Thursday, November 24, 2011
On Being Grateful
I've totally lost track of what day I am on in the gratitude days. Which is not to say I have not been grateful every day - I have totally paid a lot of attention every day to hundreds of little things I am grateful for:
A car that works
My math tutor
Doves & Lovebirds
the list goes on and on and on...
In fact, when you start thinking about it I am grateful for so many things, it's kind of crazy that we lose track all the time. That list obviously gets reallllly long and includes some pretty silly things, like silver jewelry cleaner. I was cleaning a necklace the other day and thinking about how amazing it is that they make a cloth that just shines up my silver. Enough people just have silver sitting around that there's an industry who's sole purpose is to keep it SHINY. I mean we have thousands of things in our modern society that make our lives better, and simpler and easier and more convenient than any other time in history! Why we don't focus on this more is a bit of a mystery.
When life is really challenging or difficult, it is hard to focus on all these things. We tend to focus on the one big thing that is going wrong - or the dozens of little things that are going wrong.
I have that list too - I can give you a list pretty quickly of all the things in my life I wish I could change, am working on changing, wish I had the money to change, or wish would fix themselves. I have regrets and sadness and some pretty big disappointments. I could, and sometimes do, focus on that stuff.
But my goal is to not do that. And more often than not, if you remind yourself of that frequently enough, you can really focus back on what really important. And even better than just focusing on what's important (your family, your friends, your good fortune in whatever areas you happen to be fortunate - which is unique to YOU), it also helps to focus on the little things - like what an amazing plethora of options you have just at your local grocery store.
Sometimes life is so hard that even trying to focus on that requires a great deal of energy and is very hard to sustain. When that happens, I highly recommend you get to the source of that unhappiness and see what you can do to work on it and alleviate it. Counseling and/or medication can do wonders to help when nothing else seems to be working. We probably should acknowledge that more I think - that sometimes, just focusing on what you're grateful for might not be quite enough. And I'm very willing to let people know that I personally am a big believer in counseling and I really think there should be no stigma attached to it. In fact, I think it's very brave, and very pro-active on the part of an individual who seeks it out and makes it work. Most of the time people who can't or don't deal with their problems by looking at them directly - well most of the time they get bigger, not smaller. It's a bit of a tangent from my original thought here about being grateful but I feel like it would be remiss of me not to address it. If you're a person who finds themselves really struggling to be happy - either because of specific circumstances you're dealing with, or for reasons you can't really articulate very well - please don't hesitate to get some assistance to work through it. It does wonders.
Back to gratitude.
Often, we are just not focusing on the right things. We are so used to lives which are clean, and warm, and bountiful, and happy, and full of ease and maybe even leisure, that when these things aren't happening? We totally lose our focus and zero in on the one or two things going wrong.
It has been nice this month spending time thinking about things like how amazing a $1 mechanical pencil is (think about all the little parts that make it up and what has to happen to create it and send it to the store packaged so you can buy it and somehow you were able to buy it for $1! Amazing!).
In a weird way I think I'm starting to like November more than I do December and Christmas. Try as we might to focus on the meaning of Christmas, I think we get bogged down on gifts and toys and gadgets and shopping, and home decor and baking and cooking, and wrapping and shipping, and all the shiny. And we give lip service to it, but we totally totally forget what it is about and who can blame us? We've created a situation that was well meaning, but in some ways is in direct contradiction to the point of the whole thing. I'm really going to try this year to get some of that back.
But November? November can be a month where you just really focus on what is awesome about your life. Even if it isn't always awesome.
Especially if it isn't always awesome.