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.
**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.