keeping a gratitude practice through difficult times

In the midst of stress and chaos, I was and am feeling truly humbled and incredibly grateful.

The other night, I found myself in my new town, knowing hardly anyone, caught in a challenging situation. Sparing the major details, I was unexpectedly displaced from where I was living in Cordova with little to no cause.

Because Cordova is so small and isolated, in the busier summer months it's nearly impossible and quite expensive to find housing (especially that allows a dog). Angrily told that I had three days to move out, I felt hurt, confused, completely blindsided. Still at my previous place and unable to call anyone for fear of being heard, I had a sleepless night fretting about what I would do and where I would go.

Since I couldn't get a hold of my mom that night, I thought about what she would do and what she would say. I meditated. My mind was swirling with thoughts, so I used a guided meditation to help keep myself on track. Sometimes I could barely focus on my breath for more than a couple seconds. But I brought myself back again and again and again. Breathe in, breathe out. When I wasn't fitfully sleeping that night, I meditated.

What's funny is that the meditation entirely centered around gratitude. And despite the fear and the worry and the turmoil, I already did feel grateful. Grateful that this unexpected hardship would take me out of a difficult living situation. Grateful for new opportunities. Still scared, yes, but thankful.

Lying awake in bed, I thought about when I had some difficulties in previous months and I thought about this post  about dealing with hard situations from one of my yoga instructors. Focus energy on the positivity you hope to come from the situation, not the negativity that has already happened. Relax into the unknown. Practice forgiveness. Let all that is non-essential burn away - the core of who we really are cannot be burnt.

I became even more grateful when I had to reach out for help the next day. What few people I do know in Cordova instantly considered possible options, calling anyone who might have an idea or a place to stay. From the first, I was told, "Don't worry, we won't let you be homeless." Several people immediately said they could find a place for me to crash for a few days at the very least. My mom got in touch with anyone she knew with Alaska connections, one of whom even offered to let me stay with her for a few months in Anchorage. Another sent a list of friends' numbers who could be possible resources. And mere seconds after I explained the situation, another offered her studio apartment for a few weeks.

The living situation is temporary, but it's amazing.

No longer on an air mattress in a laundry room with no door, Fenton and I got to sleep for nearly twelve uninterrupted hours last night. When we woke up, I went straight to the window, which overlooks the Prince William Sound. I made some tea and smiled at what turned out to be a bluebird day. The studio is small, but it some ways it's perfectly sized. It's quiet and it's clean.

I'm in a funny situation of "be careful what you wish for." I wished for a door. For a real bed. For a shorter commute. For a quiet home. To feel connected to the people around me.

And the wishes all came true - just not how I thought they would. But now that the newness is unfolding, I see that it could not have happened another way. It's unfortunate that I had to be caught in chaos, but calm couldn't really have happened without such a large catalyst.

Sometimes, when I flip through my planner, I come across the first page with my theme for the year and I remember. On January 1, 2015, I wrote, "I want to stretch myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. In order to achieve my big goals, I will need to stretch myself. This is not about overextending myself or pushing until I break. This is about finding greater flexibility so I can challenge myself in a way that fulfills and revitalizes me." It makes me want to laugh. How did I know that this year would push me to hard edges and yet also show me immense love? Was I prophetic? Or did I call upon and ask for these difficult experiences, knowing that I needed to build the strength to be adaptable, connected, and true to my heart?

I am completely taken aback by the rallying of support that happened in just one day. Many of the people who came forward are friends of friends that I've never met or only known for a matters of days. It's a true testament to human kindness. From one terrible interaction, I got to witness dozens more of selfless love. For that, I am remarkably thankful.

I feel burnt and emotionally raw, but in a clean, cathartic sort of way. As it has happened before and yet to happen, with the help of others and my own resilience, I will rise from the ashes once more.

Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.

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