Category Archives: grattitude
I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”. It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska. People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”
We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing. I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge. I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”
My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view. They think it does. It changes the way they approach their days. It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.
I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day. I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.
It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day. I like that. I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in. I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.
In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me. A good day is active rather than passive. I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity. I can have a good day curled up reading. But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.
There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day. A good day demands engagement at some level. Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing. By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days. Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.
Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.
Happy May Day! We’ve been having snow flurries, which makes it a little difficult to get into the spirit of the season. I suppose I could go on about the history of labor unions and all the benefits we take for granted because of the work that they did back in 1886 and beyond. But you all have Wikipedia for that.
In Wicca this is also Beltane and a celebration to bless the animals and the fields with fertility. Wicca tends to work with a male/female balance honoring the fact that union is how we all came about. In this day and age that makes much of our ritual look particularly heterosexist and decidedly gender binary.
The thing is that many of the Gods in the Pagan pantheons are rather gender queer. There is room in Paganism to express and celebrate fertility in many other ways. But working in a tradition, and a Wiccan tradition in particular means honoring and holding to rites and ritual formats that, when they were written, probably do have an intentional hetero-cis bias.
Like snow on May Day, the reality is often a lot more complicated than the theory. In Minnesota a May snow, or at least a frost is not at all unusual. Our “late frost” date is May 15th. But in Wicca, and through much of Paganism this is a festival about flowers and early fruits.
Traditionally, this festival is not a calendar based festival, but one that honors the actual season in the area. It is a time when the fields are ready for planting – not the same date every year at all. It is marked by the white blossomed trees (usually rowan) coming into bloom (also not a calendar dependent event.) In Minnesota this year we are having a remarkably early spring. The ground has been thawed for some time. In microclimate areas some of the fruit trees have started blooming. Historically that just doesn’t happen until mid May and even that is early.
So snow is unexpected this year and seems out of place. Our weather reporters carry on about “below average” temperatures. Technically that is true, but if you graph 100 years of spring temperatures and do the statistics you get at least a 15 degree standard deviation. That means that “normal” is plus or minus 15 degrees. To really be “below average”, remarkably warm or cold, we’d need to be outside of that 30 degree swing and we are not. At least not today.
I have actually put some things into the garden already. Cold hearty crops like radishes and peas. I did sprinkle some spinach and lettuce seeds and I’m trying my hand at carrots again. Tomatoes and basil are still a month out. The weather is supposed to get warmer from here out so I’m hoping to get back into the dirt later in the week. That will be a celebration in itself! In the meantime, I’ll just take things as they come and enjoy the cool while it lasts.
Previous Posts on May Day or Beltane:
I’ve been thinking a lot about support. I’ve looked at some of the ways I give support, the ways I ask (or don’t ask) for support, and about the kind of support I need. I’d like to think I’m aware of how much support I am given in my daily life. I am grateful for that support.
I see more and more posting on social media in judgement of support. Things like, “If you don’t march you can’t say you support the cause.” or “Marching doesn’t do anything, if you really want to support change….” My feed is full of articles about what it means to be an ally, and what it doesn’t. I am watching a heated and emotional battle that demands choosing sides. Once you’ve chosen a side ANY sympathy, compassion, or points given to the other side is a betrayal. There is no room for exploring nuance in that kind of “debate.”
I have often been offered support that really wasn’t very supportive. There are a lot of reasons that happens. Sometimes I’m just not ready to accept support. Sometimes I’m not willing to be vulnerable enough to need support from that particular person. Sometimes it’s help for something I’m quite capable of doing myself (as long as I don’t need to do that other thing I really can’t do alone.) I have been offered support that makes demands of me. I have been offered support that is well intentioned but not in my best interest.
Most of the time I still find a way to be grateful for the intention. However, I have also been known to explode and shut my “supporters” down. Over the years I’ve come to recognize that most people offer support based on their experience. They offer the kind of comfort they would like. They offer the kind of hands on labor they are comfortable with, or skilled at. They present things they have been told worked for other people they know in “the same” shape.
Sometimes people offer support to feed their own egos. Sometimes people are sure they know best, and they won’t listen. But most people are willing and able to have a conversation about support, and what that might look like in any particular situation. The problem is, often when support is necessary the conversation itself becomes too much for the person in need to handle.
Sometimes one of the best ways to be supportive is to be willing to intervene and educate the well intentioned but misguided supporters. I’ve done that. This week I’ve seen that done for me. It doesn’t always help, but it is very much appreciated.
It was a grey and cold and rainy week. I’ve got a chill that I can’t seem to shake, even when the sun peeks its head out. I’m doing all the “celebration of spring” things you might expect, but I’m still not feeling it.
This is actually the hardest time of the year for many traditional peoples. The stores are gone and the new food, spring’s promise, has not actually arrived. Pulling the sap from the trees was probably originally an act of desperation. Weather transitions are not easy either, and in Minnesota those transitions can swing very broadly and with little warning. 60 degrees one day and snow the next is not unheard of here.
I’m trying to pay attention and really honor the small things. The little delights and surprises in my days. I met a friend last week and she said, “Do you want to go out for lunch?” YES! I made a lovely venison stew and brought it to share for dinner with another friend. I threw colored eggs in the river (a magical act that’s part of my Tradition’s practices for the season) and came across a lovely shrine. I think it’s Hanuman the Hindu God who represents devotion and intellect. Hmmmmm……..
I also saw a bunny in a knot of wood. It made me smile, after all it is the season. I picked up my pastel colored M&M’s the last time I went to the store and I’ve been eyeing the Cadbury eggs.
This morning I went to http://gildasclubtwincities.org for the Euro Cafe Social. What a treat to have breakfast made for me. This is an occasional event for members to meet and get to know each other. The origins of the Euro Cafe were with a member, who most of us knew as Uncle Jack. He lobbied for more social events and cooked for the first several Euro Cafe’s.
Uncle Jack loved to cook, had a great sense of humor and always had a hug for anyone who needed it. He was the one who noticed the day I got my diagnosis of endometrial cancer. He didn’t ask what was going on, just if I needed anything and gave me the hug I asked for unconditionally. Working at Gilda’s we do lose members to cancer, but Jack’s memory will live on and I’m honored to have known him.
That sweet bitter sweet is very much my mood of late. It’s how I’m feeling about the changing seasons and about the world in general. Talking to people it seems like it’s a feeling that’s going around. How are you coping?
I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate. This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got. I’ve got a lot to celebrate!
I feel good. There have been many years where I haven’t. Two years ago I was recovering from surgery. Five years ago I couldn’t move. 25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy. Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.
I still have family. I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house. My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us. At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share. Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way. Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.
My kids seem to like spending time with me. I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday. We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier). Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday. Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends. All worth celebrating.
My friends are finding time to “catch-up” I’ve had three brunches this month. I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum. I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March. I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone. Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly. I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake. It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me. It’s great to touch base and reconnect. I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.
I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not. Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club. It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast. I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.
It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful. I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with. I have generous friends and family. I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers. Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash. I am truly blessed.
Happy birthday to me.
Been gone for awhile. I’ve had some car trouble, internet trouble, life trouble. But I also haven’t been detained in an airport – so perspective. All of this has had me thinking about refuge.
It’s a simple word, a simple concept. It’s about being safe and protected. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.
Last weekend I went up to my parents and had some car trouble. Needed to stay an extra day and wait for a part to come in. I didn’t get the repairs paid for. I didn’t have internet access. But I did have refuge. I had a place to stay, safe, while I waited for my car to be fixed. I didn’t even have to think about it, it was there for me.
Most of us think of our homes as a refuge. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when my home was not. But there is a big difference between being so sick that it’s scary to be left alone to fend for yourself and wondering when the men with the guns will break down the door. There’s a big difference between walking on eggshells to keep the screaming and yelling from erupting and walking on eggshells to stay out of the emergency room.
Because I can’t convince the bank to finance my kitchen remodel my home has not been a refuge. I’m not comfortable with boxes piled all over and my kitchen in pieces. Although the cupboards are empty, they are barely hanging on the wall and still may just decide one day to fall down. I’m struggling to make a “home”. I’m struggling to keep things orderly and organized. I’m struggling to find the space to be creative, to write, to come out of my sense of being overwhelmed.
At the same time, it’s nice to curl up under the covers at night. I sleep soundly. I don’t need to keep an ear open for unforeseen threats. I have heat, running water, and most of the time the internet allows me access to all of you. There is “escape” in music, and tv, and internet chats and games. I’m not starving for anything.
When I truly have nothing, when my life is at risk, when I am shaken to my core I find it easy to be grateful for any small refuge. A kind word, a warm blanket, keeping down a bite of food can all seem like the most amazing grace. Refuge doesn’t have to solve a problem. It just allows a little break. Why is that so hard?
Yesterday was one of those days when I needed to give myself points just for getting dressed. I meant to post a blog. I had started one about a weekend worth of celebrations. I had started one about the immigration ban. I had started one about Imbolc and the winter thaw. I just couldn’t manage to bring any of those topics into a coherent, cohesive whole.
I needed an ostrich day. A day to curl up and put my head in the sand. A day to pretend the world didn’t matter. I didn’t talk to friends. I didn’t get to my “to do” list. I stuck my head in a book, turned on Netflix, and played games on the computer.
We all need an occasional day like that. Right now there are many people who are practicing civil disobedience. There are many people who are truly threatened by the political climate. There are many who are suffering cognitive dissonance working to convince themselves that what they see, what they say, means something else. My Facebook feed is full of posts saying “maybe I should take a break from Facebook”
Sometimes we need to just take the time and space to actually feel our feelings. There can be so much going on in our lives that our emotions become a jumble and we don’t know where we stand or what we think. Allowing ourselves a moment to come back to our own center, without being battered about by our circumstances, can recharge us. Taking time can allows us to be more effective in the world.
Unfortunately, sometimes those ostrich days make me feel worse rather than better. It’s too easy to get into the cycle of self blame and guilt. It’s easy to start thinking of all “better” ways to have used the time. We live in a culture that has no patience for this kind of “time out”, and we carry that culture with us into our “time out” space.
It’s my Daily Practice that gets me through. I get dressed. Then, since I’m dressed I might throw in a load of laundry or run out to the mailbox. I make my bed. Then, since I really appreciate having the bed made I might tidy up someplace else in the house. I do my language lesson. Then, since I really do want a vacation, I might balance the checkbook or pack a bag or make a fun meal or even just tend to my seasonal spaces.
Doing the small Daily Practices I know I’m not lost in a hole. I am not entirely overwhelmed. I’m just taking some time out. Doing the Daily Practices I have a springboard to reconnect, to move forward. Doing the Daily Practices I am reminded to have compassion for myself. I am reminded to appreciate what I do, and accept that I can not accomplish everything.
Daily Practice becomes a kindness to myself. Doing Daily Practice is a magical act of transformation. It’s not always apparent that Daily Practice is doing anything. (That’s one of the reason “Daily Practice Sucks”) But ultimately we practice so that when we need something to be easy, when we don’t have the time or energy, when we are looking for a lifeline we have the Daily Practice to lean on.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for a lot of reasons. The biggest is that I don’t keep them, so why make them. Not that I object to having goals and dreams, but that success builds on success.
I’m much happier with big dreams and small achievable goals than with the notion of creating a resolution for change at a time of year when I’m already reeling. I find it difficult to start something new at the same time that I’m trying to re-coop – (physically and financially) from the holiday hoopla.
This particular year, this particular “cultural transition” from 2016 to 2017 has been filled with a lot of public angst. The notion that 2016 was “so bad” that 2017 “has to be better”. I’ve always been reluctant to tempt fate that way.
There’s a lot of fear going into 2017. I’ve written about a shift in tone in human interactions. I’ve talked about the disenfranchised who feel particularly targeted and threatened by the new political climate. I’ve got personal fears as well, with aging parents and tightening purse strings. My “safety nets” are not what they used to be.
Sometimes I think I talk because I need to hear what I am saying. I talk (and write) a lot about practicing gratitude to fight depression. Fortunately I got to spend New Years Eve with some lovely people who chose to apply that practice.
It was an event designed to set the tone for 2017. The dinner guests were chosen specifically to suit our host’s preferences. No one was there “just because”. The decor was elegant, the food abundant, exotic, and heart warmingly delicious, and the atmosphere both festive and a little nostalgic. There was warmth and laughter and acceptance and I was grateful to be included.
When the champagne was poured we went around the table and each had to talk about something wonderful that happened for them in 2016. There were several people who had milestone moments that they could point to. A few of the guests spoke of unexpected opportunities that had become available to them. Clearly, Facebook memes aside, not everyone had a horrible year.
I didn’t have a “horrible” year either, but I did have a really difficult time finding something to be grateful for. Then I stopped going over the events of the year that I recalled (most of which were attached in some way to a funeral) and looked at the room.
I got to have a night out. I got to have a few days without Orion in tow. I got to have a beautiful fancy dinner that I didn’t have to pay for. I got to have an opportunity to dig up the dress-up clothes. I got to reconnect with a friend (our host) and acknowledge that connection with hope to deepen our relationship in the future. I got to have fun. I got to be in the room.
Then I looked back at the year at all the other friends I’ve connected with. I looked at the new friendships I’ve worked at strengthening. I looked at all the “rooms” where I’ve had the privilege of being included. There have been a lot. Even those funerals provided opportunities for me to reconnect.
This is what I’m grateful for and what I hope to find more of in 2017. Connection.
Happy New Year!
Gratitude is difficult when the world seems to be falling down around our heads. It is difficult to find gratitude in crisis. It is difficult to find gratitude when we feel threatened. It is difficult to find gratitude under stress. But it is especially during these challenges when we need gratitude the most.
Practicing gratitude is uplifting. Even seeing people who seem to have less than we do being grateful can be inspiring. Knowing what we have to be grateful for is like finding a lifeline in a troubled sea. When we most need something to hang on to, an active practice of gratitude gives us just that.
Thanksgiving is a highly charged holiday. There are the family dynamics. Mixed families, blended families, new relationships create conflict over who gets to be with who when. There is finding table talk that doesn’t push buttons, make judgements, and generate huge arguments. There is the food both, expectations and execution, and issues of tradition versus lifestyle.
Thanksgiving is also highly charged politically. Not just with the family table, but the actual nature of the holiday itself. What we celebrate is the coming together of the European settlers and the Native Americans. The reality of that relationship is not nearly as peaceful or generous. Even now at Standing Rock Native Americans on their land with their supporters are being treated in ways that have the United Nations, the ACLU, and Amnesty International making statements against our government’s actions.
I am reminded again about the power of gratitude, and so I write reminding you. Let’s all take a moment, many moments, this week and dig deep into the things we do have to be grateful for.
I am grateful for all the people who work peacefully and diligently to preserve my civil rights, my breathable air, and my drinkable water.
I am grateful for all the people who work to ensure I have good, healthy food available to me especially all winter long.
I am grateful for all the people who are actively kind to others, who help those in need, who work with populations (in prisons, the mentally ill, impoverished families etc.) that I am not equipped to help.
I am grateful for the small opportunities I have to do my part to bring kindness, and caring, and loving support into the world.
I am grateful for the support I receive (from family, friends and strangers) just to be able to function in this world.
I am grateful to have a platform and readers who support my work. – Thank you!
What are you grateful for?