Want to be happy? Try being grateful first.

A few days ago, I shared my feeling about the sudden change in my mood and general state on the choose FI group and someone was kind enough to share this video with me want to be happy? be grateful . It is a video of David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. The point he is trying to make here is that if one wants to be happy one must be grateful.

Truth be told I have been privileged my whole life. I was spoiled rotten by my parents, grew up in a small village where there was no crime, no drugs, where I could ride my bike with my friends without the fear of being run over or kidnapped.  My parents, my cousin and I all went on vacation several a years and I was always able to study in good conditions. Yes, I had a perfect life up until I was about 17 years old and yet I have always been a Debbie Downer.

At least that’s how most people would call me but I would rather describe myself as a realist person.Ever since I was a young child, I have always had this ability to see the world and people for exactly what they are, it is not that I do not see the good in people or believe that the world can change, it is just that I do not expect it and do not organise my life around potential changes that may never happen.

You may ask yourself, what made her this way? Quite frankly nothing. If anything, I should be the most optimistic person in the world.

See, when I was just a few weeks old, I was adopted by a French couple who brought me back to France. I was born premature, with a heart murmur, a serious skin disease, and my lungs had not fully formed, so my birth mother who could not offer treatment decided to put me up for adoption, saving my life in the process.

So here I was, the only kid of color in a very small village that had probably never seen one before. My parents were very well known in our village and the nearest town where they both work and I grew up surrounded by Doctors and nurses, feeling… pretty much white.

It is true. I was raised in a white community and the only time I ever received a racist insult was when someone in school called me snow white behind my back and my best friends proceeded to kick him in the nuts. I never knew this happened until my mother only told me about years later.

I had a very happy and spoiled childhood. My parents provided me with every opportunity in life and yet, as far as I can remember I never felt like I fitted anywhere, not in my family, not in my small village, and definitely not in France. One might argue that tearing me away from my native country scarred me for life, but still, I do not an excuse to be that cynical.

One might argue that tearing me away from my native country scarred me for life, but still, not an excuse to be that dark and cynical.Then when I was about 17 my dad died in my arms of a massive heart attack. That was the day I died as well. For next better part of the next 15 years, I lived or rather survived like a complete zombie. Of course,  I had many excellent memories during those years, mostly associated with trips I took, conventions or concert I attended.

Then when I was about 17 my dad died in my arms of a massive heart attack. That was the day I died as well. For next better part of the next 15 years, I lived or rather survived like a complete zombie. Of course,  I had many excellent memories during those years, mostly associated with trips I took, conventions or concert I attended.

For about 10-12 I had regular nightmares and intense chest pains on a regular basis.

I spent well over a decade completely lifeless, working, eating, sleeping purely out of a certain sense of survival. If you think that chronic depression is bad wait until you do not feel anything. And I mean that. Seeing my father die tore me apart in ways I can never express, in French, English or any other languages but somehow I survived, I pushed through. I don’t know how but I did.

Little by little I reclaimed my life and started becoming more and more content, not happy, content. I discovered that I enjoyed traveling, going to conventions, meeting actors, meeting other fans of those tv shows I spent hours watching.

I moved from one country to another and slowly started to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. But it was not until I arrived in Ireland that I started being happy or at least seeing what living a happy life looked like.

I attribute half of that happiness to the fact that I am extremely proud to work at the company I work at. I go to work every morning with a smile on my face because I know that this company values me as an employee and as a human being and that it values people in general which is so rare today.

I would attribute the other half to the actual city where I am. After 8 years in the noisy, smelly, overwhelming London, I now live in a human-sized city where it takes me 13 minutes to reach my bus stop and another 15 minutes to arrive at work. Anyone who has had to commute an hour 2 hours even every day knows that a short commute is worth any downside associated with living close to work. Well, I do not want to make you feel bad but I do not have any of those.

If I lived in Dublin, things would be different though, to be close to work, I would have to live in the City Center and deal with the noise, the pollution, and the high rents, in one word, I would have to deal with all the things that made me leave London.

Luckily I live in a much smaller city, where a lot of big companies have their European HQ, which provides plenty of work, lots of stores, restaurants, and activities. The rents have gone a little crazy the past couple of years but I got very lucky and found a cheap flat.

So here I am, working for my dream company, with a lot of career prospects, for the first time in my life I go to work with a smile on my face( back when I started at 7 am, I would sing on my way to the bus stop, I am practically tone deaf but I loved walking through the city center when it was still dark and just sing to keep myself awake).

And then I got sick, really, really sick. I have to confess that when I woke up after the first surgery and saw the drains coming out of each side of my body and those bags filling up with blood, I thought I was going to die. It was actually the opposite that was going on, the bags were filling up of all the liquid that had been stuck in my kidneys and that was a good thing but I was still half sedated and I panicked. I started crying and calling for my best friend, who arrived shortly and later told me she did not sleep that night because I did look like I was going to die. I was grey. I really was.

For the next 6 months, I had several surgeries, infections, suicidal thoughts, nightmares, and lost weight but I got better. Somehow, I, the most passive person in the world, managed to survive. Quite frankly I do not know how. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I fought that hard. Indeed, I attribute most of my recovery to the excellent care given by the nurses at the hospital, my GP and of course my surgeon.

That being said, as we were talking just before my last surgery he told me ” the only thing I did for you was taking out the stones, I did not and can not reverse the loss of kidney function, you did that on your own.”

Considering my GFR(kidney function) was about 8 the first time I was admitted, which if you look it up online usually means that you need dialysis, the fact that it is now around 95-100 is nothing short of a miracle.

I don’t know what I have done to deserve to recover when so many people who are so much more deserving of a second chance did not.

Now, I might be the most cynical person you will ever meet but I have no intention of being miserable anymore.

For the first time in my life, I feel grateful to be here, to be alive and well, I do not feel entitled anymore. Life is a gift that was given to me 3 times now(the first two were when I was born and then when I was adopted) and I intend on showing my gratitude by continuing to live life fully, to grow in my company, travel more, take care of others, stop being so self-centered, and the list goes on….

Yes, I am a giant cliche. I almost died and I suddenly see life differently, it might be a cliche but it’s true.

As a matter fact ever since my last surgery about two weeks ago I have been feeling … unburdened. The dark cloud that had been hanging over my head for the past 15 years is gone, so is the constant pressure on my chest.

I can’t really explain it and quite frankly, it’s freaking me out a little bit. People always say that you get used to everything, well I got used to my misery. It was not just a part of me, it was who I was and I had somehow convinced myself that it was my way of honoring my dad, of remembering him and now that it’s completely gone, I don’t know who I am anymore but I can’t wait to find out.

My dad(whose presence I felt right before my first surgery) would never want me to punish myself for the rest of my life for not saving him. He’d want me to live, so I will.

2018 is gonna be the greatest year of my life. I can feel it and I intend on documenting it on this blog!





Author: expatonfire

I'm a 33 year old french woman and I currently live in Ireland. A few months back I had a near death experience that pushed me to reconsider the way I was living my life and to seriously think about my future, no more excuse and postponing things!

3 thoughts on “Want to be happy? Try being grateful first.”

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