The annual arrival of Thanksgiving always prompts me to get in the gratitude mood and reflect on the past year: What went right, what went wrong… what I did well, what I sucked at… what I’ve learned. This year started with the most legendary January 1st I ever could’ve cooked up for myself. It continued with bucket-list career boosts that I am still pinching myself over. This year was also frightening, uncertain, disappointing… there were big scares and significant drama in the personal department and a few casualties in the professional department. But gratitude comes from searching for and finding the sweet… because even the most challenging of times can harbor a bit of sweet.
Just last week, I experienced a significant disappointment concerning a goal I’ve been working on conquering for quite some time now — I haven’t shared the details (yet!) because I’m choosing to interpret this recent disappointment as just a temporary roadblock that will ultimately lead to another option, a *better* option that will be more deserving of my gratitude at a later date. Because building something great means you must start at the beginning, at the boring parts, and have patient faith that what you’re doing will add up in a way that’s right for you and your family. (Kinda like parenting, right?!?)
As disappointed as I was about the news I got, I was also suspiciously accepting and calm about it. I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I didn’t flip out and rant and rave about how I’ve worked hard and I deserve this or that and demand to the Universe why hasn’t this goal hasn’t happened yet blah blah blah. No. Because I now know: Throwing a fit would not be worth it. I’ve learned: If I try to make something yin when it would seemingly rather yang, I must then take a step back and let it breathe (again, kinda like parenting). Sometimes it’s best to stop and redirect focus towards something completely different.
It’s easy to be grateful for the pretty, the good, the amazing. It’s not easy to be accepting for the process of life’s ups and downs as they unfold. Learning to appreciate the things that come *and don’t come* my way has proven to make this year better. My efforts to adopt this new perspective of mine hasn’t been a cakewalk, but I’m trying. Because even though you’re focusing on something else, it doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish other small things in the fringe hours.
On several different occasions, this year has proven to me that things will add up one way or another… so I’m taking my experiences at face value – fabulous or not – and make the best of it. The catch is you’ve got to make an effort to get your hands dirty, even if you’re not sure that you’re doing it right. It’s not always easy, fun or immediately rewarding (it’s almost always annoying to me, personally)… which can be frustrating given we live in a no-wait-necessary world. You can’t get to gratitude without a big messy effort. It’s a process that takes patience.
Patience and gratitude are challenging choices that we must condition ourselves to opt for on a daily basis… even if they’re buried underneath disappointing news that rattles our confidence, screaming kids that won’t stop harassing each other over who gets to hold which princess Lego or uncertain circumstances involving the big important issues of life (health, stability, etc). Because, as long as you put in effort and aren’t afraid of getting your hands dirty, something *will* come together in the end.
I’ve always made a habit of counting my blessings, but this year I’m especially thankful for finally letting myself be open to appreciating the process of ups and downs and highs and lows. Everything counts: Our attitude, disappointments and ability to be accepting of whatever process we’ve been challenged to deal with. Gratitude is a lifestyle and it’s up to us to choose it every day. However anything turns out, I am choosing to have gratitude… even if I might not agree with the means to the end.
I’m thankful for my husband, family and friends. I’m thankful for my home. I’m thankful that I’m safe. I’m thankful that I’m healthy. I’m thankful that my girls have an uncanny talent to make me laugh at them no matter how headstrong and controversial they aim to be when we’re all trying to get dressed in the morning. The small stuff is stupid. The big stuff is worth paying attention to.
Once I realized the power of gratitude I started feeling more content inside my own life’s ups and downs… which comes in handy when trying to raise children. This year I’ve made an effort to wake up in the morning and say/think ‘thank you for this day’ before getting out of bed. I make a habit of asking my kids what they’re thankful for on the days that aren’t Thanksgiving. I also took another stab at making a batch of Rice Krispies Treats in the shape of turkey legs and keeping my cool when the damn pretzel rods kept breaking and the sticky marshmallow mix wouldn’t wash off my hands, just to test my patience and commitment to positivity during the process. Because getting to the gratitude is a process worth learning and practicing. If we don’t live it, then we can’t teach it.
And if we don’t teach our kids, who will? (Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!)