11/1: consciously noticing the things to be grateful for. 11/2: The opportunity several years ago to even begin practicing gratitude.
There will be stones thrown and multiple winged creatures killed. I have not blogged for some time because I want my posts to be meaningful and thought-provoking. Some recent starts to posts have ended up feeling either too repetitive or too self-absorbed. I write to process my thoughts but to also encourage others to process their thoughts as well. As the month begins where we celebrate our gratitude, and as I see friends posting a daily “grateful”, I realize I am behind. Bird number one. I am catching up with posting a gratitude a day for the entire month. I realized that it was going to be hard for me to catch up, even after two days, in a Facebook sized post. Bird number two. I have material enough for a blog post. Here goes, fearless readers:
I am not a stranger to the idea of practicing gratitude. Even before my stroke I began keeping track of what was good in life. After a bit of a bad patch in my life I listened to expert advisors strongly suggest I keep track of that for which I was grateful. At the time, I was regrouping emotionally from a relationship break up and believed it would be challenging to find things that were actually going well. It did not come easy for me. I faked it a lot. Blah, blah, grateful for a roof over my head (boy I took that one for granted), blah, blah grateful for food in my fridge, and so on. An interesting thing began to happen though. As I forced myself to come up with things I was grateful for, I found myself spontaneously being grateful for things that I didn’t notice before, or if I did, I wasn’t fully being with the gratitude.
Now here’s the cool thing. Studies have shown that you can’t feel appreciation and fear or anxiety at the same time.
During that time, my anxiety was pretty much through the roof although I didn’t acknowledge it to many others or even to myself. I knew I was unhappy but didn’t want to admit that either but again, the wisdom and insight of others around me encouraged me, as I was seeking to understand myself better, to find things to be grateful for, twelve things every day.
I started off with three or four but I decided that I would also start a list of people for whom I was grateful. It was my intention, and still is, to personally thank the people on my list at some point. (My list is in the hundreds and I continue to add to it regularly.) My list of gratitudes (after the faking phase) were really stretching it I thought: 1. Grateful for a dog under the covers in bed with me. 2. Grateful for a bedroom window facing East so that the sunrise wakes me every day. 3. Grateful for songs that remind me that I am strong.
As I read those things now I can see that they are no small things. What continued to amaze me was how much easier it became to notice and truly feel grateful about things. Smells, sounds, thoughts, absence of thoughts until soon I could easily list a daily dozen gratitudes…with sincerity and gratitude. It is not unusual or uncommon for me to notice myself feeling joyfully grateful during the course of my day. After my stroke, it became even more important to recognize and celebrate the things I could be grateful for. And there are many.
I have been reading others’ post sharing their gratitude and told myself I would also post but I have been busy and distracted. Driving home from my newest vocational adventure I noticed a small jolt of joy rising as I smelled leaves and fall air. I rolled down the windows of my pickup and inhaled and quietly was thankful for the hour plus commute home because I get to smell the leaves, feel the chill and chase the moonlight through the trees as I drive through the wooded state game lands that appear after the wide open stretch of farm lands I cross eventually leading through the small “towns” made up of old homes with candles in every window and country churches with adjoining cemeteries that contain the bones of the many who passed through this way before me as settlers, soldiers, or solitary seekers of the next big thing for which they’d feel grateful. Such a wide variety of landscape options in just an hour’s drive. Tonight, the moon is not yet full yet provides enough light when it evades the clouds, to illuminate the scenery around me as I drive with a joyful and grateful heart. I am grateful for the drive, grateful for my pickup which makes me feel like a badass, grateful to no longer be a teacher but grateful for the wealth of knowledge that I received from the colleagues and students with whom I worked, grateful that there remain many a strong soul fighting the good fight for our children, I am grateful I walked that walk with you. I am grateful for the dog by my feet on my bed tonight. I am 1. grateful that I notice being grateful and that there are things to be genuinely grateful for and 2. glad I started practicing many years ago because it really does take practice. And it’s only day two! I challenge you, my friends, many who are on my list of who I am grateful for, to comment with your own gratitude. Or twelve.