Thursday, January 18, 2018

Time to myself

Today I finally did what I had wanted to do for some time- go and work out at the gym, or at least take a walk outside. Since it was 16 degrees F at 7am, I opted for the former. Nothing serious, I just walked on the treadmill, but it felt good to get moving again. I am so close to losing all the baby weight, but reaching that goal does require some effort on my part. So does getting up early in the morning when my daughter and husband are all snuggled in and fast asleep. 

Normally making this extra effort would annoy me, but clearly it is what is required since I will be cooped up every day until the weather gets warmer. Instead I feel grateful for having that time to myself, for myself, because the effort will be worth it- and I don't know if tomorrow will give me the same opportunity.
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
*****
May all beings be happy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fearing gratitude

Since beginning this gratitude journey I have experienced a lot of positive and uplifting emotions. However, since in my view showing gratitude also means being honest with myself, I do want to note that there is a flip side. Along with what we might call negative emotions, my mind has been occupied with many questions . . . 

Doubt: Will I be able to keep going with this practice? What if these initial feelings are just a fluke? Will being grateful actually improve the quality of life for me and those around me, or am I just deluding myself?

Self-consciousness: When I express gratefulness, do people think I am bragging or trying to flaunt some 'perfect life'? Will anyone be angry if I do not show them gratitude soon enough, or in a way they expect? What if I forget someone?

Fear: Could expressing gratefulness in this manner 'tempt fate' and result in losing everything important to me? Will my fledgling gratitude be tested in a way I will not be able to handle? Will I alienate people I care about?

Clearly, most of these questions are quite unfounded. Viewed logically, I know that if someone is unhappy because of timing or the way I express gratitude, then perhaps my thankfulness is misplaced. If anyone is annoyed or alienated by my posts, they don't need to read them. I know that most people's busy lives don't permit much time to dwell on what others think of them. Finally, I can only hope there is no 'evil eye' out to get me, seeking revenge for my acknowledgment of the good things in my life.  

Though I would not necessarily describe this adventure as 'brave', I did not expect that discussing what I am grateful for would leave me feeling a little exposed; that it would take courage. 

Well, as we all know almost nothing worth doing in life is easy, and if my own change in attitude so far is any indication, I think I am on the right track. 
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
*****
May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Baby steps

I am very excited to report that yesterday our daughter took her first steps! Her face was pure joy as she let go of the furniture and took two tiny but confident steps before carefully sitting back down and beaming from ear to ear. 

This happened while my husband and I were seated together in the small den we now use as her playroom, watching her crawl, cruise, and scuttle around from toy to toy. As her sense of balance improved, we knew that first steps were not far behind, but I was almost certain that she would not do it with both of us there- because that's not how these things work! 😆

I am very grateful that both my husband and I were present to witness our daughter's first steps. 
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
*****
May all beings be happy!

Too tired for gratitude?

Today was busy, busy, busy. I mean, honestly every day is (for everyone, not just me), but today did get the better of me. After getting a mountain of groceries (two carts!) it took over an hour to reorganize the freezer, fridge, and cabinets and put the food and supplies away. Adding this to a surprise dental appointment, cleaning the big mess under the highchair, the fact that my daughter skipped her afternoon nap (no lunch 'break' for me!), and much less sleep than I had hoped and I was pretty much done.

As I was putting away the last of the groceries I noticed some negative, critical thoughts creeping in. My old pals annoyance, frustration, and discontent were on their way to join me for my pity party. But I stopped them before they even got through the door. I realized there was nothing wrong with the situation, I was just really tired and needed a break. 

Soon after that I was able to cuddle with my daughter as she fell asleep, and later spend some quality time with my husband. As we sat and spoke quietly together, I felt the gratitude returning. Its presence was warm and peaceful, and it was comforting that it was still there, unaffected by the negative emotions from earlier in the day.

I have discovered that in order to truly feel gratitude you need to nurture it, which also means to take care of yourself. I guess that is why so many refer to this process as 'cultivating' a gratitude 'practice', and I am grateful that I am now beginning to understand the true meaning of those words. 
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
*****
May all beings be happy! 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Failure

Failure. Defeat. Falling short. All are words that most of us don't like to admit to or hear in reference to ourselves. However, though "grateful" may not exactly describe my sentiments about my own failings, I must acknowledge the role failure has played in the my life's path- even in realizing some of the things that are most important to me. 

For example, if I had not failed to get into the graduate program of my choice I would not have met an amazing group of friends. I would not have met my graduate advisor, who's practical and innovative approach to research and teaching will be something I remember for the rest of my life. I would never have met my dear husband, or been welcomed into his wonderful family. My lovely daughter would not exist. I may not even have come across the Buddhist path- or written this blog! 

All this from one decision that was only partially in my control- On paper, I could meet the requirements and fill out the forms, but the outcome was ultimately up to someone else. I guess I will never know the alternate result, but after that initial disappointment, things did eventually work out. Sure, failure can sting when you really want something, but as long it is not the difference between life and death, it is sometimes not so bad. In my experience, it can be an unexpected new beginning that leads to great things- as long as you get up and try again. 

So, in being 'grateful' for the times I have failed (ha, a grudging type of gratefulness I must admit 😇), I am also grateful for all the things, experiences, and people I cherish. 
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
*****
May all beings be happy!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

For * pleasant * surprises

Yesterday morning was one of those mornings. It began with me getting up super late, which is not a terrible thing, but then I do usually have to play 'catch up', which I do not like. The really not-so-great thing was the little misunderstanding between my husband and me about the recycling. The bin in our apartment complex is a bit of a trek, so I had been putting off taking it out. As the mountain of cardboard boxes and other recyclables became too much for me to ignore, I placed everything outside the door. My husband and I had a short conversation about it, and I said that I would take the bags if he would take the cardboard boxes. Well, apparently all he heard was "I'll do it" 😏 , resulting in neither of us taking the boxes. 

Of course, it poured overnight, and we awoke to a soggy pile of cardboard on our doorstep. I wasn't happy about it, but I still volunteered to lug the mess to the recycling bin (yup, and it was still raining). I don't know about you, but for me having to carry a bunch of wet cardboard boxes is on par with things like plucking hair from the drain and putting on a wet bathing suit. By the time I got to the bin I was a little, ahem . . . annoyed. 

Since I had the keys with me I decided I would check the mailbox. To my great surprise, it was a parcel from my sister! Though I did not even know what it was, seeing this instantly made me feel better. I was pretty much soaked through and therefore still a little peeved, but this grateful little boost to my spirits allowed me to come back to the apartment without steam coming from my ears. I teased my husband (who, seeing my wet figure in the doorway now looked rather guilty) about 'making me' go and laughed off my drowned rat look while he got me a towel. 

I know I would not have responded this way if I had not allowed myself to feel grateful for this pleasant surprise- which arrived at just the right time!
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here. 
*****
May all beings be happy!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A husband who can cook!

Since my decision to stay home with our daughter, some household tasks have been in flux. Whereas before my husband and I (roughly) divided up the cooking, now I have taken on most of that responsibility. However rather than this being a contentious issue, I have taken the opportunity to design and execute a bi-weekly meal plan- of which I am quite proud, since I have not been this organized in the past!  

Anyway, despite this recent development my husband does cook at least once a week. Not only does this give me a break, but his cooking is also delicious! He can make quite a few South and North-Indian dishes, but also some nice soups and stir-fry, the latter of which he made last night. A delicious mix of carrots, green beans, egg, and tofu with a tasty sauce, it was instagram-worthy- though I devoured it before even thinking of taking a picture :) 

I am so grateful to my husband for being such a wonderful cook!
*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here.
*****
May all beings be happy!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

For good friends close by

Yesterday my husband, daughter, and I met up with a good friend who lives nearby. We had a wonderful time catching up and sharing a meal together. It reminded me of the many times I have felt so wistful about our grad school days when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were able to hang out with our friends, who are now scattered across the globe. Life was busy, stressful, and we hardly had any money, but we always found a way to escape the grad school grind. I really miss those days and the people we spent them with. 

Though not from the same cohort of friends, last night's outing reminded me of those good times, and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful for the great company and the sweet gift given to our daughter after our outing :)

Grateful for good friends :)

*****
This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am hoping to develop during 2018. You can read all about it here.
*****
May all beings be happy!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How gratitude is helping

This post is not necessarily directed at any one thing I am grateful for, but to discuss how practicing gratitude has been helpful in my daily life. Anyone who knows me can vouch that I love my daughter dearly, and that I think she is the cutest and the sweetest. But, let's face it, one-year-olds can, ahem, try one's patience. When my little one is acting up (the latest is dropping food from the highchair while looking at me defiantly), one thing that helps me not get (as) annoyed is to think about and feel grateful for my own mother and her patience for my antics as a tiny tot. This does not mean I back away from the situation, but adding the element of gratitude to the mix helps diffuse the tension and makes me feel so much better. 

So, in a way this post is another thank you to my mom (and I am sure there will be more :) ), but I hope that my discovery of using gratitude to cultivate and inspire patience is helpful to someone out there as well.
*****
Post is an entry for the Gratitude practice I am developing during 2018. Please feel free to read all about it here
*****
May all beings be happy!

Monday, January 8, 2018

About the 'gratitude' posts

Since the beginning of 2018 I have been working on developing a strong gratitude practice and expressing that gratitude through my posts here at BCB. As I was writing there were some things that occurred to me, and so I decided I would share those thoughts as well. 

First, I want to be clear that nothing I post is ever intended to gloat or brag. I hope that all my readers realize how important it is for me to focus on the gratitude aspect of each entity for which I am giving thanks. This does not mean that there are no flaws, misfortunes, or shortcomings in my life and character, but rather that I am choosing to express the gratitude I feel pure and simple- and pushing aside any negative, critical, or apologetic thoughts or emotions, simply because they do not belong here. This means that most posts will have an very upbeat, reverent tone, not because I fail to see that everything is not perfect, but because these positive attributes are the components that are essential for cultivating an authentic, more intuitive sense of gratitude, which is my ultimate goal.

Second, though I said this venture would be difficult, I meant that mostly in terms of my own attitude and procrastination getting in the way. I now realize that this project is both difficult and easy at the same time: easy because there is no lack in people/things to be grateful for, but difficult because . . . there are so many people/things to be grateful for (and I want to thank them all at once)! What I am trying to say is that I hope no one is disappointed if they do not see a post expressing well-deserved gratitude towards themselves. Believe me when I say that I have not forgotten, I am just very slow and this is a day-by-day, post-by-post type of thing, because I want to do it right. (By all means, if the year is drawing to a close and you feel I need a gentle reminder, then do send one! :) ) 

Third, I can anticipate that there may be some posts that may seem silly or superficial, for instance giving thanks for some helpful household implement rather than a person or meaningful experience. If this annoys anyone, just BEAR WITH ME, and remember that I have not committed to this project to pretentiously discuss being thankful only for 'the big stuff,' but to appreciate the little things as well. If expressing gratitude is my path towards living life to the fullest, then I must consider all aspects of life, however grand or minute!

Thanks for your attention- as always, I welcome your comments and feedback!

With Love,
Renata
*****
This post is part of my 2018 daily gratitude practice, which you can read all about here.
*****
May all beings be happy!

My teachers

Another post that I am sure will be followed up with 'thank you's to specific people, but I feel it is important to collectively thank all of those great educators in my life who had such an impact on my education, and ultimately my career path. This thanks is extended to my teachers in elementary school all the way through to the time I was earning my graduate degree. It also includes those in whose classrooms I did not sit, but who encouraged and inspired me nevertheless.  

Thank you so much for dedicating your lives to sharing knowledge with others, and for your guidance on my own academic journey. 
*****
This post is part of my 2018 daily gratitude practice, which you can read all about here.
*****
May all beings be happy!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My ancestors

Today I give my gratitude to those from my family's past, my ancestors. Though I am sure that I will write future posts dedicated to specific people, right now I am thinking of my forebears as a whole, those who have passed away; both known and unknown to me. As far as I know almost all 'my people' come from very humble backgrounds, and that, like most people's ancestors, all of them struggled with hardships that most of us in present-day America can only imagine. Those born into the feudal systems of Europe had to endure some very tough conditions, no doubt a large part of why they emigrated- which itself brought a whole set of new challenges.    

I want to thank them, because I like to believe that I still have some of that toughness and resilience in me, that my generation was not the dilution point despite extremely fortunate circumstances for which they laid the foundations. 

To those past members of my family, I thank you, and hope that, if somehow you know who I am, my actions and character honor you in some way.

*****
This post is part of my 2018 daily gratitude practice, which you can read all about here.
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May all beings be happy!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

My body

I would like to express gratitude for my body and its strength. A little more than a year ago it was recovering from childbirth, and somehow repaired itself despite the pain, bleeding, and exhaustion. If childbirth is a miracle, so is the healing that must occur afterward, because a mother's body goes through so much in such a short period of time. This includes not only pregnancy and childbirth, but also breastfeeding and the accompanying sleep deprivation and hormonal turmoil.  

I am also grateful for the slow but steady increase in my body's strength, and its ability to shed almost all the excess weight after baby. I am grateful because I know that my body's healing was not guaranteed, and that so many things could have been different from how they are now.

Thank you to my strong, capable, life-giving, and resilient body.

*****
This is an entry for the Gratitude practice I am slowly developing during 2018. Please feel free to read all about it here.
*****
May all beings be happy! 

Friday, January 5, 2018

To my husband

In continuing my journey into a long-term gratitude practice, the next person to whom I would like to express the utmost thanks is my husband. A wonderful, caring man with a pun-based, sometimes irreverent sense of humor to match my own, he is the husband I had always hoped for and dreamed of.

I think the best way to thank him would to list the things I appreciate the most, though I am certain that list would be far from fully complete.

To my dear husband, thank you so much for:

  • being a true partner in everything, from baby care to bill paying to cooking and housework. Rather than 'helping around the house', you see us as a team, and demonstrate that every day through your actions.
  • taking such good care of me and baby postpartum. You waited on us hand and foot, and never complained once about how exhausted you were. I am certain that my speedy healing and recovery was because of you.
  • listening to my new motherhood woes, and for your empathy and understanding when things get tough.
  • calling me every day to ask how things are going.
  • giving me such a beautiful, smart, and sweet little daughter.
  • being such an amazing, loving father.
  • always wanting me to reach my full potential, and being flexible enough so we can work together to bring my career goals within reach.
  • coming from such a kind, wonderful, accepting family.
  • the cultural richness and fascinating new worlds you have shown me.
  • exposing me to different types of music and movies.
  • valuing my opinions and showing such respect for my mind and intellect.
  • talking to me about your research and things that interest you.
  • having your own style of romance- I know that every hug, kiss, and sweet gesture is unique to you and from the heart.
  • making me laugh so much, no matter what is going on in our lives.
  • being you.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Vinay, I love you so much!

*****
This is an entry for the Gratitude practice I am slowly developing during 2018. Please feel free to read all about it here
*****
May all beings be happy!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thank you Mama

My first expression of gratitude this year goes back to the very beginning- represented by the wonderful, amazing woman who is my mom. I honestly don't know what to write - how do you thank the person who carried you and gave you life? But I will write that she is a huge part of who I am today. Not only has she done all the things a good mother does, such as keeping me fed, clothed, safe, and feeling very loved, but she has taught me so much. There were of course several important teachers along the way, but I count her as the first person in my life who ignited my interest in and passion for nature, specifically those mysterious beings we call plants. 

She also taught me how to behave myself, be considerate to others, and to think for myself. Guiding me through childhood with her own brand of fair but no-nonsense discipline, she also became my close friend and confidant during those awkward teen years, and has remained so ever since. Though I am now married with a family of my own, she is still a beacon of wisdom, comfort, and incredible strength, and a faithful source of wittiness and sassy humor during both good and not-so-good times.

Mama, I know you have worked so hard and sacrificed so much for your children. I also know there were many things you could not do or experience because of our existence. But I want you to know that the gratitude I feel for all you've done comes not only from the bottom of my heart, but from the core of my being. 

With deepest gratitude I thank you Mama- I love you so much.  

*****
This is an entry for the Gratitude practice I am slowly developing during 2018. Please feel free to read all about it here

*****
May all beings be happy! 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A year of Gratitude, day by day

Dear Reader,

The end of 2017 was similar to the end of other years. But over the past decade of my life the hope that the coming year would be better than the last has slowly given way to a sense of dread and thoughts of "what else is going to happen this year?"

A few days before New Year's I took a short, solitary walk in the frigid cold of Upstate New York as dusk started to settle in. As I reached the end of the long driveway I was amazed that the only sound I could hear was my heart pounding in my chest. Yes, the only sound. After straining my ears for several minutes, I could hear airplanes flying very high overheard. 

I haven't experienced such stillness for a very long time. As walks like these tend to be thought-provoking, I realized that I need this stillness every now and then (perhaps this country girl has overstayed her time in suburbia?). My mind also lingered on the now familiar sense of dread I feel every new year (and now, on an almost daily basis), and the sad refrain from John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" came to mind:

Oh yeah, life goes on,
Long after the thrill of living is gone,
Oh yeah he says life goes on, 
Long after the thrill of living is gone. 

How sad indeed- especially since now I was beginning to feel the same way about my own life, that the thrill of my youth and everything about it was beginning to fade. But a voice way in the back of my mind protested- I'm too young to feel this way! Even in the face of my somber mood it persisted, saying life is too short - and precious - to ever feel this way. 

The ups and downs of the past few years have proven this in spades- yet for me there was really no answer for this in terms of taking action. 

However, I now know what I need to do, and that is to give thanks

That is because there is still so much 'thrill' and joy in the act of living, and I have so very much to be thankful for. In some ways the past year, my daughter's first, has been one of the hardest, simply because adjusting to becoming a mother was way more difficult than I anticipated - despite it being something I had always wanted. Lack of sleep and worry have taken their toll, and I still find myself frequently irritable and out-of-sorts. This kicks off a seemingly endless cycle of exhaustion, irritability, mini-melt downs, and guilt, as I constantly work to get better at adjusting and not 'sweating the small stuff.' 

Well, I now know what it will take to break this cycle, and that is gratitude. I am certain that the guilt I feel is because of the sharp contrast between the many blessings in my life, and my frustrated (sometimes angry) reaction to some small - and not-so-small - problems. 

Don't get me wrong- the idea is not to force myself to be grateful no matter what. Rather, even while in the midst of the frustrations of daily life, I aim to be grateful about the good things because I want to acknowledge that those feelings are always there, though the negative ones come and go. If I am ever to step out of that truly vicious cycle, I need to tap into that beautiful energy filled with goodness and grace. If I were to die tomorrow, I would want everyone in my life to know how grateful I am to them for helping shape who I am today, and for the amazing life I have led so far.

How will I go about this? Well, by saying thank you, of course! But this time saying it 'out loud' through words, letters, phone calls, and my writing here at BCB. There are so many books and 'gratitude projects' out there whose intentions and results are truly inspiring. However, though I have no intention of crafting my own 'brand' of gratitude practice, I need to do this my own way. As of now, I have purposely not read much about any of these projects and publications so that I can stay original and true to myself. 

Here are the simple rules I lay down for myself. 

Staying true: Doing my best to think of the best way to thank someone, then doing it as soon as possible.

Staying open: Just focusing on expressing the gratitude, not writing the 'perfect post' or thank-you note. 

Staying flexible: Though my aim is to post everyday for the remainder of 2018 (hence the 'staying open' rule) being aware that it may not always be possible, and that's okay. 

Staying accountable: Through making my writings public (check) but also accessible to all my family and friends.  

So, here goes. I know that there will be ups and downs, and that it will not be easy - probably very difficult on some days. But we all know that nothing worthwhile is ever really that easy- and when I think of a life and mind filled with love, thankfulness, hope, and grace, that is no contest compared to where I am now.

With Love,

Renata

*****
May all beings be happy!
I'm going to make that 'Gratitude' label grow! :)