Yesterday it was Thanksgiving. I know it’s an American holiday and I live in Spain. But, how could I not take advantage of a chance to practice gratitude?
Every day, in my night prayer, I give thanks to God, at least for 3 specific things that have happened in that day (nothing like “because I have a home” or “because we’re not at war”). Some days, they can be up to 10. Other days, I struggle to find even 1, but I don’t go to bed without having looked for at least those 3. And I assure you that I always find them, even in the darkest days.
But sometimes it’s good too to do a more general examination. Stop to look at your life and appreciate the graces you’ve received. In order to do that, I’ve followed the Gratitude Challenge by Dan Cumberland: 5 minutes without interruptions thinking about and writing down things and people you’re grateful for. I found those 13. They all have two things in common:
- They’re gifts from God, as any grace in life.
- They’re a result of my eating disorder (ED) recovery. If it wasn’t for it, I wouldn’t be enjoying them. Most of them wouldn’t exist, and a few of them would, but they’d be twisted and distorted.
So, thank you Lord, for these gifts, and thank you above all for recovery. Let’s now look at the list. (They’re written in the order they came to my mind when I was doing the challenge, it’s not relevant).
1. My spiritual director
I can’t ever be grateful enough for the person who’s saved my life, in body and soul. Only thanks to his guidance and his insights I’ve been able to go through the most sheer and dark way. Only knowing that he thought it was the right thing to do gave me hope that it was, when everything in me was screaming the opposite. I insist that if you find yourself downcast and confused, the best advice I can give to you is to look for a good spiritual director and trust him to the core.
2. Being a blogger
Sometimes I still can’t believe I’ve left everything and changed course so radically (maybe the second most radical change after, obviously, going from being pro-ana to recover). I love this adventure. Sometimes, many times, it’s exasperating, and it’s a breeding ground for fears, limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, etc. But deep down it feels so… right. It’s where I’m called to be, to give glory to God.
I confirm that every time I start talking about the blog or the topics I write about here with others: it’s what I’m passionated about, what makes my eyes sparkle, what I could talk about for hours and hours. I know I made the right choice turning down the master’s degree and choosing this path of entrepreneurship. It makes me so sad that other people don’t go all in to what they’re passionated about because they’re looking for a false security or for their family or society’s approval.
3. Schola Cordis Iesu
That is, my faith group. To start with, I’m grateful for the people I’ve met there, because they’ve taught me to live and show my faith in public, something I’m not used to; to include God naturally in all the aspects of my life and in my conversations. Not just because we have to evangelize, but because “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12: 34).
They also push me to be better, because unlike in other circles I’m familiar with, there I’m not THE Catholic one, the one who’s advanced in faith matters, but I’m surrounded by people with an admirable depth of life. That makes me go out of my comfortable position of “good Christian” and be much more intentional in my spirituality and in my quest to know and love Christ.
And, on the other hand, I’m very grateful for discovering the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has helped to heal my wounds that were due to the false image of God I had created. To all the dimensions of worship, sacrifice, rites, orthodoxy, etc., now I’ve been able to add the Heart of Jesus, that fills all the previous things with love and brings them to their true meaning.
4. My university
Why not name it, the CEU San Pablo in Madrid, Spain, where I studied History and Art History. I’m grateful for how kind my teachers were with me in the moments I was worse, even when back then I didn’t admit what was happening. For having received such an humane treatment and for the super positive reactions to my recovery.
I’m also grateful for the support I’m getting with my blogging project and for having the chance to speak in public in conferences they’ve organized, such as the XX Catholics and Public Life Congress or the Social Media Management, Innovation and Content Seminary. I appreciate so much having this platform in the beginning of my professional career.
5. Being able to enjoy food
Meal times used to be a constant battle. First, before recovery, against my mother, complaining, trying to leave as much as possible on the plate, day after day, a confrontation, a tug-of-war. And always eating insipid and monotonous foods. Then, with recovery, they turned into moments of fighting against the ED, of tears, of feeling terrible, a glutton, of not being able to cope with how I perceived my body. Of facing fear foods and knowing that the happiness for having overcome a challenge would be followed by hours and hours of torment and anguish because of how guilty I’d feel.
It’s such a huge relief to be able to find delight in a meal, to be able to be creative in the kitchen and allow myself to have fun with it, to be able to concentrate on the one hand on the taste of the food and on the other hand on the people I’m with, instead of being trapped in the treadmill of my mind. Not to mention being able to study nutrition stuff without it being triggering, but on the contrary, empowering.
6. Being able to work out building my body
Marveling at what my body can do, at how if I work with it and not against it it can develop its strength and overcome new challenges. Valuing how after treating it so badly it can now unfold all its potential. Enjoying exercise, considering it a blessing and not a punishment. Knowing that after asking my body for a great effort I’m going to nourish it properly so it can keep blooming.
And, just like with nutrition, I’m grateful that I’m now getting an education to become a personal trainer. I never imagined these two sciences were going to be a part of my life like this. That I’d be able to appreciate the beauty of the design of God’s creation this way. But it’s fascinating.
7. My mother
For supporting me in my decisions even if she doesn’t always understand them completely. I ask for more all the time: more implication, more effort… but I know that the support and respect I get are a privilege. I’m also grateful for how our relationship has grown since I stopped the lies and the hostility of the eating disorder. For being able to share even my spiritual journey with her despite our differences.
8. Finding the cross in my way
This is the typical thing I DON’T give thanks for in that thanks offering I do at the end of the day. But certainly yes, I’m grateful that in this beautiful and thrilling wat I’ve chosen as my job there are so many obstacles. I’m grateful in general for having “normal” problems in my life. Because I had that fear that once I recovered I wouldn’t have either the suffering of anorexia or the one of recovery, and therefore, what was I going to offer? I’d have to lead a miserable life to “compensate”.
Now I see it’s not like that, and how indeed the cross is a part of life, also when you’re in the good way. But I also see that it’s a completely different one. That, even if it causes pain and in the moment makes me fall, if I look at it in perspective I discover is much more natural, and a chance to get greater goods. Probably, because it’s not self-imposed, but the one the Lord is really sending to me. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s so distinct.
9. How the attacks have changed
I’m talking about the attacks of the devil in its shape of the eating disorder. Because I’m aware that I’ve entered a new phase of recovery, very different from the first one. But also that I’m not 100% recovered, and that my mind is even further from that than my body. So yes, I’m still under attack, and what’s more, often.
But there’s a key difference. Before, I was the one outside who had to conquer the place. Now I’m inside and it has to come to attack if it wants to get in again. Before, the attacks came from inside, now they come from outside. And that’s another way of fighting. They win me over more than I like to admit, but being able to see how we’ve turned the tables fills me with courage. And gratitude: “Not with their own swords did they conquer the land, nor did their own arms bring victory; it was Your right hand, Your own arm, the light of Your face for You favored them” (Psalm 44).
10. The people I’ve been able to help
This actually can be deduced from what I’ve said about my blog, but it deserves its own section, since the first one points to the good it’s done to me, while this would be about the good it’s done to others. However, they’re closely related, since the messages saying “thank you”, “this has helped me”, “this has touched me”, are what act as fuel for my heart to keep pouring itself into this.
I’m grateful for the people who’ve been able to open up for the first time about something that was oppressing them and they were keeping in secret because they felt embarrassed. For the people who have decided to put a stop to a destructive behavior because they’ve seen themselves reflected in my words. For the people who trust me and write to me when they need to talk with someone and seek advice due to the irrational impulses of an addiction or mental illness. In short, I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit has deigned to act through me to knock the door of others’ souls.
11. The people I’ve met through instagram
I’m grateful for all those people who have preceded me in the recovery journey and whose testimonies have been a constant source of inspiration for me. For those who have been walking this way by my side and with whom I’ve been lucky enough to form a community. For those who, coming from very different experiences, attract me because of their outpouring of passion for what they do in life and for helping others. Nowadays people tend to demonize social media and look down on the relationships that are created there, but I can only say good things.
12. The people who believe in me
I’ve already mentioned many of them, particularly or in a group… but here I want to remember them again specially in this facet, and to include others: old friends, new friends and “mentors” or professionals who I can basically call friends too. All those who, knowing what I’ve done, still keep betting on me, and also believe in the good I can do to others through my project.
13. The future
I’m grateful because I don’t know how the future will be, but at least I know it won’t be that abomination I had created in my mind of an “ideal anorexic life”. I’m grateful for being able to look at the future with more excitement than fear (even if there’s fear), because I know I’m in God’s hands and I honestly believe I’m following His inspirations; not like at the beginning of my recovery, when I thought I had betrayed Him and therefore I was going to be punished.
It gives me an immense peace to have the certainty that I’ll found more than enough grace in every step I take. And that from now on the changes aren’t going to be like the traumatic conversion that absolutely tore down all my life structure as I had known it until then, because this time I’m already in the truth. Now I have a firm foundation that I know can’t be demolished, and what I’m building on it will neither be destroyed if something changes, but it will be a twist or or an extension of it, a transition where I will have arrived because of the previous things I’ve been doing.
If you didn’t do it yesterday, I encourage you to do this gratitude challenge today. That gratitude will broaden your heart so you’ll be able to receive new graces. The bigger the love capacity, the more God will give Himself to us.