Oliver: Even in the face of challenges, we all have much for which to be thankful

Gratitude and resilience work together to make life’s problems more bearable

These past couple of years have been challenging for all of us. Who would have thought we’d still be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for another winter? Who would have thought we’d still be talking about infection rates and booster shots, masks and social distancing?

When we look around, it’s easy to see that some people are having a hard time with everything. They are the ones who are angry, aggressive and generally combative with anyone and everyone.

Others, though not immune to the effects of the stress that life brings, seem to meet the obstacles in their way and find ways around them.

What’s the difference between these two groups? Resilience. That’s the ability to face trials and not buckle, and to endure with determination and positivity despite one’s circumstances.

A key to resilience is a quality that seems to be lacking in a lot of people: gratitude.

This isn’t the greeting card giving of thanks when someone buys us a gift. Although that kind of gratitude is important, too, and also something that seems to be going by the wayside. No, genuine gratitude is something that needs to be cultivated on a daily basis.

Gratitude is possible even in the face of the worst kinds of circumstances.

We often have no control over what happens to us in life. A lot of things are just beyond our ability to influence. Still, we always have control of how we react to what happens to us.

As a teenager, I would have balked at that thought. These days, however, I am absolutely positive of the truth of it.

In adolescence, I would meet obstacles with a scowl and a bit of sarcasm. My natural tendency toward the negative had been finely honed. In the years since, I’ve discovered that negativity might be easy in the short term, but it’s exhausting in the long term. Why waste energy obsessing about what can’t be changed?

When I look around, I have much to be grateful for – despite everything.

Sure, my best friend and husband, Tony, has an incurable, progressive disease. I can’t do anything about that, but I’m grateful that we’re still together, battling hard, and that we still can laugh and be together. Life has a way of being a humorous adventure if we let it.

I’m grateful that I had a chance to take care of my mother for the last few years of her life, that she was able to be cared for well and knew that she was safe and loved.

Was it hard? Absolutely. And not every day was picture perfect, but that’s just how it is. I learned a few things, and for that I’m also grateful.

I’m really grateful that my breast cancer was found early and it hasn’t come back. Could it in the future? It might, but right now I have a measure of health and I’m going to work to keep it that way.

I’m grateful, too, that so far Tony and I have managed to stay healthy and safe during this pandemic. We’ve had the help of wonderful friends who have come through when we needed them most. Happily, we’ve been able to return the favor a few times too.

I also appreciate you readers, who have gone on this journey with me. I’ve heard from so many people who have had similar experiences to mine. We’ve laughed together and cried together. I’ve even gotten some new recipes to try. I’m super grateful for that!

Best of all, I know that I’m not alone. Hopefully, you’ve found that to be true, too.

Each day we all have opportunities to stop and count our blessings. When we shift our focus to that instead of on our problems (plentiful though they may be), life really does become easier.

What are you thankful for today?

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.