"I'm grateful that the path I have traveled, however twisted it may have seemed, brought me to where I am: right here, right now."
The above quotation was borrowed from a Facebook status posted by The Attitude of Gratitude Project some time back. I absolutely love the status messages that the page's creator posts. They remind me of the many things that I have to be grateful for, even (and especially) the little, seemingly unimportant things.
As a Reiki Master, I recite the Reiki Gokai, or principles, daily:
Just for today, I will live the attitude of gratitude.
Just for today, I will not worry.
Just for today, I will not anger.
Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
Just for today, I will show love and respect for every living being.
My practice keeps me grounded and in the moment. It allows me to approach each day as a new opportunity to do my best, regardless of the past day's happenings or what lies in the future. It helps me to remember that I can only control what is at hand and that it is, therefore, unproductive to get upset or angry about what I cannot control. And it aids me in my seemingly constant struggle against worry and fear.
Back to gratitude, now. It's not always easy to be grateful, especially for things that are unpleasant, sad, or painful. In my life, though, these are the very things that teach the most poignant lessons, bring the most fulfilling experiences, and supply the contrast needed to feel the positive emotions. Without them, the ups wouldn't be as high, I wouldn't know my true strength, and my friendships would be more shallow. Because of them, I am who I am and I am where I am.
I will be going to Florida at the end of this week for my Operation Freefall skydive and my now annual reunion with as many as my SOAR friends as possible. In preparation for the trip, I've spent hours on the phone and online with several of them, trying to figure out where we will be staying and what we will be doing. These friends are friends who know, accept, and love me in a special way. I feel alive when we are together. We don't speak enough. (Who really does?) I wish we lived closer. I wish we had more time together. I am truly grateful for these friends, and I realize that I wouldn't know them if it weren't for each of our negative past experiences.
It's a strange thing for some people to hear me say that I am grateful for the experience of being a sexual assault survivor. But, I am. The healing process was a difficult one, with many dark and scary times along the way. I didn't always think that I would make it through the darkness to the other side. In fact, I usually didn't. I wasn't even sure that I deserved to. I wallowed for a long time in self-abuse and neglect. I existed from day to day, seeing each not as an opportunity, but as an obstacle. I felt excruciating alone. I had no idea that this very "alone-ness" would someday be replaced by an equally intense feeling of belonging.
Because of what I survived, I now have a career that I am passionate about. I advocate for victims of sexual violence. I am their voice in the treatment and supervision of their offenders. I answer their questions and make sure that their concerns are addressed. I will not allow them to be forgotten, ignored, or dismissed. I understand their feelings and know their struggles. I accept their anger and disappointment without judgment. I believe in their potential and encourage their growth. I learn from them everyday.
Because of what I survived, I have exercised a lot of self-reflection. I have had therapy. I have participated in groups. I have attended healing retreats. I know more about myself and what makes me tick than I ever would have otherwise. I'm more self-aware than the average person and, arguably, more intuitive. I can read other people well, and I have a deep capacity for empathy. My knowledge and skills have helped me in my work and personal life.
Because of what I survived, I have an appreciation for what makes a man a "real" man. I know that "macho" has no value, that the traditionally "feminine" qualities take on a deeply attractive nature when displayed by a man, that love is more about mutual respect than about sexual tension, and that a healthy relationship isn't all that much work. I dated my fair share of "bad boys" and jerks. I tried to be married to a "nice guy." I had given up hope of finding "the one" when I left Ft. Wayne and moved to Chattanooga. Life once again surprised me when that very move brought me exactly what I thought was impossible. He had to patiently wade through the flotsam and jetsam of my past, but he must have seem something that I didn't even know existed. I am inexplicably grateful that he did.