Today, as I stood upon the cliffs watching the waves roll in, I thought I was at peace–whole and complete. Okay, maybe I longed to be out upon the waves, but I have learned to quiet that yearning, knowing my body cannot do what it once did.
And then a stranger walked behind me saying, “For you.”
I looked over to the wooden post to where he had placed a piece of aqua seaglass.
Because I carry a shield around me from living in a city, it took me a moment to acknowledge him and the seaglass.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, finally, feeling its weight in my palm.
The stranger picked a poppy flower. “It must be old,” he said, “because it’s so big.”
He handed me the flower. “I must give,” he said.
Of course I said, ‘thank you,’ as the stranger walked off. But, it wasn’t until I began to walk myself that I was aware of my gratitude. I enjoyed the faces that I saw, the sounds of the ocean beside me, and the feel of the ground beneath my feet.
When I stopped to sit and watch the surfers, the air smelled and felt like days spent in Mexico–happy, warm, with family–and my heart nearly burst with joy, and my eyes watered. I was crying. Not because I couldn’t surf, but because I was grateful to all the times in the past when I had been upon a wave.
And it occurred to me, in that moment, that gratitude can be exquisitely painful. To be grateful, I had to truly open myself to the gifts I receive in every moment, and to be that open I cannot help but feel the awesome and overwhelming power of joy.
I have to admit that it is much easier for me to experience the thirst and hunger of always wanting; to believe I am small, unloved, undeserved and lacking. My heart can remain mean and safe.
But today that is not an option.
And so perhaps, this stranger gave me an even greater gift than he had intended, because I am now filled with the exquisite pain of gratitude.