Finding Gratitude in a Shit Show

It is easy to write about abundance and gratitude on the days where the sun shines and the lush grass is under your feet.  What about those dark nights when you are standing at the scene of your car accident, surrounded by emergency response personnel, staring at the crushed remains of the front end of your car and wide-eyed children within?  “This was my doing…” spinning through your mind you battle the adrenalin to respond coherently to the pages of reports and well-meaning attendants.  Your life feeling like a complete shit show and you are not feeling capable of coping with.  #adultingsucks …

The Mind-Body-Spirit connection approaches to health and recovery…

teach us that the messages we send our body trigger cellular responses more than the external forces and conflicts.  ” I am safe” repeated over can reduce your heart rate in times of trauma that would otherwise trigger full anxiety or pain responses.  We learn these tools in the calm safety of our home or gatherings and believe that we will absolutely do that the next time we need it.  As the wet, dark night reflected flashing red and blue, those tools did not pop to mind right away. The well-intentioned individuals saying I should feel blessed for having no physical injuries fall on deaf ears.   I was very clearly in instinctual survival mode.  My needs were not for spiritual actualization!

In our first world countries, we often forget the real physical responses to true fear.  I am not talking about ‘ my son is late from school’, the collection call on an outstanding bill, or even the very real fears we face as women walking home after dark.   I am talking about the experiences many in Columbia, Venezuela, and other conflict-filled countries experience every day.  The very real threat of political strife that could cost hard working innocent families their homes, livelihoods, and lives.

Looking to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…

…we are reminded that those situations lock us into the second level of needs, the Safety level, the second chakra.  Taking a tool, that we have had the luxury of spending time working on, from the 5th level to such a place where the instinct-driven need level is for  Safety seems…  idealistic? Delusional? Fluffy?

Check out Tim Van der Vell’s other great works @

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity.

In the movie HEAL 2017, one of the speakers says ” … if my guts are spread out on the road after an accident I won’t be going to a holistic practitioner or a spiritual guide…”  Attending to the trauma and safety needs comes first.  Adrenalin doesn’t reside in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th tiers.  ( …says my layman’s voice)  Trying to ‘count my blessings’ while standing in pools of engine coolant seems like taking a probiotic while vomiting blood.  Awesome tool – wrong time.

The ride home, as the adrenalin stabilizes,

I am finally able to listen to my 2 boys in the backseat.  They are sharing their experience with their father ( my hero who picked us up ) in full color as only youth can do.  I am listening with only one ear though as I feel my heart rate pick up again, my body reliving the incident as I follow their descriptions.  The awareness of the word power triggering response seeps into my thoughts like a quiet friend tsking in the background.  Now the tools come into play.  I begin to walk my boys through the levels of needs without them realising I am doing so:

  • “So guys, we are all breathing?”  Echoes of yup… Level 1, Check.
  • “We are all safe and returning to our warm home for hot showers and tea?” chorus of sures…  Level 2 Check.
  • “Man it is awesome that Dad was home to come and get us and that we are all going home safe as a family.”  ‘Dad is awesome’ chimed back in their own ways.  Level 3 Check.
  • ” I was really impressed with how each of you handled that situation and are handling it.  The next couple of days may be rough but I know we can help each other through.” Level 4….  working on it.

“Do you guys remember us talking about the power of our words over our bodies?  What words can we mentally and verbally to help our bodies and cells feel safe and appreciated?”

I admit I felt foolish saying this out loud.  I still struggle with not feeling like  Gypsy Snake Oil Salesman every time I speak about my spiritual practices.  The kids and hubby are pretty freakin amazing.  They don’t confirm my own scripts over incense and chakra talk but instead join me in learning and practising.  At this point, they just needed a push to remember to do so.

Now I am not saying these boys were Saints of Spiritual Maturity.

No, amidst their responses they each raced to add in their video game level of detail to the scenario they had just lived.  I needed to quell this adrenalin sustaining chatter though.  To hell with their spiritual/cellular needs at this point ( honestly), this was about me putting my oxygen mask on first!  Ya ya ya.  Bad mom points for that sentence but we all know I am speaking truths here!  Yes, me doing so would also help them and, in the back of my mind, I knew this.  At that exact moment, I needed to stop living the incident and breath my adrenalin down!

I continued with this focus for the next hour as we got home and settled.  Even today I can feel my heart rate increase as I type out my thoughts and add the photos.  I have dealt with layer 1 of insurance claim procedures and sit staring at the file folder of papers and post-it notes.  I rest my hand on it and force myself to bless it.  Another wave of silly feeling.  I push it aside.

What gratitudes can I use that are earnest and heartfelt and not forced.

” I thank and ask for blessings on all the agents and emergency response people that have helped me with this.”  Good start.  Let’s write that down on a post-it note and put it on the… ta hell with that.Let’ss grab a sharpy and write that on the front of the folder.  As I do I picture, in my very visual mind, each person, uniform, cubicle and extend that image to faceless people that will continue to help me in the weeks to come.

“I am grateful for the hard work of my husband that enables us the financial abilities to handle this and recognise the abundance that continues to fill our life.”  Remember to breath and repeat.

and a third.  For some reason I feel I need to have a third.

“I am confident and wise, armed with tools that will guide us through and empower the next generation through example.  I am grateful for the daily luxury I have that allows me to see this learning experience, and brief window of fear, as a reminder of how blessed I am to live a life where exploring Self-Actualization is possible.”


1 thought on “Finding Gratitude in a Shit Show”

  1. Ok – read! I am so sorry to have missed this in January – what kind of a Mom am I???
    Happy you and the boys are ok. I understand your feeling of trauma. You are so strong and wise. I am so very proud of you. I am proud of your path and your wisdom. Please feel my love and support.

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