I’ve been working on something. I’ve been working VERY hard on gratitude. I once had a teacher who loved when you started a paper with a definition or quote, so, gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I don’t like the word quality. I suppose it can be a quality you just have, but truly, I’ve come to know it as a skill that you must practice. You can’t be a great trumpet player if you never put an instrument to your lips. You can’t be a champion barrel racer if you’ve never ridden a horse. You can’t be truly grateful if you don’t practice how to BE grateful. And even when you get “good” at being grateful, you have to keep practicing to stay good at gratitude.
I used to keep a lot of journals as a teen. When I was older, I read them back. I saw a kid in pain. A kid who had so many questions about the perils of the world and the people in it. A kid who was not practicing gratitude. If I had been, the journals would have been completely different. I was whiny. I was sad. I had some dark obsession with being dark and obsessed. I’m pretty sure that makes me a 100% normal teenager. I grew up in the My So Called Life generation…Degrassi High (the original), Party of Five. I was there when Spike found out she was pregnant. And when they all dealt with loss and addiction. There was something oh so now about being brooding.
As an adult I find these journals irritating. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all weird relationships and struggles aside, I have lived a life that some dream of; one for which I should be grateful. So I’ve started practicing. When I feel like a victim of my day, I think about what happened today that I am grateful for. When I feel like everything is overwhelming, I think about how the things that feel like a burden are actually a major blessing. When I start to compare myself to others, I stop and think about the amazing things in my own life, and then there is no need for comparison.
“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” — Louis CK
Louis CK wants me to practice gratitude… He wants me to stop comparing, and be grateful for what I have, and be ready “to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Huh? Smart guy.
Sometimes I feel like a day is just crap. And sometimes they rightfully are! But if you go to bed at night thinking about the crap…you’ll probably wake up to crap. And you’ll probably sleep poorly. You’ll probably be sassy when you get up. You’ll probably create a second day of crap. And a third. And a fourth. And a three hundred and sixty-fifth. But if you can take your crap day, and fish out even two things that you are grateful for, you can change your mindset. I have been teaching my oldest children, day in and out, that they cannot always control what happens to them, but they can control how they respond to it. Mindset. We have the power to control how we respond to our crappy day. Can I say crap one more time? Crap, I did.
I have found, that practicing gratitude, helps me sleep. When I reflect on my week, I feel like it was great! Even though nothing extraordinary has happened. Nothing was really different. Nothing earth-shattering. But when I am grateful for even the small things, those are the things I remember. That is the feeling I remember when I wake up the next day and gratitude breeds happiness. And happiness breeds abundance.
I’m challenging myself, and my family, to start sharing what we are grateful for every day before bed. I’m challenging us all to start gratitude journals and have a safe space to keep those thoughts that won’t make us put on flannel and smoke newport lights through our black lipstick when we read them back. Today I am grateful for many things. But topping out my list are: My family, the life we are creating, our home, our animals, our time together, and a new mindset. I’m grateful for the desire to practice gratitude. What are you grateful for?