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