Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Cyclical Gratitude

Not long ago, I was overboard on frustration and irritation; everything grated on me, and I felt very off-balance.  I couldn’t quite get myself together.  I was stumbling— and I knew it.

That’s progress, by the way: Sometimes, when I’m in a bad place, I spend a great deal of energy hissing to myself, “I’m fine.  I’m fine.  I’m fine.”  Until I believe it, or it actually comes true, or life smothers the issue.  It's only later I realize how not fine I'd been.  

This time, knowing I was off-kilter, I made the conscious decision to just keep on keepin’ on.  Everything balances out, no?

I ran into an acquaintance at the grocery store, somewhere between the Oreos and the Cheez-its.  We did the “how-are-you” thing.  

When it was my turn to answer, I shrugged.  “It’s not an easy time of year,” I said.

“Oh, I know!”  She exclaimed.  “You know what you should do?” 

Ugh.

“No, seriously.  This really works,” she said.  “You should get a gratitude journal, and write in it every day. Just one thing.  Then, when you’re feeling down, read all the things you have to be grateful for.  It will fix you right up.”  

Let me tell you this: When things are challenging, and someone tells me to take a moment and feel gratitude, or—worse—to pull out my journal and count my blessings, I want to punch something. 

Gratitude doesn’t work like that.  Not for me, anyway.  I can’t flip a switch from genuine frustration or anxiety to—click!—instant, genuine gratitude for all the good things.  I can’t flush negative feelings easily, and I certainly can’t seamlessly float from unhappy places to happy places. 

Gratitude, for me, has to be built when everything doesn’t suck.  Recently, when taking a walk, there was a just-right-moment:  My mind was calm, my body felt good, the sunset was breath-stopping, my children were riding ahead on their bikes, and my husband said something super-funny—I had to stop walking so I could appropriately hoot. In that moment, it washed over me: I am so, so, so lucky. 

The feeling was extra-powerful because it was genuine, not just something I’d mustered up to replace something else.  And not because it was long or earth-shaking.  It was just real, is all.

Another thing I think about when I feel crappy:  O
ur school librarian sees every student in our school on a four-day rotation.  One of the things I appreciate most about his work is the genuine connection he makes with his students with simple conversation.  He doesn’t just say, “How was your day?”  He asks them what is happening, how they feel about it, and how they react to challenges.  He uses what they say to teach something important—not in a lecture-y way, but just asking the students to think about how their action and reaction contribute to their attitude.  A few weeks ago, I heard him talk about bad days.  “When things are hard, is it because you had a hard day—or because you had a hard five minutes?”  He wants them to identify the difference.  Because it's an important distinction.  If there are 17,000 minutes in a day, and only a fraction of those are icky, there’s certainly time to embrace the good that came to us in the other thousands of minutes.   

Gratitude is a cycle—it emerges, it fades, and it emerges again.  

I like to grab it when it’s there and, when it’s not, wait.  For me, it can’t be forced.  But time will bring it back around.  

Cyclical gratitude.  

If I feel it, and share it, then I feel it again.  It’s a nice promise that comes from universe, no? 

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way about gratitude journals. I kept cycling through the same 5-7 things and it seemed meaningless. It’s in the moments of my days that I stop,I find the most gratitude. I’m glad you’ve come out of your off balance season. Here’s to finding more balance in the new year.

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Accepting Anger

My friend Amy and I meet every few months at Starbucks and chat, chat, chat.  We yack like magpies, nursing our tea and comparing notes on ...