From Employment to Unemployment to Meaning — Ch. 16: Collision and Gratitude

Photo by Michelle Patrovani 3/5/17

“Gratitude is a powerful force” stated Janine, as she responded to my tale of last night’s car accident in Manhattan — an accident from which all five victims walked away; an accident that could have resulted in much worse injuries than those that were sustained.

On Friday night, the night ending Week 6 of unemployment, Honda Accord and BMW collided at a frigid Manhattan intersection.

Collisions are part of life. We collide all the time — with fate, with family, with friends, with bosses, with strangers, with natural disasters, with each day and night, with love, with hope, with fear, with joy, with elation, with disappointments, with losses, with new beginnings, with so very much.

No wonder we get tired and thrashed. We have all experienced the whippings and defeat of collisions. But collisions, with the right attitude, can also create gratefulness. Gratefulness, transforms a little into abundance, pain into peace, doubt into faith, and fear into courage. Like muscle, gratefulness grows and strengthens the more you use it.

Janine’s five words, “Gratitude is a powerful force” are easy to remember and easy to make a mantra, a prayer, a hymn, a refrain, for all of life’s impacts, those that are expected and those that are unexpected.

A week ago (3/3/17, to be exact), I tumbled in Tallahassee and, in a great willful resistance to gratitude, lamented the bloodied and bruised damage to both my knees. I knew upon impact that my sidewalk crash would likely be felt (literally) for weeks to come. Praying not, but logically and realistically anticipating it would be nevertheless. In the days following, I wrote about my knees in my almost over Statistics course. I contemplated probabilities and causation of the event, eventually deciding I could not prove causation, and could only measure correlation. Thanks, Statistics Course! A colleague replied to my discussion post, “I hope your knees feel better, but they did provide another great example of … correlation [versus] causation.” I replied, “I’m glad my injury to my knees could aid understanding for us both, but would have much preferred the fall without the correlated pain :-).”

The truth is, we fear and grieve the pain in all the collisions of life, quickly forgetting that the crashes, smashes, accidents, bumps, impacts, fender-benders, rear-enders, clashes, conflicts, confrontations, pile ups, and wrecks have great capacity to yield learning, overcoming, change, revelation, transformation, growth, grit, and yes, that elusive gratitude.

In education, Carol Dweck writes and speaks about a growth mindset and the power of believing we can improve. Angela Duckworth, likewise, writes and speaks about “grit” as the power of passion and perseverance.

Growth mindsets and grit don’t just apply to education and learning in the academic sense. Growth mindsets and grit apply to life.

I’d like to say that growth, grit and gratitude are a three-packaged deal, and that thankfulness for all our collisions is what makes growth, grit, and gratitude flourish exponentially.

I don’t know about you. But, just as I journeyed from illegal immigrant to citizenship status, from assault victim to overcoming victory, and from single to married to single again, so too do I continue journeying … in parenting sons with incurable illness, from employment to unemployment to meaning, and from collision to collision. With airbags and the strong frames of Honda Accords, or without, and in point blank, everything, I never want to forget how much I must be in full possession of collisional gratitude.

After all, every collision with oxygen is a celebration of life.

Having a beautiful, positive attitude to life, and walking with peace come only at the intersections of the powerful forces of collision and gratitude.