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She asks me, “What do I have to be thankful for?”

We have this conversation often. It doesn’t matter that my friend is healthy, is succeeding in a career she loves, has friends and family that adore her. I won’t keep going, but I could. I’m just saying she’s blessed.

But she doesn’t have what she wants most–a husband and family. So every year that goes by without any prospects, she loses a little bit more hope. And we have the same conversation. Because I’ve been there and I know how it feels to resist happiness and cling to misery. And I know how it feels to be convinced that you’re not worthy.

So I tell her, Be thankful for everything. Because everything you’re going through is preparing you for what you want.

Learning to be thankful for my darkest, most uncomfortable moments has changed my life. Both triumphs and trials deserve the same amount of willingness and respect. There’s no avoiding that. When you look for meaning in the unpleasant and uncomfortable things, you find a certain calmness that eases the ache. You find purpose. But it only comes when you change your perspective.

Together we decided that the hardest part of changing your mindset is accepting the truth that you’re not broken, incomplete or damaged. Because that was the victim song we sang for so long and it was our excuse for everything. Sometimes it felt sexy to be this mysterious, jaded woman. This enigma, wrapped up in an identity that fed itself with drama and misfortune.

There is a new responsibility when you realize that your circumstances don’t limit you and only you can get in your own way. No matter what you go through, you are whole and capable and your essentials are inside, always have been, and can’t be taken away. Life can hurt you, but it can’t decrease you unless you consent to being decreased. It’s called free will. We all have to decide what to do with it.

She and I, we are unlearning our old ways of thinking and we’re helping each other. Starting with gratitude, growing into courage, and blossoming into unwavering faith. No matter the risk, this is a journey worth taking.

So be thankful when you have and when you don’t have. Both experiences are rich with lessons.

This holiday season, take these reminders with you when you find yourself wondering how to feel grateful for your life:

Problems and setbacks may temporarily steal your happiness, but never your joy. Always come back to your center.

Don’t see every disappointment as a punishment or an unanswered prayer. Every challenge is meant to enlighten you to some aspect of the world or yourself. Stay open.

Be patient and curious. Love your questions and your mysteries. Embrace your life the way it is right now.

Lastly, appreciate what you have in order to receive more. The things we want most are usually the hardest to achieve, then by the time we reach that destination, we already want something else. This restlessness can keep us from enjoying everything that happens along the way. Don’t overlook the things that you have going for you. Strive and hustle, but keep your peace. Make gratitude the foundation of every endeavor.

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