I went to Nepal several years ago. I travelled alone (much to my mother’s horror), getting as far away from New York City as I could for my first big adventure. At the apex of a trek through the Himalayas, my guide and I stopped at a teahouse for the night. It’s one of the most amazing moments of my life, because here in this lodge were people from all over the world. Most of us had just come in from a light rain and had jackets and socks hanging up to dry. There were smells of quality tobacco and wood smoke, of good strong tea brewing. Along with the sounds of bustling in the nearby kitchen, I heard at least four languages being spoken simultaneously and happily as I sat near the Nepalese guides and sipped the raksi, or millet liquor, they had just warmed up on the woodstove.
A menu was passed around and everyone made their dinner selections. A few of us ordered chicken fried rice. “Ok,” said the hostess. “It will be a little while, though.” My stomach was growling, but I had my heart set on that rice. Ten minutes later, I saw the chef come in from outside, rain on his shoulders, carrying a bucket in which was a chicken he had just killed, feet sticking up over the edge.
That’s why dinner would take a little while.
When it finally came, steaming hot, fresh, and savory, I was practically overcome with enthusiasm. I was struck by the extraordinary set of circumstances that even allowed that moment to exist. I had a job that paid well enough for me to travel. I lived in an age and culture where it’s ok for a single woman to have an adventure. I got on a plane (well, three planes) that brought me to the other side of the planet in the space of one day. I walked up a mountain with my healthy body, and had the support of a guide. I met people from other countries, and shared a meal and conversation with them. And finally, those innkeepers kept livestock and had the skills to create comforting food, plenty for a room full of hungry people, and I even got to acknowledge the animal that nourished us.
This confluence of circumstances was nothing short of wondrous.I felt humbled and inspired, and knew I was a very lucky woman.
Fast-forward seven years. To the outside observer, my life probably looks a little less sparkly right now.
Last month, I separated from my husband. I have no savings, and I had to move out on my own sooner than I’d expected. I’m not ready to share details, but suffice it to say there have been lots of OH, F#*%!moments, despite my training and breathing exercises and yoga pants and faith that it’s all going to be okay. It’s a shadowy time.
Immediately after one particularly bad night of OH, F#*%!, a local friend called to say that his dad would let me stay in the basement apartment at his house— for free— if I needed it. No strings. Perfect timing. I cried with relief. Here was a safety net in the midst of a free fall.
Divorce sucks. There’s no pretty way to put that. For me, there has been loneliness, grief, anger, remorse, disappointment… Basically, all the uncomfortable feelings come up, sometimes without warning, often in combination. Practical stuff also needs attention, like health insurance decisions, financial strategies, and moving vans. But something else comes up and needs attention, too:
Gratitude. Lots of it. Daily.
Now, I’m not being grateful because Oprah does it, or I read somewhere that gratitude leads to “manifesting abundance.” I’m grateful because I’m paying attention. I’m grateful because it feels good – way better than bitching and moaning. I’m grateful because the truth is, my life is awesome. Even the crap feelings are still teaching me something, so they’re necessary and actually less crappy than I’d feared. I’m grateful for the teachings of loneliness, grief, anger, disappointment, and remorse, teachings I’ve avoided at other times in my life because they were too scary and I didn’t feel strong enough. I can be with them now, and that’s amazing.
I have a safe place to lay my head. I have plenty of food, and a full tank of gas in a reliable car. My bills are paid for the month. I have wonderful work to do, incredible friends, and reasons to get up in the morning. I have so much to look forward to, and I have tools and support to help me get there. Gifts show up all the time, like new friends, windfalls, opportunities, ideas, and offers for a night out or help moving. I do not live in a war zone; I’m fortunate enough live in a nice town in a country where it is possible to divorce amicably, earn my own money, and live without stigma or fear. All things considered, this breakup is a first-world problem.
I offer incense, prayer, these writings, and the rituals of my day to thank to my allies and Creator. I think the Divine appreciates being acknowledged this way and enjoys my wonder, in the same way that we all feel good when what we offer is received well and graciously. Thank you’s feel good. The circumstances in my life right now are teaching me to receive more deeply, to drink in the wonder like nectar and express appreciation for it. And I’m grateful for that lesson, too. The confluence of circumstances that has allowed me to be exactly where I am right now is truly wondrous, as wondrous as that night in Nepal. I won’t take that for granted, because for me, this sense of wonder is an expression of my relationship with the Divine. The universe has not forgotten me. My allies and ancestors hear me thinking, wishing, praying, and while the answers they provide don’t always look the way I anticipated, they always show up. They remind me that I am not alone in this process, or in anything, ever. I am loved. I am seen.I feel humbled and inspired and know that I’m a very lucky woman.
What are the chicken fried rice and basement room of your life today? What set of circumstances expresses divine love to you? How might you say thank you?