Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanks Giving 101



For the past 20 years, I have been falling asleep in the same way: in quiet thoughts of thankfulness for all that I’ve been given and all that I have.

I read a post earlier this week where the author shared her perspective on life’s trials and challenges. She wrote that she worked hard to find good in all of life's situations. Tragedy aside, life is full of difficulties. Difficult can feel insurmountable, but putting our chair in a different corner of the room allows a fresh look at something that we'd rather not have to deal with.

Sometimes, you have to decide to find some good in the worst of things.

Giving thanks, thanksgiving, is something that I had to make a deliberate decision to implement in my life.

I had grown tired of  feeling angry, shortchanged, and envious of all that others seemed to have--but that I didn't. I was tired of waking up that way--dissatisfied and sorry for myself. I was tired of falling asleep like that, asking why I wasn't one of the lucky ones. Morning and night, my mind went to discontent and emptiness. That was my life.

About 20 years ago, I found a book on making your life's work be the cultivation of an attitude of gratitude. I wanted that: to be thankful every day for many, many things--for the people that make up my life, for the experiences that I’ve had, for the wonderful characters that have played roles along my journey here. For the sun on my face, for a body that is still capable, for a clear night sky, for my family, my friends, for the gift of being able to write, for the opportunity to contribute in some way.

It is the conscious act of gratefulness that will make for the quality of life.

Feeling grateful feels good--that's not just a feeling in our head and heart. Research done by D. Jeannine Calaba, Psy.D., author of The Power of Appreciation, has done studies that confirm that when people feel thankfulness, good things happen to their minds, hearts, and bodies. They sleep better, they are more content, they are more patient, they feel more fulfilled and are more supportive to those around them, they have a bounce in their step. People who practice gratefulness have less depression, anxiety, envy, and jealousy.

Giving thanks for what we have creates positive energy that others feel. It is a force that can transform disagreements, calm strained relationships, improve work situations, help to accept health adversities, maybe make peace with aging. Being grateful can pull us through financial crises, medical challenges, children with special needs, and the valleys in life.

Gratitude has come to mean living in peace and joy with what I already have in my life. I can want more, absolutely, but I can work toward any goals with the assurance in my heart of being happy with what I already have. I no longer pursue dreams with the thought, "Then I will be happy." To hold gratitude for the life I have and the people I share it with, deepens the love I feel for those around me.

I want to be that person that says, “I am fortunate in the life I have. I will find happiness in my life. If I have nothing more than I have now, I will still remain content.”

Being appreciative makes you look at your life as more than trials, difficulties, and bridges that seem too far to cross--being grateful releases joy.

I have spent too many years being angry over things that seemed unfair in my life.

Anger at losing my father at only six years old. Anger at being raised by a clinically depressed and detached mother. Anger at trying to grow up American, but being too different to fit in. Anger at not finding my way and looking nothing like everyone else while a teenager. Anger at seeing all that everyone else had that I didn't. Anger that my three pregnancies required five months of bed rest each. Then, anger at children being born early requiring NICU stays and coming home on apnea monitors. Anger at my children having peanut and dairy and egg and beef and countless allergies all meshed together with asthma and eczema requiring steroids. Anger at feeling so out of place in my small town. I could go on still and write a second paragraph on all that I was angry about--but that wouldn't be good for anyone.

So. Much. Anger. They say to never go to bed angry--well, I don't think I slept for 18 years.

All that anger that would never bring me any closer to the happiness that I ironically chased. When I decided to work toward being grateful, my eyes were opened to all the miracles I had missed: like being able to be what has made me the happiest in my life: a mother. My children who survived tenuous first years, but are now healthy, a devoted husband, a home that is never without heat or food, my good health, being able to spend time on my writing, my three boys who express their love to me every day. 

I grew to become appreciative for all my experiences, because they are what made me into who you read on this blog. Yes, it was tragic to lose my father to suicide when I was six and that my mother became despondent after that. BUT, but, I was raised by a dedicated grandmother whose influence remains with me today, and I was a bright child, always able to transfer my thoughts to paper and and keep notebooks full of my stories.

I was very good at the written word and this won me scholarships. I was able to attend college. And being able to write, here, and to have a place to work through my stuff, y'all. I mean, how much better does it get?

Tonight, when I lay in bed for those first few moments, I will close my eyes, and take a sweet, deep breath. I will think--and smile--with thoughts of all the good that is in my life. There is so much.

I will fall asleep being grateful for another day, for my life, and for what I have here--with all of you.

I am grateful for you, your thoughts, your time. The gift of you and your energy.

You fill me with joy.

Thank you.

***

**Just given another reason to be grateful: mamapedia ( a collective site I love with a readership of 800,000) just notified me they've syndicated one of my posts today, True Mommy Confessions. Please stop by, add your own confession, and think about submitting your writing to mampedia. Great opportunity for exposure and they've got a nice community of dedicated readers there. 

32 comments:

  1. I am so thankful for YOU. xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am grateful I found your blog through Mamapedia! It and this were great articles. Gave you a mention today on my blog.:) (I went back and added it after reading this.) Don't you love when unknown other bloggers have the same topic on the same day? Something in sync!

    ReplyDelete
  3. smiles...gratitude is a great attitude.....there are always good things happening, even on the bleakest days you know...you may have to look at little harder some days but its there...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes a lot of digging some days, doesn't it, B.

      Thinking of you today, and your incredible post.

      Delete
  4. I love you. And am so thankful for you. xo

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did you know that the very first comment ever on my blog was from you? I can't begin to tell you how much that meant to me. So, thank YOU, for being open and kind and welcoming. Tonight, when I sit down and think my thankful thoughts, you will be in them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Shannon.

      I do miss the old days, from when my blog reader was small enough to visit everyone. Seems so long ago.

      Thank you for your faithfulness.

      xo

      Delete
  6. The concept is so simple yet profoundly wise. Making this shift in our thinking is truly life changing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love this. I've been thinking about keeping a gratitude journal because on the days when I find myself bellyaching over what I don't have, and I focus on what I do, or on helping someone else, my day gets immediately better. I love your image of moving your chair to a different spot in the room. I'm going to move mine.

    ReplyDelete
  8. So well said! I have had very much to be grateful for this year and still have allowed myself to fall in a hole and worry about 'what happens next'. This is a wonderful reminder to stop and truly appreciate.
    Thank You : )

    ReplyDelete
  9. From this corner of the room, I love you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I so agree. When I made the conscious shift from anger (about many of the same sorts of reasons you have) to gratitude, everything changed for me. Not that I don't ever get angry or sad, but that I am very much focused on the blessings in my life rather than the hurts and as a consequence, much happier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? What interesting conversations we'd have on the reasons to change.

      Delete
    2. Probably conversations that would need to involve plenty of wine!

      Delete
  11. What a wonderful post and important reminder to us all. Anger is such a destructive emotion, I like the path you have chosen much better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Marianne: this means a lot to me.

      Delete
  12. I've moved my chair a number of times and from every angle, you are beautiful. I love you and am grateful for you, friend.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am forever thankful that I have met you here online. Your words here are so beautiful. XOXO!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mo, you are one of my oldest friends on the internet ...

      xo

      Delete
  14. You are always so warm and cheerful! You make everybody feel accepted. When I grow up, I wanna be just like you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. A lovely post - with much to think about for next week's holiday...

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Alexandra!!

    XOXO

    A.

    ReplyDelete
  16. You in turn give us all (Fact!) happiness and cheer. It is hard, so very hard sometimes, to not let the bad things in life weigh us down. It is hard sometimes to find the good; sometimes it hides. But, if we look hard enough, it can be found. It's sometimes like an evil Waldo, happiness. I try to remember to be thankful. Doesn't always work, but I remind myself to try.

    I think you for your kindness, your reaching out, your thoughts, your constant selfless "you can do this" words. Mamapedia is lucky to have you (as are we).

    ReplyDelete
  17. Gratitude really is a powerful thing. It's something we could all do a little better at.

    Thank you for the reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh, I used to be so angry too. It was exhausting and sucked the life out of everyone in my path. Gratefulness is so calming and empowering and absolutely improves the very quality of life. This is the perfect Thanksgiving post and I'm saving it to re-read at those times when I find myself slipping. (like when my meds run out - HA!).

    Congrats on the syndication!! Yay!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. A,
    As I told you yesterday, this resonated with me so much. I spent yesterday with a spirit of gratefulness and joy. I had so much energy. I held on to my anger for too long for many of the same reasons you did. Now I am choosing to be grateful for the many blesssings I have.

    xo,
    J

    ReplyDelete
  20. sometimes when I read your blog and laugh out loud (snort, actually, to be precise) I forget that you also write with such soul.
    You remind me to look out the window, see the blue sky, the blue water, and think about all the gifts I've been given in this life.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Love this.
    I am mindful in moments of joy to be grateful, but I want to develop a regular, daily, reflective gratitude. When we focus on frustration and pain, that's what we remember. When we take time to feel blessed, that feeling sticks.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    I'm grateful for you.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails