They say to be careful what you pray for. Whoever "they" are.
The topic came up in a recent conversation with my physical therapist Brian, as his magic hands beat the crap out of my ankle in the very best way. We were discussing the humbling lessons I'd learned from this whole dramatic ordeal.
"You weren't praying for patience were you? Never pray for patience!" He chuckled. "You just end up in horrible situations that try your patience!"
I laughed aloud and said all too knowingly, "Oh I've learned that one the hard way!"
There is a part of me that is pretty sure God isn't some smart aleck trickster, sitting around waiting to twist our heartfelt pleadings into cosmic jokes, or smack us off our high horses the moment we find our confidence. But I do believe there is something to be learned from every trial, every experience... Whether you believe in Him or not.
So as I drove away from the PT office, and my heart felt that familiar tug from the nearby mountains, I entertained the question. What had I been praying for?
The answer came like a bolt to my brain. It was so obvious that I let out an ironic "ha!" as the sting of emotion filled my eyes. You see, before my accident I had been training for my upcoming 50k, and in a constant battle with anxiety and depression. I was mostly winning, but somehow ended up feeling downtrodden and inadequate most days. My runs, which should have consisted of determined training, were reduced to mere survival therapy for the most part. I often questioned why I spent so much time on something that I sucked so badly at. My logical brain knew that I was exceptional in many ways. That I was strong, and intelligent, and blessed, and kind, and really pretty awesome. But for some reason I couldn't believe it. The monologue of negativity would pop up at the most inopportune moments. I am so stinking slow. I am not as strong as I should be. I've put on weight. Who am I to be teaching yoga and giving advice? I am obnoxious. No one really likes me, they just put up with me. I am not a good enough mother. My poor kids, I'm ruining them. I can hardly be called an athlete. I'm a crappy friend. When was the last time I called my sister? I can't keep up with this house. I'm hardly bringing in any money. Such a poser. Such a loser. What is the point? What is the point? What is the point? Things I wouldn't say to an enemy if I ever had one. I knew this couldn't continue. So with a shot in the dark to a God that I was once so sure of, I started praying for more gratitude. GRATITUDE.
It took a crushing blow to gain it.
I spent weeks in devastating pain and the deepest depression that all of the things that I had unwittingly defined myself as were leveled. Dust. Start over. But I never had a single day without something significant to be grateful for. I could do little for myself and I was attended to without even having to ask. And I came to realize as I mourned for those things that I couldn't do, and dug in hard with the things that I could, that I was awesome. I was so loved. I was strong. I had been all along. This incredible life of love, beauty and adventure that I had built on so many fronts was phenomenal. At first that just made me yearn for what had been all the more, but slowly, day by day, I am finding the wonder in what I am now and what I have now. There is a certain beauty in starting over. And the overwhelming emotion that comes with seeing with fresh eyes is gratitude.
The difficult side of believing that everything happens for a reason is that it's hard not to either wallow in guilt, or feel incensed with the bad stuff happens. It's tough to notice the building and refining process when I'm on my back with the wind knocked out of me. Hard to acknowledge a divine hand when I can't feel past the pain of my own flesh and bone. Skeptics may say that things just happen- good and bad alike. But whatever the rhyme or reason, I am getting what I prayed for. Should I give credit to God? Yoga teaches that divinity lies within all of us. We are each a part and portion of the divine collective. God dwells within us all, His hand is in everything. So I could take credit for hard fought survival and gaining from the experience, sure I could. But I feel that to do so would be.... ungrateful. I'd like to think that I've learned that lesson for now.