WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?

November 24, 2021

Before and immediately following my divorce, I had a pretty tough time of it for about five years. It was by far the longest period of major depression I've ever experienced. I can't really explain the debilitating effect of that. I had major financial problems and I could hardly bring myself to open my mail. My career had bottomed out, and I had no life energy or enthusiasm or mental clarity to figure it out. About the only thing I really cared about was my kids. I didn't even really care about myself anymore. I think a big part of the depression I experienced came from the judgments I hung on my own situation. "I didn't get married to get divorced." "It wasn't supposed to be this way." "I've lost my opportunity for an eternal family." "How could someone I lived with for so long decide she didn't love me?" I didn't consciously realize those thoughts were optional.

In 2013, I moved to Midland, Texas, sight unseen, for a career opportunity. It wasn't a dream come true; but it gave me steady income and allowed me some financial breathing room. Given where I had been for the previous five years, I felt like I could actually relax and breathe easier for the first time in a long time. I started to come out of my funk and appreciate the good things in my life. Within the first few months, I was able to replace my old clunker with a crossover SUV with leather interior, a sunroof, nice stereo, etc. I loved that car. It was comfortable and fun to drive and, most important, reliable. I had been driving a clunker for so long that I just felt extremely grateful every time I got behind the wheel. I enjoyed that car so much more because I was grateful for it. In fact, the persistent thought I had during the 3 years I spent in Texas was that gratitude is the key to happiness. I cannot enjoy anything more than I appreciate it.

My life was still not what I had pictured as a younger man. I was still divorced and single and didn't get to see nearly as much of my youngest son as I wanted. I didn't have the career I had envisioned when I was younger (I am an incurable idealist.) However, I was extremely grateful to have a pretty good income. I was more grateful still that my oldest son was living with me full time and preparing for a mission. He made great friends in Midland. We both did. When we first got there, we rented a mother-in-law suite from a family while we were waiting for an apartment to open up. They became a surrogate family for us. We still love them and remain in touch with them often. They had five cute little girls whose enthusiasm and carefree spirits brought some light back into my life. I have a cousin in Midland that I am close to also, and I got to spend more time with her and her family.

My time in Texas taught me that I could be grateful in less than ideal circumstances--and that could make all the difference. Somehow, gratitude also leads to more abundance. Consider this promise from the Lord:

”[H]e who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more" (Doctrine and Covenants 7:19).

Here's the thing friends. When I was married to my first wife, with two beautiful children, a nice house, and a fairly successful business, I thought it was all just normal. That's what people do right? They grow up, they get married, they have babies and careers, and they buy a house. I thought of it as just normal. But, if it's just normal it isn't special. If it's just normal, you sort of feel entitled to it. "It's just what everyone else has" right?

The salient point is that gratitude is the most important key to happiness. Oddly, losing everything taught me that. I value exceedingly my lovely wife, my four beautiful sons and daughter-in-law, my great career that came to me miraculously, comfortable home, fun and reliable car, and LILY. It's not just normal. It's very special. I appreciate all of the abundance a loving Heavenly Father has restored to me. I look to the future with bright hope and enthusiasm.

If you are struggling with the depression and loss that afflicts so many mid-singles of our faith, try to find things to be grateful for. Think about the things the Lord has blessed you with instead of the misery life has dealt you. Accept the place you are in--really surrender to it. That doesn't mean you don't aspire to better things. But stop fighting battles that are over. Once you have given yourself time for grief and processing, stop dwelling on past events that cannot be changed. I know from painful personal experience that is a path to depression and despair.

This Thanksgiving, think of what you are grateful for. List your blessings. Let the thought of them fill your heart with so much joy there is no more room for despair. As we focus upward and forward, with genuine gratitude for all we have, we will be filled with that joy, and with more full enjoyment of our blessings.
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