step to feeling grateful is to find a crack, a tiny opening - a clearing into viewing your life from another perspective. Here are the kind of thoughts you want to tell yourself to create such an opening: Is my job really so bad? Are there any good parts to it that I can appreciate? Do I really need to spend the present moment going over what happened yesterday? What else can I think about that would be more uplifting? 

This is not to suggest that you should stay in circumstances or relationships that are not serving your highest good, but what I am saying is that most of the time the mind is in a habitual loop of complaining, and the moment you are willing to detach from it is the moment that you will stop having those thoughts. All it takes is a willingness to not listen to your prideful ego and be willing to admit that you’re wrong. It’s quite possible that your job doesn’t suck as much as you think. It’s altogether feasible that your partner isn’t as big of an asshole as you believe. It’s entirely feasible that you are not as fat, dumb, or unaccomplished as you tell yourself.

Be willing to admit there’s a chance you might be wrong and watch out quickly that negative thought train comes to a halt.

Be sure to read Admit it: You’re a Shitty Person.

Step 2: Learn what self-love is really. 

You are more beautiful than you know. You are so radiant, so light and lovely. You have so much to offer the world, so many unique talents, that you can’t even fathom your magnificence. All of the Universe delights in your sweetness, how gentle your heart its, and your laughter. You are pure joy, an expression of the divine. Just as God created the sun, the moon, and the mountains, God - the energy that created worlds - created you. 

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Why do you forget how loved you are? Advertisements would suggest that you need to try this new fat-reducing treatment, or maybe buy a little more under-eye cream. When you’re scrolling the internet, your subconscious mind takes in messages about diets, new clothes to buy, and prescription drugs that would make you feel oh so light and fluffy inside. You’re programmed to believe that you’re not enough, especially if you’re not a light-skinned, thin human being with pouty lips, tight abs, and a round butt. You’re programmed to believe that you need to work all the time, make a lot of money, and own a big house and car to be successful. (Let’s not mention that purchasing said car, said house, and all the other material possessions you’ll need to make yourself feel worthy will be the exact things that keep you in debt. I’m not going to tell you that those products that are supposed to make you just as happy as the man or woman in the commercial will be the reason why you can’t afford to take a vacation, a sabbatical from work, or save up enough money to start your passion project.)

You see, if you actually believed you were enough, you wouldn’t buy all of those products. What would Walmart do on black Friday? How could others profit from you if you no longer had this feeling of not-enoughness? They couldn’t, and so it makes sense that you continue to be inundated with messages that make you want to pinch your tummy first thing in the morning and beat yourself up; that way, you purchase a gym membership, a juice cleansing program that gets sent to your house, and some fat-blasting pills. Oh, and you’ll also feel kind of shitty.

Whereas, if you saw beyond the illusion; if you were brave enough to step out of the false paradigm created by society, you might realize that you are so beautiful, so talented, that you could follow your dreams; you could find your perfect partner; you are worthy of love and success, and moreover, everything is going to be okay.

Step 3: Remember that you are going to die one day.

There was a time when you were 5-years-old. You had tiny feet and tiny hands. You cried when a classmate stole your pencil case. It felt insufferable, as snot ran down your face and you sobbed. You never thought you’d get old. You couldn’t fathom that, one day, you’d be 20, 30, or 70-years old. Now, you’re 28, or 42, or 61, and you can’t really grasp that, one day, you’re going to take your last breath, and in that instant, you’re going to feel a sadness that you’ll no longer be able to sit in traffic, fight with your partner, or have lunch with your annoying aunt. 

Everything you dreaded doing you’ll realize were gifts. What a gift it was when I got divorced. How lucky I was to go through that surgery. One day, your body will be gone, and this self-concept (insert-your-name-here) will say goodbye. How sweet were those moments when you fought with your mom? How sweet were those moments when you could sit in traffic, or take a bite out of a delicious chocolate chip cookie? How precious were those moments when you cried desperately in bed? You will miss the despair, because the despair, too, was part of life, part of this human experience. What you would give to have the whole life experience over again - the minute you are about to take your last breath?

Remember that you are going to die at least once a day. Remember that one day, you won’t get to go to your crummy job, or have your 13-year-old daughter yell at you. You won’t get to clean your house, or pack lunch. You’ll truly understand that all of this was a gift, but if you could come to that now, in this moment, you’d be able to feel grateful even for the shittiest of times.

The spiritual text A Course in Miracles says that in each moment, we have but two choices: fear or love. We can view life as being shitty when it gets hard, our bodies ache, and we receive bills in the mail, or, we can view the loveliness in each moment, that we get to have this human experience (with all of its pain and heartache), and if we’re only willing to shift our perception, just a little, we can be grateful for all of it; we can choose love.

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Hi, I’m Jessie! I’ve been on the spiritual path for 15 years, and this blog is where I share hacks, lessons I’ve learned & mindful dating advice. I believe you can be spiritual and a badass.