I promised my blog did not have a central theme so I am going to switch it up in this post. I still have more to say on the election because there are so many lessons to learn from it, but I grow weary of it as I am sure you do too. I’ll come back to the lessons, but today I am going to talk about gratitude. I don’t have that many readers so I don’t want to turn any of you off!
I believe in the power of gratitude. I came across the work of a Franciscan Monk named David Stendl-Rast, a great spiritual teacher who has an amazing but simple TED talk on the power of gratitude. I highly encourage you to watch and listen to it. He has created a website called, http://www.gratefulness.org. How cool is that? A website dedicated to gratitude. He says many people think about happiness backwards. People assume happy people are grateful. He simply says the opposite. For you to be happy you must be grateful. He claims we all share one common goal- the pursuit of happiness. We all want to be happy which means many different things to people. He said we all know people who have all the things our society says should make them happy who in fact, are miserable. The opposite is also true. We have known people who have experienced significant misfortune in their life who radiate a sense of happiness. He said the difference is gratitude.
He teaches that, lucky for us, the key is simple. I love simple as much as the next person! Keep bringing me six minute abs! I am a complete sucker for it. Every single moment holds a gift. He said we should all use the tool of stop, look, and go like our parents taught us when crossing the street. Your day is filled with experiences and if you can learn to pause, look for the joy (or the lesson), and go, which means what action will you take during or after the moment.
He said he does not expect us to be grateful for violence, oppression, or death- especially when we first encounter it. Okay good. I knew I couldn’t be that enlightened. He recognizes those difficult moments, but says there is opportunity in those too and they can be there to teach us something. This resonates with me so much. The difficult times may be a moment that gives rise to an emotion that allows you to stand up for your convictions, or to help lessen the pain of someone else with the same experience. Don’t forget to pause, however. If you don’t pause you may become bitter. Many foundations were started after someone experiences a painful experience and wants to do their part in lessening the pain for others. The choice is yours. Lessen others pain or inflict more of it.
Gratitude is easy when you are in the flow. Things are clicking along in life, and the stars seem to be aligned in your favor. One of my favorite Authors, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about her friend, “She must have saved a lot of orphans from drowning during a previous lifetime,” because she has such a charmed life. When the hard stuff hits, gratitude is the most difficult, but also the most important.
I have heard it described this way. What most of us complain about is something that someone is wishing or praying for. Who wouldn’t be grateful for the common cold if they are living with cancer. When you are mad at your spouse, there are people praying every day for someone to love. When it feels as if your kids are driving you crazy, there are those who have been trying for years to have a baby. Many of us complain about our job and our work and of course there are those who have just been laid off. I could give examples all day but you are truly just one thought away from a new perspective.
I am going to challenge myself to write a radical gratitude letter. This is a letter of gratefulness for the beauty in life but also for the tough things. I encourage you to do the same. I choose to write mine to God, but you can choose to write Dear Universe or whomever you choose. It helps to be specific. The more good you see, the more good you will see.
I am so very grateful for my faith in you. It gives me courage, strength, and hope every day.
I am grateful for my health. When I get up in the morning, I may seem weary, and crabby but when my feet hit the ground, I realize what a miracle it is I can walk, see, smell, feel, hear, and taste.
I am grateful for my children- Sierra inspires me to be a better person because of her thoughtfulness and kindness for others, Jace is such an insightful, smart, funny, responsible kid, Mya has been such a gift to my life because she teaches me patience, unconditional love, and how to be a strong free spirit. They all three make me smile and laugh- what a joy it is to be their Mother.
I am grateful for my Mom, my Dad, and my sister. My Mom has shown me what good mothering looks like. She is an example of how to be generous, kind, thoughtful, and to be a writer. My Dad has given me the gift of non-judgment and to think about deep things. He is so open minded about others and accepts people regardless of their status in life. He also is a great storyteller. My sister, my sweet twin sister, Heather. She has given me the gift of a lifelong best friend. She sees beauty in the small things. She saves spiders. I just love her spirit. I am so truly lucky to be surrounded by love and support.
I am grateful for “my guy” Kirk. I am so lucky to have found my person. He loves me in the way you should be loved. He is so thoughtful, considerate, smart, funny, and kind. He has the most amazing kids- Ellen and Esten, and family. His parents are an example of what true love looks like. His Grandma in her 90’s is a living example of the power of gratitude and a positive outlook!
I am grateful for my extended family and friends. I could write a page about each of my people but I think I might lose your interest. There are so many people I have met that have taught me so many things. Some of these people are close to me like friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues. Some of them are brief acquaintances. There are many that I have never met but I have been introduced to them through books, T.V., conferences, or the internet. They inspire me to be a better version of my unique self.
I am so very grateful for my education, my jobs, and my career of caring for seniors. What a blessing it has been to be part of mission work bigger than myself. Caring for those in need is truly God’s work and I receive more than I give.
I am grateful for my dog Lexi and all the animals in my life, past and present, who teach me about how to be in the moment and to show love without abandon! They are absent of the fear of being too excited about something!
I am grateful for so many “small” things. Coffee, a good book, my 2006 Honda Odyssey (yes I proudly own a minivan), warm socks, cover-up for my dark circles, running water, deodorant- thank God the world has deodorant, all things nature, flowers, gourds, sunsets, rainbows, water, and bees, my phone, my computer, mantras, quotes, and inspiration. The list of small things is so long I could write all day.
That was the low-hanging fruit. Those are easy things to be grateful for. Here are some of the tougher things I am also grateful for after much reflection.
I am grateful for my parent’s divorce when I was 6. It gave me courage to be a more emotionally resilient kid and my parents have shown the world that divorce does not have to mean pain. My parents are truly friends and we all get together as a family with my Stepmom and my Mom’s boyfriend and it all seems very “normal.” Okay, normal is not the right word, but what is that anyway!? My family’s lack of normalcy makes us less boring,
I am grateful we did not have a lot of money growing up because it makes me appreciate what I have and be more empathetic of those who struggle financially.
I am grateful for the death of my Grandfather when I was 16- Grandpa Will. I so loved my Grandpa- he was funny, happy, playful, and smelled like pipe smoke. I am not grateful he died, but am grateful it opened my heart to what love feels like and made me appreciate my family at a time when I was most selfish. All of my Grandparents touched my heart. My Nana- gave me my love of owls, and the gift of realizing how fragile life can be (she died in a car accident when I was 6), my Bampa was my biggest cheerleader, and taught me what class and dignity look like, and my Grandma Vi- gave me the gift of feistiness, and the gift of knowing a hard childhood does not have to turn you into a hard person. What gifts they all were and still are to me.
I am grateful for my ex-husband because I have three beautiful children and learned how to stay calm, resilient, and how to be a truer version of myself.
Dare I say it. I am grateful for Donald Trump. He is inspiring me to be more compassionate, and speak up about my convictions. I am finding my inner gumption (one of my favorite words)!
The small things apply here too. I am grateful when I am stuck in traffic because it gives me time to listen to my books and practice patience. When my kids are fighting, it teaches me that this too shall pass. When I lose my keys, I can learn better tools to be organized. When I encounter a crabby person, which isn’t uncommon in my work, it teaches me to look for a compassionate response and be responsible for my own energy.
There are gifts in each moment if we pause or stop, look for the gift or the lesson, and go. I am going to keep trying to be radically grateful and I encourage you to do the same.
Are you open to starting your own practice of radical gratitude?