In the summer of 1993, my life was perfect.  I had a perfect marriage.  We had a perfect little girl.  We had another baby on the way.  We had to try a little bit for the 2nd baby which made it all the more special because it showed we both truly wanted to have another baby.   We bought our first house.  Yes, everything was perfect.  Until she came into our lives.

She was one of my husband’s employees.  She was everything I wasn’t.  I was a very pregnant stay-at-home mom.  She was a sassy business woman.  My days consisted of reading books to my daughter, taking her to the park, making meals.  Her day consisted of important work meetings with my husband.  My daily uniform was a T-shirt, stretchy pants, sneakers, no makeup and a pony tail.  Her daily uniform was very tight and very low-cut dresses, very high stiletto heels, perfectly applied make-up and long hair flowing.  Day time business turned into night time business with a lot of “networking dinners” and many long “business trips.”  Sometimes it was just the two of them.  Sometimes it was a group of co-workers and business associates, all who enjoyed partying hard in every way imaginable.  I won’t go into detail but let’s just say, nothing was off-limits.  Even when my husband was home, he wasn’t home; consumed by finding ways to communicate with her every minute.

I was completely blindsided by this. To say my spirit was crushed would be a gross understatement.  I was devastated to the very core.  Everything we had said we wanted, we had.  Everything we had dreamed to accomplish thus far, we had accomplished.  Perfect family, perfect home, perfect life.  It was impossible for me to understand how or why our perfect world had been shattered.  All I had ever wanted was that perfect life and I was overwhelmed with the fact that even if things ever got better again, our life would always have that scar.  I had dreamed of us being old and romantically looking back on our perfect life and I struggled with the fact that we would never be able to do that.  I had truly believed we would have that fairy tale ending.  I wish I could say the situation was short-lived, but this went on for several years and within those years there were a few very traumatic events that made it unbearably painful. I found myself feeling consumed with sadness and despair. I felt completely hopeless.  I truly felt that I would never be happy again. And no one knew.  I was all alone.

I don’t share this to embarrass anyone.  I share it because unfortunately it’s a very common occurrence but still people are hesitant to talk about it out of embarrassment and unfounded shame.

By January 1996, I had 3 beautiful children.  They were my heart and life.  Still, I suffered a great sense of pain and sadness over the loss of my dream of a perfect marriage and family.  It was truly like a death to me and I mourned that loss every single day.  During that time two companion books were published, “Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” and “The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude” and they got much attention.  Even Oprah said these books were life-changing and in 1996 women seeking contentment hung on Oprah’s every word.  I was so depressed and disheartened, truly ruminating on the loss of my dream of a perfect marriage, that I decided it was worth a try.  I had nothing to lose by checking out these so-called miracle books.

The “Daybook of Comfort and Joy” frankly didn’t do much for me.  I had 3 children under the age of 7 so reading anything other than children’s books didn’t fit into my schedule.  But I committed myself to the assignment of writing 5 things I was grateful for every day in the “Journal of Gratitude.” Five things to be grateful for.  Every single day.  It was hard.  It was really, really, really hard.  My heart was so broken.  My soul was so shattered.  My brokenness made it was very difficult for me to come up with 5 things I was grateful for.  But I was committed.  I knew I had to try it for the sake of my children.  So, every day, no matter how hard it was, I found 5 things to be grateful for.  I literally had to LOOK for things to be grateful for!  The struggle was so real!  But do you know what happened when I looked for things to be grateful for?  I started finding them!  I started noticing and feeling grateful for the beauty and wonder around me. I started noticing and appreciating perfect breezes.  I started noticing and appreciating how nice it was to go on a long walk with my kids.  I started noticing and appreciating exceptionally beautiful flowers and trees.  I started noticing and appreciating how amazing my mom is.  I started noticing and appreciating how great my friends were.  I started noticing and appreciating the feeling of my children’s little fingers wrapped around mine.  I started noticing and appreciating the look of love my children had in their eyes for me.  I started noticing and appreciating the sound of my children’s voices when they would say “I love you Momma.” Because I made a concentrated effort to find these things to be grateful for, they are forever etched in my memory.  I can literally feel these special moments in my heart again as I’m writing this.

After about a year of being committed to writing 5 things I was grateful for every day, I realized the exercise had changed me to my very core.  I was a new person.  I didn’t just find gratitude.  I found joy.

Over the years, I have given “The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude” to several friends when I thought they needed it.  I’ve given to friends going through deep depressions and to friends going through divorces.

When is the last time you stopped what you were doing and looked out your window just to notice how wondrous it is outside?  When is the last time you realized that your children’s voices are like the beautiful music?  When is the last time you felt grateful to have a sip of cold water when you were really thirsty?  There is always something to be grateful for and when we notice those things on a daily basis, many of the hurts we feel are replaced with happiness.

I still have that Journal of Gratitude.  It’s very emotional for me to look at now because it takes me back to those moments.  I can vividly see my daughter Lauren looking at me smiling.  I can feel her little hand holding mine.  I can hear her saying “I love you Momma.”  Since she has been kept from me for 9 years now due to parental alienation, I can’t even begin to express how special those memories are to me.  What I wouldn’t give to see her smiling at me again or to be able to touch her again or to hear her voice again.  Does that make me sad?  Of course.  I’m crying as I write this.  But I didn’t take those moments we did have for granted! And that makes me grateful and happy.  So now I’m crying and smiling at the same time.  If I hadn’t gone through a gratitude transformation, I would have taken those moments for granted and I wouldn’t have those vivid special memories that mean everything to me now.

Feeling grateful for things, big and small, isn’t a daily exercise for me anymore.  It isn’t something I do.  It’s who I am.  Even when life is hard now, I can easily and sincerely say I’m grateful for so many things.  Even though I have had some very deep hurts, my joy which comes from gratitude far outweighs those hurts and I know I will always feel a sense of joy no matter what life throws at me.  If you want to find more peace and joy in life, make a commitment to notice things in your life to be grateful for on a daily basis.  Did I ever get over the loss of my dream of a perfect marriage?  Absolutely!  Because BONUS…When you notice how many things there are to be grateful for in your life, you don’t need everything to be perfect!

By the way, I’m grateful to YOU for reading this.

diagram that looks like sun with I Am Grateful for and various things written as the rays