Like everything good in life that’s worth learning, gratitude takes practise. It’s all well and good in theory, ‘yeah, yeah I’m grateful for my friends and family etcetera’, but when you actually want to feel a shift in your being; real meaningful change, that’s a different thing.
I’ve always been a pretty happy person and by that I mean, I love to laugh and make people laugh. But over the course of my life I found myself leaning further into the ‘this is all rubbish, why does the world hate me?’ camp. You know, deaths and divorces, moving homes and challenging jobs, awful world leaders hell bent on killing us all. These things take their toll.
All of a sudden I found myself feeling perpetually sorry for myself and wondering what I could do to change the situation. I’m still working on this of course, but I feel there are a few things that have certainly helped me begin to acknowledge and appreciate the joy in life.
The first, and the most important for me, has been to change the things that I can change to improve my situation. I needed time away from a stressful job and more time with my children. Done. I’ve taken a year off and I’ll do what I have to do to pay the rent. I once listened to Nelly Thomas speak about being a stand up comedian and she said this which I’ve never forgotten:
In order to do what you really want to in life, you have to understand what you’re willing to take on to make it happen. I decided that I’d clean houses to make up any shortfall in income I had from comedy.Paraphrased from Nelly Thomas
For me, I’m willing to make up any shortfall I have from writing by doing relief teaching and consulting. Though I may not make as much as I did from my full time job, I will make what I need. This decision has allowed me to feel a much deeper sense of gratitude towards how I spend my days. I feel grateful to be able to read more with my kids. I feel grateful every time I sit at my desk and churn out another solid writing session. Last night as my kids ate their dinner on our back patio and my partner and I sat next to them, I looked out over our rented property and for the first time I did not feel sad that we weren’t in a home that we owned. Instead, I felt gratitude at the memories that our family has made in this house and the memories yet to come.
Another important learning curve I’m going through on the path to gratitude is from Tony Robbins, who I’ll admit I’ve steered clear of for a long time. I’m not sure why except to say that I thought he was a bit of a charlatan. Apologies to everyone who’s a fan. Anyway, someone pointed me in the direction of his discussion on blame. Imagine, if you will, you have a partner, or boss, or friend, or colleague, or parent and you feel deep resentment towards them for whatever reason. You blame them, to some degree, for the bad things that have happened to you. It can be all-consuming can’t it? Well Tony’s advice is this: if you’re going to blame them for all the bad stuff they’ve done to you, you’d better blame them for all the good stuff too.
For example, if your Mum was cruel to you and you blame her for that, you also need to blame her for the strength you now have to ensure no one else is treated that way. If you feel let down or injured by a friend and blame them for hurting you, you also need to blame them for showing you how to behave in a friendship. What it means to be a good friend. I had a boss who fired me once and I hated him for the longest time. Instead I could’ve been feeling gratitude towards him for teaching me exactly what a leader doesn’t look like. You get the idea.
I am very aware that this thinking has limitations in some spaces but for run-of-the-mill blame games it is quite liberating to be rid of that bitterness and instead be grateful for what that person has taught you.
Finally, I have found that taking time everyday to reflect, and write down what I’m grateful for, has helped me to be more aware of the little things in life we often miss. Lighting a beautifully scented candle, taking a walk alone, having time to make a green smoothie; these are all moments that disappear without a trace unless we take a moment to appreciate them.
I know many people who use gratitude journals and write in them daily. I was gifted one for Christmas that I’m learning to use every day. I also believe you could use your writer’s notebook for this purpose because to me, being grateful is just another way of noticing the world. Perhaps you could write down some moments or people you’re grateful for today?
Right now I’m eternally grateful for tea. And words. Until tomorrow xx
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