Gratitude July

Well, I had planned on introducing July previously but, life, y’know? :)

So, since this month contains the birthday that inspired this year’s approach, I decided that doing a gratitude practice every day would be a good way to cultivate the attitude I want to have about this milestone. I know that aging isn’t for the faint of heart, as pain and bodily breakdown seem to overtake any feelings of accomplishment and capability that should be front and centre for someone with a goodly number of adulting years under their belt.

But I do find that the in-your-face activity of day to day living often overshadows the opportunities to stand back and marvel at how you’re *actually* doing it. We joke about giving up on adulting and sitting around in pajamas all day eating a tub of ice cream, but believe it or not, that is a completely adult decision brought on by executing your adult duties otherwise. You are paying bills, managing money, managing your time, standing up to meet your responsibilities and you’re ending up with a moment where you can do what you thought being an adult was all about when you were 12 (or at least I did) – being able to stay up as late as you want and eat as much junk food as you can handle. The 12 year old just thought you’d always have the constitution of a 12 year old, and that Oreos and Doritos were always going to be no problem to digest. But that was because at 12, you didn’t know that much about nutrition, and healthy lifestyle, *and* you didn’t hang on to the negativity as much so you don’t remember that you always got a tummy ache after stuffing yourself with junk food.

I think that adults focus far too much on problems and negativity. And that’s why we get bogged down in bad knees and delicate stomachs and left versus right and the automatic terrified “No!” to any suggestion of doing something other than what’s safe and secure and predictable. Which leads you to stay in unhappy secure and predictable spots because change is uncomfortable.

Studies are suggesting that a gratitude practice helps in a similar way to meditation – it reorients your perspective to look for the positive rather than focusing on the negative. It helps to reduce blood pressure and other stress related health issues. And it might go as far as changing your brain connections. Meditation has been shown to help rewire your brain, building up the ability to the serenely observe what’s occurring around you from a non-attached state rather than “running out into the traffic of your ideas”. That’s an image from the Headspace app that really resonated with me in May. And gratitude might rewire you to connect with positivity.

When I was in the midst of my struggles with the unknown facial prickling, I was very much stuck in a negative and unhappy state. How could I not focus on what was happening in my face? I couldn’t find the energy to sit down and meditate, because I felt I was always in a gravity well, needing a certain amount of energy to get over the barrier to do any activity.

Contrast that with this year and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do yoga and weightlifting and other activities that I wouldn’t have expected. I’m still experiencing some prickles, but they are more warnings now than what my everyday life consists of. They let me know that my posture is terrible or that I’m tensing my jaw. And usually a change of position or activity or a little walk, stretch and shrug are enough to work me out of them.

So as I hurtle towards a milestone that many people mourn, I’m going to be grateful every day of small and big things, of strangers and friends and family, because I have made it this far and it is worth celebrating. Look for the light, as Chookooloonks says.

And yes, I’m still working on the journaling from last month. I’m at the vision page exercise, where you put together a collage of what you want the next twelve months to be or to bring you. That activity is day 16 of 21 so I’m almost done, but I’m taking my time to put together my pictures and to consider what it is I want in this next year.

So far, I have at least one (and sometimes more) gratitude points per day in July. My journal from last month is almost full, but that’s okay because I have a ton of empty books on my shelf, waiting for all sorts of interesting things to be written in them.

I’m also starting to pull together the books I’ll be reading next month. I was happy to tear through Neuromancer the way I did. I have a bunch of sci-fi books that I bought alongside it, one of which I’ve already assigned a bookmark.

I’m on a staycation this week so I’ll probably spend some time reading. I have a lot of magazines to flip through before they become vision page images too.

Sunset pansies on a rooftop patio to start my vacation. :)

Advertisements

Another round of gratitude 

I’ve been quiet lately, I know. Partially, summertime doing stuff quiet. Partially, doing the experiment on myself and nothing to report. Really. I’m up to the highest dose of the overnight muscle relaxants. This coming week will be the real data point. But I had prickling this week, and my jaw was still tight. (And I woke up with muscle spasms/charleyhorses two nights in the second week of the second highest dose.)

I took this week off, as one does. In hopes that just relaxing and doing fun “me” things would help. See above. But I did have more good days than prickly this week.

I also spent some time going through my keepsakes and old photos. I was scanning them in, as we’re going through another bit of a cull, to try to reduce the stuff in the office/studio. 

In my pile o’ stuff, I found many old cards that I’d saved. I habitually saved cards from my childhood, not for any particular reason except it seemed wrong to throw away sentiments like those. I was able to scan these sentiments in as well, and was able to be reminded of my grandmother’s love from her cards and letters to me.

I also found more recent cards – birthday cards given to me by my husband during our first year together (super mushy, so cute), the many cards of sympathy I received from friends and colleagues when my father passed away, and birthday cards from friends and colleagues.

In particular, my friend K’s birthday card to me really struck me yesterday and I read and re-read it, marvelling at the sentiment and then my mind turned the wrong way.

Instead of internalizing the beautiful sentiment and feeling the warm glow of “hearing” how someone holds me in high regard, I wondered whether I had ever told her in what high regard I hold her? How I think she is one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing? How I think she’s beautiful and sweet and intelligent and thoughtful? And funny?

And then I wondered about all the other cards lying in my stack – had I ever adequately let those people know how they are wonderful and important and that they are one of those important puzzle pieces in this big jigsaw puzzle of my life? That they mean something?

Have I ever told you that you matter to me? Does that mean anything to you?

After that unfortunately not-as-brief-as-it-should-have-been foray into self-flagellation, I emerged and realized that I should take those really amazing words and see that *that* *is* how K sees me. And I am so grateful to see myself through the eyes someone so wonderful in my own estimation.

And I should also thank my husband for his insight as well – that I shouldn’t worry that I’m not as good of a person as I think I should be because that’s kind of an indication that I’m not a jerk – because I worry about hurting people’s feelings, and disappointing them, and not being there for them. And basically, you know, what I had been worrying about before – that I had been taking all these wonderful people for granted and not letting them know that they are wonderful.

So, thank you. I’m so grateful for you. For K, who I haven’t seen in a while as she was off raising a very lucky baby to have her as a mom. For N, who checks on me when we cross paths in the building. For L, who I’ve known for many years and we’ve been there for each other. And for my sister, who sent me so many awesome packages and letters and I hope I sent her enough back but I fear I didn’t.

There are so many of you who have shared stories, wisdom, laughter, recipes, concern, pints, stones, emails, brief messages, hugs, support, tears, walks, advice, swear words… Who have picked up whatever baton I couldn’t keep carrying and who helped me cross that finish line, whether that was phone calls or emails of bad news I didn’t have the strength to do, or files I was too overwhelmed to be able to give time to, or just the reality check I needed to sit down and stop because I was hurting myself.

So, thank you. I am so grateful for all of you. I’m writing this with tears of gratitude streaming down my face because I heard it, I felt it and I remember.

You are all so wonderful. Thank you. I hope you all know that it means a lot to me.

Gratitude 


I was on my way to another doctor’s appointment last week regarding this strange tingling in my face, and feeling quite low. But it was a foggy morning, and driving out past the fields, I noticed the mist rising from the furrows. It was so breathtaking and magical, I had a moment of deep gratitude that brought tears to my eyes.

Because I’m going through this, I was able to see that sight.

Because my body is doing something weird and scary, instead of being parked in front of my computer screen at work, I was driving out in the world.

I hope we figure this out soon. But I am grateful that I was able to see the mist rise from the fields.