Sunday, November 20, 2011

Having A Gratitude Attitude

It is not an easy thing to be grateful for everything in your life. It requires a little perspective, an understanding of how all events, people and emotions are interconnected and most of all it requires the act of getting your head out of your ass. (For me, that’s the hard part.)

I’m not sure if it’s my Irish DNA or my short-lived but permanently influential Catholic training, but I am hard wired to focus on what isn’t going right, rather than what is. As much as I try to deny it, I live in my head way more than I need to, and I focus too much of my energy on worrying about things that don’t really matter.

While I would like to say I have found a way to fix it, I have surrendered to the reality that there is a part of me that is this way and always will be, rather than exert effort to change (which feels like the emotional equivalent of rewiring your house) I have been trying to balance it.

In researching Balinese Hinduism for my second book, I was struck by the foundational belief that balance is what is important, that without the dark you cannot have the light. Without evil you cannot have good. And without obsessive compulsive fixative behavior, you cannot fully experience gratitude and peace (okay they don’t say that I added that…)

Discovering this made a huge difference in my life. Instead of giving up the long list of To Dos and hyper focus on goals, I have added an additional task of keeping a gratitude list and reviewing and adding to it every day. So along with…Call about overcharges on dental insurance statement…I write, Grateful I have good teeth, a job that provides me with Health Insurance and a dentist who takes good care of me.

Yes, I write a gratitude statement next to most of my To Dos.

I have been doing this since my surgery over the summer and have been amazed at how well it works. In addition to forcing me to take a moment during a time in my day where I can think clearly (I update my ToDos in the morning) it also sets the tone for rest of the day. It helps me see that in spite of all the stressors, goals, objectives and tasks, everything is ok. It is as it should be.

While I can’t say I have not had my share of meltdowns and feeling overwhelmed, I can feel myself recovering from the panic faster. In fact, I shocked myself last Friday night when I opened a letter from the IRS that said they wanted me to produce documentation (meaning EVERY receipt) from my Schedule C from 2010. “This sucks,” I said, as I put the letter down. As I started to feel my chest tighten and damning thoughts admonishing me I heard a different voice that said, “the worst that can happen is that you will have to pay more taxes, which you shouldn’t because you have the receipts – remember? You are compulsive about these things.”

Number One on my gratitude list for that day: I am grateful for being detailed oriented and fiscally responsible.

I needed a few glasses of wine before I was able to eek out a small shout out to the IRS for pointing that out to me. (And when I take a big picture view, those expenses were connected to promoting my book which was a great and happy experience.)

While the holidays can often be a time when we feel more of what is missing from our lives than what is there -- I wish you an abiding and lasting feeling of gratitude and appreciation of the wonders of your life. And as you feel the stresses of the season wear you down, take a moment to sneak away and recharge by pulling out that gratitude list and jot something down even if it’s how grateful you are the holidays only come once a year.
If that doesn’t work for you…I find wine helps too.

1 comment:

The Info Hound said...

Quiet Christmas night, cleaning out the so-full-I-can't-find-the-good-stuff email box. Of course, emails have to be read before being deleted, and thus I came across a bit about The Last Bridge in a "Random Reads" newsletter from oh, an eon ago. Sounds like a book I would like, so I just wanted to say I'll be giving it a try!
PS And you're right - wine helps with pretty much everything...