The story of Giving Gratitude in my Life…

I think I would have been 8 years old? Finally, we had moved into our own house once again – and I had my own room, my own bed… And my mom, putting me to bed that night was crying because there were no curtains… Sobbing as if her heart was breaking – and I was trying to understand, trying to help…

It had been a journey! Born in what was then Rhodesia, leaving a few years after the change in government – my father had been a police officer, my mom a teacher. I was around 5 I think, my brother was nearly 3. Packing everything up, saying goodbye to our dogs, our friends, the people who worked in our home or alongside my parents – our home as we knew it. Then living in Scotland and England for 2 years – staying with family, sharing a room with my brother…Or sometimes even all 4 of us in one room. All the rules which come with living in someone else’s space! My dad disappearing for months as he looked into moving to Australia as an option going forward… My parents managing a 24 hour petrol station somewhere in the South of England, with my brother and I having a “den” in the office at the back – sometimes falling asleep there waiting for whichever parent was on bedtime routine… The judgements involved with all of this – “Oh, you left Rhodesia? It is now called Zimbabwe you know – you must be racist and part of the problem there if you were born there”. Never seeing our heartache at loosing our home, our friends… The people we had known and loved our whole life.

Moving back to South Africa, staying with family friends whilst my parents looked for a house, invested in a business, whilst starting up their own business…

And finally, finally, coming to this place where my brother and I were told we could put down roots again. For a few years anyway – until we would be able to move again onto Dad’s dream of a small-holding…

My bedroom had ballerina wall-paper – and that night, putting me to bed, my mom couldn’t stop crying. The shipping containers we had been expecting, that had been due to arrive any moment, had gone missing. It was likely they were going to take another 6 months or so to arrive. I was delighted – it meant that we couldn’t put curtains up in my room! For my mom, at that point, it was the last straw.

She had been counting on small things. Being able to unpack. To look at photos of our early childhood. To bring out table clothes, and curtains. To cook with her own pans, to polish the table they had cherished in Zimbabwe. I think it may have been a wedding gift, and was mahogany wood?

Instead, she was putting me to bed, in a borrowed bunkbed, in a new room in our new home – with no curtains.

I can’t remember everything we spoke about that night, but I do remember trying to show her that I wasn’t worried about the lack of curtains. It meant I could see the moonlight streaming in, and the dancers on the wall in the moonlight – and I was grateful for that.

And that began a game for us, which has lasted for over 30 years now.

Of being grateful. Of looking for the small things to be grateful for. Small mercies, like curtains.

When they eventually arrived, they were thick and heavy and blocked out the sound of the taxi rank down the road. My mom was grateful for this. I missed the moonlight, and would often slip from bed, making a den between the base of the curtains and the windows, falling asleep watching the night skies… I was grateful for the cave they created… And the sense of having a magical den, curled up where I could look out and see the stars, listening to the noise of those taxi’s – African songs, laughter, tooting horns & blaring music in the early hours of the dawn.

Moving onto the small-holding my parents found later, building our own house… It took over 10 years to build, and it still wasn’t finished by the time my parents divorced, and my mom eventually sold it to buy property on the South Coast. We were grateful for the ability to sell it, for her to be able to have the funds to buy her dream house…

And through all of this, was the practise of finding things to be grateful for. Which just became such an everyday part of my life.

That all the piles of rubble and building material made great dens for playing in. That the fact that there were no windows, or door on the house made it easier to get in and out – my favourite as I got into a pattern of climbing out the window to go sleep under the trees. That there was such an expanse of stars… We could be grateful that at least there was a roof on the house when we moved in. That the snow that fell that year was at least 40km away, even if it was still cold… That even though the electric and water wasn’t connected in the house yet, there was a gas cooker in the house… That there was a working tap on the property, over by the drive… And if I put buckets of water out in the morning in summer, the sun would have warmed it enough to use for a bath by the later afternoon…. That the rain was warm enough to shower in (a pleasure after 2 winters in the UK!) That we didn’t need to wear shoes everyday, all day – only for school… That the school shoes mom bought were big enough to last for at least 2 years… That the exploding pressure cooker of rice only caused burns and didn’t really explode – it could have been worse.

That our beds were in the house, and the bathroom, and kitchen was in the cottage.. The cottage was finished before the house, my mom moved us to the bedrooms before the rest of the house was finished. And the walk between the two was an adventure of stars, moonlights, shadowed obstacles, cows and snakes…

That the dog gave birth outside during the floods when we were away – but I was small enough to wriggle down the den, and pull the pups out. That only part of the den entrance was full of mud and the pups and mum were dry…

That there was space for me to raise chickens to see for organic chicken meat when I was a teenager to pay the school bills.

That we didn’t have a stable for the horse that she would stay in – she kept kicking the door off its hinges because she liked being outside in the field… – but we could look out the bedroom window and see her on the porch. Or in the unfinished lounge. Or when the neighbours bull got randy, he could walk straight through the kitchen and out the lounge without worrying about doors – there weren’t any.

That there was friends to have regular BBQ’s with – or braais as we called them, days full of sunshine, lunch fed to all the neighbourhood kids from our kitchen.

From the eyes of a child – I had a magical childhood. And part of that no doubt was that I was always looking for the magic. The things to be grateful for.

That we were warm, and fed, and safe… That that one time when we just didn’t know how we were going to keep paying the mortgage on the property that friends were looking for somewhere to rent, for their growing security firm – and our small-holding was perfect. That they loved mom’s cooking and paid her to stay in the house and cook for them all…

So many moments of gratitude and synchronicity…

Fast forward to being a backpacking twenty year old – landing in Egypt for a job as a freelance Dive Instructor. I had £5 and $14 in my pocket – but I had the promise of a job lined up and my first couple of nights accommodation with a friend I met the week before. And, one of the first persons I met there was a Reiki teacher, running a course the following week… I was grateful that by the time the course ran, I had been employed enough to earn enough to pay rent, and for the course…

Loosing my career as a Scuba Dive Instructor due to injuring my ears and back… and being grateful for the perspective and healing awareness I’d been introduced to through Reiki. Being grateful I could still walk when the doctors said I wouldn’t….

Everywhere I went, I found magic. Because I was looking for it. Without realising that it was – is – a core part of simply being. A practise I grew up with.

My father passed when I was 32. I took time out from my business to sort out his estate. At least I was self-employed – massage, holistic therapies, teaching meditation, and things were just starting to take off. My clients would forgive my absence for a few months. I could be grateful for the freedom to work for myself, to go where my heart was pulled… It took 3 years, and during this time, I got involved with volunteering through a local charity on the South Coast, in SA, and setting up permaculture gardens. Working with women and children with Aids in one of the rural communities in South Africa. I funded large parts of what I was doing myself, working in the UK for a few months, returning to South Africa for a few months. Friends from the UK who believed in what I was doing helped with funding too, getting involved with other aspects of the project. I was grateful for the ties I had with local Scuba dive organisations and schools – getting them involved with the charity, providing mulch material, teaching and sharing permaculture practises across the board. Gradually getting Dad’s estate settled, my sister and step-mother into a more stable environment – partially as a result of the ties I built with the rural community, partly as a result of the extended family. Dad had passed from Aids, my step-mother and sister were both positive. My step-mother was Zulu, my sister called herself a Scottish Zulu – she was 8 at the time.

I found myself grateful for the people in my local community in Umkomaas, South Africa who had ties to the hospital, and connections to the charity I ended volunteering through. They could explain to me how the people dealing with Aids on a daily basis kept their sense of humour, their perspective on it all… I had been away from Africa for so long by that time, I didn’t think the same way… And I was grateful for a whole range of experiences that allowed me to recognise and respect the difference between rescuing, versus empowering…

Laying down a mulch bed on one of the projects, trying to explain to one of the ladies I was working with why we were doing this – when the week before we had just picked up the litter from the site – and now we were laying down cardboard… I explained that beyond all else – soil building, moisture retention, the dry horrible sand and stone we were were working with, trying to create fertile beds to produce food – that we could be grateful for the space to dance we were creating! How we laughed and danced that day… To this day, I am so grateful for that memory and the laughter we shared.

Returning to the UK after those 3 years, re-establishing my business, I was grateful for that time. For the questioning it gave me around what I really wanted to do. For the change in value systems between what I had seen and experienced volunteering , and the daily expectations of the people around me in the UK.

I struggled with depression, and was grateful for the counselling that allowed me to reframe my experiences. To understand how much I had been doing, and was doing. And to take a step back.

I was grateful for the memory of small mercies – like curtains – and coming back into the small celebration of this as a conscious practise as an adult. How it moved me out of depression into a deeper engagement and joy in the world around me in every moment… Finding daily things to be grateful for helped me move from near suicidal depression, back into joy.

Struggling a few years ago with my relationship breaking down, carrying my child, and moving away from my support structures, I found myself recognising how I HAD to come back once again into my gratitude practise as a conscious choice. That the situation I was in was pushing me towards depression, and I couldn’t afford to go back into that, especially as my due date approached. My gratitude practise brought me back into a position of being able to look at my situation objectively, and make healthy choices. I was grateful for the counselling I has received a few years earlier, and the skills and understanding of myself I had gained as a result. It allowed me to understand the situation I was in. And how, if I didn’t find things to see and value in the everyday – the beauty all around me – I was really going to loose my sense of sanity and self. And, going into motherhood, that that would not be healthy.

Last year, starting up a part-time hands on body-work practise of Myofascial Release, and working part time as a Play Leader in the local community playgroup, Covid hit. I had to cancel my clients, and lost my job. I was so damn grateful for the support of the local church and community, the neighbours, the support of strangers seeing me through… For the additional time home-schooling and watching my child grow… And the freedom to start teaching and working online. Partly because I had to to make ends meet, and partly because there was – is – this constant pull to share and teach what I know… And half the time I don’t know what I know, until someone asks me to create a course or “something” around some aspect of healing…

And here’s the thing. Every time I come back into a conscious practise of seeing beauty, giving gratitude – magic happens. Synchronicity occurs. People arrive with unexpected gifts of something they are getting rid of – that I had just thought of, that I could do with. Without me telling them about my thoughts. And I see this happening for others. That the more we give Gratitude, the more we open up space to see more beauty, to see more to be grateful for, to hold our hearts open wider…

I see so much beauty, so much to be grateful for in the midst of all the change, and challenges I face. And the more I do, the more it inspires me to do more, give more, share more, create more… Not just for myself, but for any of us. In need of a smile, or a kind word, or a helping hand… A passing moment of grace and beauty. For me, the blessing has been, and is, in the little things… and how these add up to transformation, joy and a deep sense of connection with the world around us. Sometimes my heart aches with the pain I see people experiencing in the world around me… And I am grateful for the practise of giving gratitude – because it helps me to keep my heart open, to doing what I can, where I can. To be present in the moment. To looking for beauty, magic and synchronicity….

For me, it is the small things – they add up. My child stops me to point out the beauty of a flower, or a butterfly, or a sunrise… Or notices a frog on the side of the path. Or insists on rescuing a bee or a spider. And is caring and grateful for these. Or he demands we sleep outside to watch shooting stars and the northern lights… And celebrates smiles with strangers… It makes my heart smile to see him seeing and celebrating beauty in the world around him.

Giving gratitude keeps me sane, keeps me focussed, grounded, connected with the world around me… Giving gratitude helps me to keep my heart wide open to the challenges we all face, and the compassion to do what I can, where I can, when I can…

3 Comments on “The story of Giving Gratitude in my Life…

  1. Wow Morag – what a story, what a storyteller, what a life journey – truly inspiring!!

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    • Thank you. There are so memories, so many stories, of how… coming into gratitude just lifted the energy, or the situation… The power is in the stories we can all share! Thanks for taking the time to reply! xx

      Like

  2. Pingback: The energy of gratitude… – Morag

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