Gratitude Spreads Gratitude

I have a feeling that gratitude breeds gratitude. The more you feel it, the more it grows. I’m struggling to find the words for this post, because this week has been extraordinary. So I’ll just start at the beginning.

0001-16Last weekend, to mark what would have been my father’s birthday, both my books were free to download on Kindle, and I asked that people donate to Myeloma UK, the charity that supports sufferers of the bone marrow cancer that ended his life. I was stunned by the response, in particular by the numbers of downloads of my novel. By Sunday these numbers had fallen, which didn’t surprise me – the first day of a giveaway usually sees the highest numbers.

On Monday I logged on to check my stats on Kindle, expecting downloads to have dwindled more. Instead they had risen. Later, I discovered that the website Reader Giveaways had featured Drawings In Sand. How they found it, I don’t know. But I’m thankful.

On Wednesday, responding to a friend request  Goodreads, I noticed Drawings in Sand had some new ratings, so I checked them out. Among them was its first ever one star. No matter what you write, not everyone will like it, so I’ve always known this day would come and wondered how I’d feel. Of all the emotions I had imagined, gratitude was not one – yet that’s what I felt. I had a one star rating, and I was still alive, still the same person I was a few moments before.

Curious to see what this person did like, I clicked through to her profile and found she’d given George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World one star ratings as well, along with Twelve Years a Slave, The Lotus Eaters and Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I was in good company. I felt jubilant.

Whether it’s nature or nurture I have no idea, but our elder daughter also writes. This week is the first of some pretty important exams. A few years ago she was a child plagued by persistent illness, low confidence and anxiety.  A few years ago, sitting so many exams would have floored her. But not only is she coping with the revision and the exams, she’s still finding time to write fan fiction. (Our girls and their friends are a little obsessed with the Marvel movies and Agents of Shield.) Every day she gets more messages from people who love what she writes, who say it made them cry, that it inspires them. Some have taken that inspiration and written stories of their own, others have created graphics for their Tumblr blogs. And my daughter loves that what she writes has inspired others – she’s learning the joy that comes from being of service. And I am learning even more from watching her. See, gratitude breeds gratitude.

On Friday on this blog, I wrote a post about judgement, sharing a process I’ve used for years to question stressful beliefs. In the process of doing this, something I have ruminated about on and off for over a decade dissolved into nothing. A memory in which I felt powerless and attacked became a source of understanding, peace and compassion – for both myself and the other person involved. As if this wasn’t enough food fortune, yesterday, I found that our Ten Things of Thankful host, Lizzi, had left a trail of posts on Google+ and Facebook, saying how much she loved what I wrote. One them says, “Yvonne is one of those people who is sometimes, of a weekend, sent to inspire.”

Reading something like that just makes a person glow. Thanks Lizzi. Once again, gratitude breeds gratitude.

After I’d read it, glowing suitably, I walked to the supermarket. As is my habit, my first stop was to look at the newspaper headlines. Among all the outraged headlines about Max Clifford (a disgraced publicist) was this one: Stephen Sutton Discharged From Hospital.

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 21.15.35It’s not often I’ve felt bowled over by gratitude at a newspaper headline. I’ve never met Stephen Sutton and only heard about him for the first time last week, yet somehow his story touched me. He is a nineteen year-old boy who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at fifteen, and soon after was told it was terminal. He made a bucket list of things he wanted to do before he died and one of those was to raise £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Two weeks ago he was only halfway to his target and his condition was rapidly getting worse. With so little time left, he took to social media to spread the word. His story went viral, several celebrities took it to their hearts and even the Prime Minster went to see him in hospital. Instead of £10,000, his campaign has raised over £3 million.

Asked about his recovery, Stephen says he feels, “even more fortunate to just be here and the experience serves as a potent reminder to go out there and live life as freely and as positively as possible.”

And somehow, seeing this just struck me with awe. Yet his recovery doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve long been fascinated by how the mind affects the body and lately I’ve read several books about it, including Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself  by Dr Lissa Rankin. Everyone knows about the placebo effect, but from what I’ve read, it’s not just our own beliefs that can affect our health. How other people react plays a part too – if you have a doctor who is confident that medicine will cure you then you are more likely to get well. So with all that love, all those people telling Stephen he is such an inspiration – is it any wonder he’s recovered enough to go home? So, there I was yesterday, wandering around the vegetables, picking up gorgeous red peppers, juicy tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, feeling joy at this boy’s recovery. (I did also feel ever so slightly silly to feel so deeply affected by someone I’d never met, but if a Prime Minister can be moved to visit him then I can feel awe.)

I reached the checkout. As I stood waiting my turn, beyond the tills I noticed a little old man, stooped over his trolley, sorting out his money. He must have been at least ninety, his stoop looked permanent, and yet he was in the supermarket on his own. I suppose he reminded me of my dad. I felt such admiration for that old man. Then, as it came my turn at the checkout, I noticed that pinned to his jacket was a row of medals. My admiration doubled.

By the time I had paid and left, he was gone. Perhaps one day I’ll see him again and ask him about his medals, hear his life story, perhaps not. Either way, his life touched mine for a few moments and enriched it.

And that, my friends, has been another week of thankful moments.

 

Comments

  1. congrats on ONE star!!!! HAHAHHA… you are in excellent company there! I was hoping to start your book tonight! I will come back and let you know asap!!!! I am really looking forward to it but have had too much work to do… I didnt want to start it and not have time to devote to reading!

    1. Author

      Thanks Zoe! And yes, if I have half as much success as those other authors in the one-star club, I’ll be a very happy woman! Glad you got a copy of “Drawings” in the giveaway, (at least I’m guessing that’s when you got it.) I hope you enjoy it!

  2. I love that you could turn that one star into a positive – it didn’t kill you! And as Zoe pointed out, you were in excellent company from that reader! Love that your daughter writes, too. And that a boy you’ve never met could affect you so deeply.

    1. Author

      Dyanne, I’m sure if Mother Theresa had written a novel someone would have given it one star, but you half-dread it. And now that’s done and over, so nothing to fear any more!
      And I also love that my daughter writes – she does totally different stuff, but we have some good chats about writing. She’s got way more fans than I have! That’s fan fiction for you.
      Thanks for popping by.

  3. Congrats for raising so much money and that the giveaway went so well.

    And I LOVED the post you wrote about judgement, and I’m so glad it made you happy and glowy that I shared it! 😀

    As for the man and his medals…I recently met a man – a patient of mine – who was very old and skinny, with ice-blue eyes and blue lips, a dignified walk and a cane, and as I was attending to him and taking his photographs, he told me all about how he was at the Normandy landings. How he saw his comrades in arms mown down by the Germans. How only 4 of his command were still alive now. How he wanted to go back to the beaches for a visit this year…

    He touched me profoundly, and I was so sad to only spend ten minutes or so with him.

    1. Author

      Lizzi, I’m hoping that the donations will keep coming because we haven’t reached the target yet. But it’s good to raise what we have so far. (£215.95!)

      I love your story about your patient. My Dad was also at the Normandy landings, but his ship couldn’t get in to berth because there were so many others. So they landed the next day, and he spent months sleeping rough as they moved through France and Belgium. When I was young, I was so uninterested in all this, and so it was only in the last few years I really learned all my Dad went through. That generation was deeply affected by the war – it remained with them all their lives.
      I hope your patient gets to go back. And that you get to see him again. That dignity, I can imagine it, yes. It was there in the old man I saw in the supermarket too, bent though he was.
      Oh shit, this has got me crying again…

  4. It must be nice to have more writers in the family, there would be so much more do discuss. 🙂
    Glad to hear your book did well Yvonne. And that you took the 1 star in your stride so well.
    Lastly thanks for sharing about Stephen Sutton, it was the first I’ve heard of him. It’s amazing what we can do when we really want to. Thanks for the morning inspiration. 🙂

    1. Author

      Freya, yes it is nice to have another writer in the family! And I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Stephen Sutton – I agree it’s amazing what we can do when we have that passion. Thank you for your comment!

  5. I think that reader misunderstood the rating system. Perhaps she was using it like a sports team would. You’re #1, you’re #1!!!!!

  6. I agree with Lizzi. You are an inspirer. A blog friend told me last week that I am a calming presence in her life. It’s interesting how people’s personalities can transcend the computer screen and either mesh or clash. I want to use the same words to describe you, a calming inspiring presence. I love the objects of your thankfulness from the well deserved gratefulness for the downloads to having survived the one star rating (along with Orwell and Gaiman…) and for the paragraph about Stephen. I’ve never heard of him, but I’m always in awe of people who embody positivity and gratefulness the way he does. Thanks for talking about him. And since gratitude breeds gratitude I think this is a perfect opportunity to thank you for your wonderful, thoughtful and sensitive comment on my last blog post. I always look forward to reading your insightful comments. They bring me a sense of peace and resolution 🙂

    1. Author

      Oh, Katia – what can I say?! Thank you! That’s what I can say. Thank you. More gratitude.
      If I am a calming inspiring presence it is because of using the process that I illustrated in that post Lizzi liked so much (The Work of Byron Katie.) And also learning to let go of emotions with the Sedona Method. I’ll be posting a lot more about these in the coming week.
      Lastly, I am so glad to read that my comment helped you feel peace and resolution – I could so relate to what you described!

  7. What a gorgeous, touching Thankful post, Yvonne. And I agree with Lizzi. You are wonderful and amazing. I especially loved the imagery this week of the old man in the grocery. I love love love it when those small moments affect us and stay with us throughout the week.

    1. Author

      Thanks Kristi. And seeing the old man was one of my favourite moments of the week too!

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