An attitude of gratitude. I can’t recall where I first heard that phrase, but I do recall thinking that it was a pithy little saying that got me through loads of challenging times at odd and unexpected moments. It has always been a reminder to be grateful, thankful, and to recognize all sorts of gifts, great and small, wanted and unwanted.
October in England may not be its wettest month, but it is rainy. For example, as I write this blog, constant rain has been falling all day. I had a driving lesson this morning in preparation for my British driving test on Tuesday. (Note: test number 4; yes, previous 3 attempts all unsuccessful.) As we drove off, the instructor said, “You just have to get used to the rain in this country because it rains all the time, and it especially pours when you think it will not.” So, with windshield wipers keeping a regular pace, I crept off, speed at the steady, even if I still harboured resentment at examiner 3.
In pelting rain, she had refused to walk the 15 steps back to the Test Centre to collect the Sat Nav she’d forgotten. She decided, because she didn’t want to get wet, that I could “just follow the signs,” which is allowable, and I did—despite a black sheet of rain that prevented me from reading road signage, including and most importantly—yes—speed signs.
No resentments, only gratitude? I had to dig deep on that one as the examiner said, “Sadly, you were unsuccessful this time,” throwing her sea-green nails up into the air, adding, “It is what it is.” It is what? That she didn’t want to go back into the Test Centre to get the Sat Nav, because she didn’t want to get wet despite being dressed from head to toe in wet weather gear? Sometimes gratitude is not easy, but investigating further helps, especially when inexplicably the skies open at exactly 8:10 am, the precise start of my test, and the rain stops the minute the examiner says, “Okay, game over,” or something like that.
I recently listened to the audiobook Make Your Bed by Admiral H. McRaven, and while making your bed is a great example of discipline, the vignette that remained with me is his Sugar Cookie story. Apparently, a commander at any time, provoked or not, may punish a Navy Seal trainee by directing him to roll in full gear in the sand from head to toe. Think sand in hair, ears, back of the collar, etc., and staying that way for the rest of the day. The lesson? Life is not fair. The learning? Resilience.
Who knows if life is fair? However, getting over a third failed British driving test, especially when I’ve been driving for most of my adult life, even if in a different country and on the opposite side of the road—and of course unfamiliar with the big British bugaboo, the infamous spiralling (sometimes double) roundabout—it is important to be resilient. Thinking “signal right but go left” is a bit of a challenge. I admit, I wanted to take my test somewhere, anywhere where there were no roundabouts, but that left only the Isle of Mull, I think, which is some distance away in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.
I avoided taking my test in Oxford for ages due to its tricky roundabouts and short slip roads, but now, as they say, I am “stuck in” with an exam tomorrow. I’ve been told not to worry since failing three times or more is the norm, and of course, I can always take it again.
I refuse to take my exam in Swindon, which, like Oxford, is known for its fiendish roundabouts, specifically the dreaded Magic Roundabout. Simply described, it is one of the world’s most complex rotaries; its five smaller roundabouts direct traffic clockwise, while cars travel counter-clockwise around the inner circle. Just think one major roundabout with five smaller ones at each exit. Who’s in?
So back to gratitude. Sometimes in life there are things that I simply can do nothing about—people, places, things, Covid-19. I think there are options, and so I try them all, but when I am left with a result I neither wanted nor intended, what do I do? Feel hopelessness, resentment or despair? Expect pity? Get angry? Surrender?
What I propose is gratitude, general gratitude, a simple thankfulness for a knowledge that perhaps whatever has gone down (or not) is exactly right for me. The thing about gratitude is that it has helped me to unhook, accept the sugar cookie, the failed third British driving test, and to get on with the next best thing. The result? Freedom. And often a clear way forward, and if I am really lucky, an understanding of why that result was the right one at the right time for me.
So here’s wishing me a pass or at least the gift of gratitude for another opportunity to learn, and here’s wishing you an October with moments of rain or sunshine, and lots of time to make lists of things, good, bad or indifferent, wished for or not, over which you feel tremendous and unrelenting gratitude.
PS Happily, Marlene passed her driving test on October 5th at 2:25 pm.
Photo by iStock.com/pigphoto