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Expressing Your Gratitude

The holiday season is just around the corner, where the pressure cooker on consumers is on high, where often the beauty of simple things gets lost. This year of course will be different but there will still be that pressure on the public. Last year they highlighted a woman who leaves right after Thanksgiving dinner to go do her “Black Friday” shopping.  They were “inspired” by her organizational tactics to hit every store and to be out from 9pm to 6am “getting all the best deals”.  It made me sick to my stomach to see the media giving attention to materialism instead of the wonderfulness that is Thanksgiving – being together, sharing a meal, expressing our gratitude for our lives and loved ones.

It’s not always an easy path out there in our careers.  I’ve been through more ups and downs in my own career than I ever imagined.  I’ve met people who have become fantastic friends and lifelong allies, and I’ve met just as many who are so caught up in their selves that ideas of generosity and acceptance of others never seemed to have occurred in their narrow minds.  It wasn’t until the last few years that I experienced sexism and it wasn’t until the last decade that I found strength within me that has powered me past the negative energies I’ve witnessed to become someone I finally recognize.

We all beat up on ourselves more than we should.  I read this quote recently -“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” (Steve Furtick).  Isn’t that the truth?

As for me, I’ve often experienced that “bag lady syndrome” mindset that’s been infiltrating my life since I went independent.  While my first few months were wildly successful, my inability to predict the future (heh) has caused great consternation in my highly organized mind.  Will I be OK? Will I lose everything?  What will happen next?  And I’m the only one saying it.  I’ve got incredible support from friends and colleagues and have met some truly wonderful human beings during this latest chapter, yet when I get home, it’s my own self I return to.

And that it’s my own responsibility to count my blessings, and realize how truly fortunate I am.

I have a roof over my head.  I have food in my pantry.  I grow and preserve a lot of my own food, and know ways to live simply and economically, while not sacrificing good health or environmental respect.  I have a journal to write in and a blog to write even more in.  I have close friends and colleagues and neighbors and community members who make me smile, who remind me of all that I am and all that I’m capable of.  I have a love who every single day reminds me in his existence in my life that everything – everything! – I went through in the past to get to this day was worth it.  I have promise.  I have a future.  I have love.

While reading Martha Beck’s Steering by Starlight, it had a phenomenal exercise on ‘living backwards’ – i.e., looking at what’s best in your life and realizing some of the negative that had to happen to bring you this good thing.  And that reminded me of Just Say Thank You…my favorite Oprah piece (and one involving my idol, Maya Angelou) that you may or may not already be familiar with, but it is about being thankful in both the good and the bad times:

Just Say ‘Thank You’

"I live in the space of thankfulness — and I have been rewarded a million times over for it. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased.

That’s because what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life. “Say thank you!” Those words from my friend and mentor Maya Angelou turned my life around.

One day about ten years ago, I was sitting in my bathroom with the door closed and the toilet seat down, booing and ahooing on the phone so uncontrollably that I was incoherent.

“Stop it! Stop it right now and say thank you!” Maya chided. “But — you don’t understand,” I sobbed.

To this day, I can’t remember what it was that had me so far gone, which only proves the point Maya was trying to make. “I do understand,” she told me. “I want to hear you say it now. Out loud.”

“Thank you.” Tentatively, I repeated it:

“Thank you — but what am I saying thank you for?”

“You’re saying thank you,” Maya said, “because your faith is so strong that you don’t doubt that whatever the problem, you’ll get through it. you’re saying thank you because you know that even in the eye of the storm, God has put a rainbow in the clouds.

You’re saying thank you because you know there’s no problem created that can compare to the Creator of all things. Say thank you!”

So I did — and still do. Only now I do it every day. I kept a gratitude journal, as Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests in ‘Simple Abundance’, listing at least five things that I’m grateful for. My list includes small pleasures: the feel of Kentucky bluegrass under my feet (like damp silk); a walk in the woods with all nine of my dogs and my cocker spaniel Sophie trying to keep up; cooking fried green tomatoes with Stedman and eating them while they’re hot; reading a good book and knowing another awaits.

I won’t kid you, having money for all the things I want is a blessing. But as I look back over my journals, which I’ve kept since I was 15 years old, 99 per cent of what brought me real joy had nothing to do with money. (it had a lot to do with food, however.)

It’s not easy being grateful all the time. But it’s when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you."

Right now.

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