published Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Upton: Grateful for a lifetime of experiences

By Tabi Upton

In the summer of my 13th year, I grew about three inches in height. I enjoyed the surprise of my growth spurt, the attention it brought me through the exclamations and smiles of the adults in my world. It made the general craziness of puberty bearable. I felt proud and excited about what was to come.

Personal growth is a lot like that. We enjoy it after the fact, because it makes the wildness of life somehow worth it all. Today, I am most grateful for occasions life tossed my way that, in the moment, made me want to duck and dodge but produced a wonderful expansion of my soul later on.

I'm thankful for the people who didn't always like me. At the time, the rejection and loneliness I felt were not pleasant, but after I allowed myself to cry it out, work through my sensitivities and try different methods to make peace with others, I learned a lot about myself.

In some cases, I discovered that I was deeply enjoyed and highly regarded, but due to my own filtered lenses, had made up stories about my life that simply weren't true. What a relief it was to know that things were better than I thought in some situations. I learned to give myself grace.

I am thankful for my many embarrassing moments. My fiascos have provided comic relief to the heavier moments of my life. Some great stories that kept people laughing for days came out of them. Embarrassment taught me not to take myself too seriously. It keeps me guessing about what may happen next.

I can't express how grateful I am that I took risks. I went to college far from home and only came back twice a year. It got hard and even ugly at times, but I eventually graduated and have few regrets.

I lived overseas, and though I decided on three occasions to give up and return to the States during my two-year tour, I changed my mind each time and stuck it out. I started a business, and found it much like giving birth to a baby that isn't sure it wants to be born, yet in the end makes you (almost) forget the pain.

I wrote my thoughts down and let others read them. I wrote my thoughts down again and spoke them aloud to groups of people. Today, the inner doors these risks opened for me shine like magnificent jewels along my path.

In contrast, I am grateful for my lost opportunities. They filled me with sadness and regret, teaching me that life is short, and that if you don't move on certain things, eventually someone or something else will. They force me forward.

What would I have done without life's surprises? Some weren't pleasant -- like the letter that denied me entrance to graduate school. Others were more palatable, like an opportunity to visit Asia free of charge. I smile when I realize that though it's important to plan, you just never know sometimes.

Lastly, I am forever and ever grateful for undeserved love. I am amazed that I have parents who have never divorced, for friendships that have lasted since childhood, for forgiveness and understanding when I've acted my worst.

Love is the beacon we all search for to guide us. It is the force behind all our growth, and everything that means anything. Today, I am thankful that love covers my mistakes, infuses every confusing moment, and cushions my disappointments. It has moved me past puberty and into adulthood and keeps me growing ever still.

Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a therapist at CBI Counseling Center. Email her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

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