My Musings on Gratitude by Jill Nystul
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As I sit at my desk in my home office with it’s freshly-painted butter yellow walls, and stare out the window as the first snowfall of the season blankets my front yard…my heart is literally full to almost bursting. As I type this I am listening to some beautiful classical music, with warm slippers on my feet and my favorite cardigan wrapped around me. The central heating is chugging away keeping me warm and I just had a delicious lunch of homemade butternut squash soup. For some reason this morning I am keenly aware of how incredibly blessed I am. More than I can even wrap my head around and certainly more than I deserve! In the back of my mind there is a small place that reminds me that things could have turned out SO differently just a few short years ago when my life was far from this idyllic place I am sitting in right now…both physically and spiritually. But I am grateful for that as well, because I don’t want to forget to ALWAYS be grateful for where I am now.
While I don’t want this to be a “true confessions” sort of article, I feel I have to share a little bit of background for you to be able to understand better where my thoughts and feelings on GRATITUDE come from. They come from having enjoyed a blissfully uneventful upbringing in a loving family; a successful and fulfilling career as a broadcast journalist; and a continuing career as a wife and mother that I found equally fulfilling (and hopefully successful!) But as we all know, into every life some rain must fall. My life up until I turned 40 years old had really only had a few sprinkles. But for a long, complicated list of reasons (that I still find myself trying to sort out to this day) I decided that the life I had created for myself up to that point was not the one I wanted. I wanted a different life. One where I was “free” to do what I wanted, one that didn’t “force” me to conform to any one way of living and didn’t “require” me to make so many “sacrifices”. You’ll notice I used quotation marks around – free, force, require, and sacrifices. That is because as I type those words today, they have a whole new meaning for me than they did back then.
This newly discovered “freedom” that I decided I wanted began innocently enough…a few parties….a few drinks…a new crowd to hang out with. It wasn’t hard to find that “excitement” I thought I was looking for. I traveled, I shopped, I drank, I disappeared. Soon, what began innocently enough began to turn on me. Or, more accurately, the consequences of my choices were beginning to emerge. Little things that then turned into bigger things. The fantasy life I was trying so hard to create was quickly beginning to unravel, and instead of facing the situation head on and straightening it out…I started a vicious cycle of denial and dismissal. It’s easier to cope with bad decisions when you just don’t face them. Or worse, when you start using substances to help you avoid reality. Those “few drinks” turned into lots of drinks, which meant more going out and more parties and more bad decisions. It saddens me to say that once I started down this destructive path it actually took several really awful experiences to finally jar me into some sense of reality. Ironically enough it was this very time of year…just before Thanksgiving that my world came crashing in on me, but which ultimately led to saving my life. So it’s not surprising I guess that at this time of year when we are “giving thanks” I am so very aware of how much I have to be grateful for.
After one particularly harrowing experience that shook me to my very core…that little voice inside of me that I had been trying so hard to drown out with alcohol and lies began to pierce me with its’ crystal clear message…Stop. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how far from grace you feel you have fallen, your children need you. You’re the only mother that they have. You need to save yourself so you can save them. YOUR CHILDREN NEED YOU. No other four words in the English language, or any other language for that matter, could have even touched me at that point…but those did. Those four unspoken but poignant words came to me from a “spirit” that I believe lives in every single one of us. The life force that we are endowed with by the mere fact that we are all human beings and that urges us to not only survive…but to LIVE.
Those four powerful words became my anthem and my life preserver. I hung on to them for dear life and they helped me to make the tough choices that lay ahead. And they were tough. On the 5th of December of that year I entered into residential treatment for substance abuse and didn’t emerge until my birthday on February 20th…72 days later. It was a long, painful, hard-fought battle, but thanks to an incredible group of counselors and the unfailing love of family and friends, I survived the battle and won the war with my demons. That was 4 years ago and what has happened in my life since then has been nothing short of a miracle.
After all the heartache and after all the darkness…slowly I began to rediscover my good life. All those things I had taken for granted and eventually began to resent…I now saw in a completely different light. I was looking at life through a new prism of GRATITUDE. Gratitude for what I still had after the storm that had just blown through my life…and gratitude for the things I had learned along the way. To this day I do believe that everything I went through had a purpose and that I am living that purpose.
One of the most important things I learned while in treatment was that I needed to find my passion in order to keep myself from going to “dark places” again. Advice that I in turn pass on to you. I fervently believe that when we find and actively pursue our true passion in life…we can accomplish great things and make the world a better place as we share it with others. A year and a half ago I started a little blog called “One Good Thing By Jillee“. I was “passionate” about finding and sharing things that I thought made life easier, more affordable, and more beautiful overall! Little did I know the effect it would have and the places it would take me. I went from my Mom and Dad as my only readers to more than 7 million page views a month in one year! It has been an incredible journey that continues to take me to places I never even dreamed of. But the success and prestige PALE in comparison to the satisfaction I get from hearing from people from all around the world who have learned something new from my blog that has helped them and their family in some real and measurable way. Those are the things that bring me the greatest joy and inspire me to keep pursuing my passion.
I would like to thank Bonbon Break for the opportunity to share some of my story with you. I didn’t think it was possible, but I have felt even MORE gratitude as I have taken time to write about and reflect on my life’s journey thus far. I hope you will take some time this holiday season to do some reflecting on your own journey and, if you haven’t done so already, find that passion that you have inside you and begin sharing it with the rest of us. The world needs it.
ABOUT JILL: Jill Nystul is the creative force behind One Good Thing By Jillee. She started the website in June of 2011 and has enjoyed a meteoric rise in readership since that time. She attributes this success to savvy readers that desire to enrich their lives while recognizing the need to conserve time, money and resources. Her background in broadcast journalism and television talk show production have proved to be the perfect compliment for her blogging career and website mantra: “Sorting through the beautiful clutter of life to find that One Good Thing each day and sharing it with you.”