I think a lot about what it means to me to be happy, to be content, and to be satisfied. I don’t spend a lot of time appreciating my successes or taking in the feeling of a job well done. I suppose I could do some psychological speculation about why that is, why I don’t “allow” myself to enjoy success. What it comes down to is I’m always looking for the next thing.
My daughter, Karina, has been very verbal about bringing all of this to my attention over the years. She doesn’t appreciate it when she struggles to make me happy, or to meet an expectation only to get “Now that that is out of the way……….” Her, “Hey! Wait just one minute.” has forced me many times to stop and honestly acknowledge her efforts. This is why I really need a gratitude practice.
This weekend was a simple, easy, uneventful weekend. Orion and I did a few things. We saw the new Spiderman movie. He got a haircut and his beard trimmed. We kept an eye on Minnie (Karina’s dog). I puttered a bit in the kitchen. There was a conference call for event planning committee and the beginnings of organizing things to bring. I stayed up late and finished a couple of books. I slept in until I was ready to get up.
Reviewing the week, thinking about what I was going to write in my blog, I realized that this was contentment. Not too much, not too little, but a just right weekend. Then I realized that part of the reason I could feel that contentment (rather than pressure, or resentment, or disappointment, or exhaustion) was because I had the previous weekend off.
I went into this week well rested. I’m feeling good. I have a list of things “to do” but feel like I’m making progress and not overwhelmed. I had a good balance of things I wanted to do and things I needed to do. And the things I needed to do I appreciated being able to do.
This coming week I’m gearing up for a whirlwind. The event, Earth Conclave, is on the schedule. I know I won’t get a blog in next Monday (maybe Tuesday). I’m excited and nervous and hoping I have left myself enough time to put what I’ll need together.
But…. I don’t have to pack up Orion for the weekend. That’s taken care of with the new schedule. I don’t have to worry about not being able to get through. I have a health reserve going in. I may be on the committee, but it’s not “my show”. I’m not cooking, I’m not “in charge” of anything. I’ve volunteered to facilitate a few things on the schedule, but I know this group (and my skill set) and it won’t be difficult.
This is where gratitude is easy for me. I haven’t always been able to do these things, or do them without too much effort. I am very grateful to have the opportunity, and the support, to be able to do them again.
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.
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.
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?
It has been raining on and off all week. That puts more than a little damper into our plans. There is flooding. (We’re fine, but there have been road closings just 10 minutes north of us.) Power has been a little unstable. (I haven’t had long outages, but there have been several rounds of reset the clock.) My allergies, especially mold, have been acting up.
The part that’s hard is that Orion and I had weekend plans that involved being outdoors. The weekend was actually mostly quite lovely. The sky cleared, the sun peeped out it was pleasantly cool, but not cold. All things that make for a great time in the outdoors. Unless you are in a wheelchair.
I struggle to push Orion when we’re “off roading” under the best of circumstances. When the ground is firm, when there aren’t a lot of fallen obstacles or rocks, when the grass is short, when he could push himself for at least a short distance that’s ideal. This weekend, given the amount of rain, was not going to be ideal and could be really horrible.
We skipped through several versions of our plans. We did make an appearance at the Richardson Nature Center. They had an event called Party in the Park. Most of the party was spread out into the park, and not accessible. I got help from a stranger to go up a small hill. We visited the bee keeping exhibit inside. We played with a bull snake, made a seed bomb, and had some sumac popcorn from the Tatanka Truck. Then I was done in.
Our “time in nature” was mostly spent shopping at the co-op. Even there we didn’t load up as much as we often do. Prices are high and the budget is not.
I ended the week on a note of gratitude. We did a ritual for the harvest season. There is a lot of bounty in my world, even if I don’t have full access. It’s good to take some time out to recognize what I do have, to be grateful.
I spent several days last week out sick with a summer cold. You know the kind you tell yourself is allergies until you can no longer deny you’re miserable through and through. As I’ve just past the two-year anniversary of my bariatric surgery, this was another opportunity to really notice how much has changed.
For starters, yes I was sick enough to not go to Gilda’s club. People dealing with cancer are often immune suppressed. They didn’t need to be exposed to whatever I was carrying. The decision to “tough it out” or not was a no brainer. What that meant is that I was taking care of myself from the beginning of the cold, rather than waiting until it totally knocked me on my ass to acknowledge it.
Then there’s the odd thing that happens with bariatric surgery and stomach flu. My whole body felt like I should be laying on the bathroom floor. But I wasn’t. In fact I never got that kind of sick. The physiology just doesn’t work that way anymore. What an odd feeling, especially for someone whose history is that once I got started I didn’t stop. No sore abdominal muscles. No cramps. No dehydration. No shear exhaustion from all that effort. More energy to apply to feeling better.
And most importantly there are all the things I did manage to get done last week. Orion got dressed, bathed, on and off the bus and fed regularly. Time cards got delivered, groceries were bought. I had my allergy shots. Orion had injections as well, and a tune up of his wheelchair and AFO’s. We had lunch and a visit with friends. I found time to do dinner with a friend. I had coffee with another, along with a walk to and tour Gilda’s Club – several blocks down the hill, and back up again.
There was laundry that got done, including bedding from our camping trip. There was a night the power went out, and all the clocks are set back where they belong. There was no “recovering” from our road trip to South Dakota. There is no feeling that I need another week to “catch up”.
Two years ago, last week would have looked like a “super mom” week. It would have taken me almost week to recover from a schedule like that in my “best health”. I couldn’t have imagined doing all that right after returning from a road trip camping with Orion, even without the summer cold!
People still ask me if I have any regrets for making the decision to have by-pass surgery. It hasn’t been all roses, but if I look at what I can do now that I couldn’t dream of doing then all I can feel is grateful.
I had the opportunity this weekend to participate in a rescue mission. That’s not as dramatic as it sounds. My daughter, Karina, has quite the extended family given the divorces, the friends, the steps, and all the variations on “you are family to me.”
One of these family members has been in a difficult intimate relationship for some time. There is a history of isolation, abuse, and attempts to leave the relationship. After a conversation with Karina where she heard, “I want to come home” she went into action.
She arranged for transportation (costs covered), housing, a potential job opportunity and alerted the built-in support system of family and friends. There will be a bus card, people willing to help with transportation in town, bedding and toiletries and probably anything else as it comes up. When another call came, “I need to leave NOW”, Karina went into high gear and hopped in the car.
I went along, not only because it’s a long drive but also because she wanted back-up for anything she might find when she arrived. I have family in the area where we were headed. I called ahead. Without knowing ANY of the actual players, they stepped in as well.
My family members met us at the home of the person we picked up. We were taken out for dinner. We were offered any additional support we might need along the way. I got the bonus of being able to see family I haven’t been in contact with (outside of Facebook) for years.
Karina’s family member will be fine. They are overwhelmed, not only by making such a dramatic change but also by the outpouring of support. We also talked on the way home about how much of a difference THIS family member could be in supporting other of Karina’s extended family members who are struggling. We made it clear that even when you may be needy, you can also be needed.
Very few of us expect to have real support when we are desperate. Asking for one small thing is hard. Asking for planning, organization, execution and a lifeline is humbling at best.
I think we all have moments in our lives when this is exactly the kind of help we need. I know I have. I have been fortunate, awed, and overwhelmed on the occasions when my friends and family have swept in and just taken care of business.
When I had cancer last year my women’s group stepped up and made sure that I had the post surgery support I needed. They came by to check up on me, made sure I had food in the house, ran errands, and washed dishes. One of them brought me home from the hospital. Another took me out when I was going stir crazy. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had no idea what I was going to do, but they clearly did.
The last time I had work done on my house, to increase accessibility for Orion, we needed to move out for 6 weeks. Cleaning and packing was beyond me. Again, I had friends come in and just do it. There was no judgement, no need for instruction or supervision, just support. I could focus on what I needed to take with me to the hotel, they took care of everything else. I knew I needed help, but never expected that level of support.
I am grateful that I have been able to count on my friends when I truly need help. I am grateful that I have learned to accept help when it is given. I’m grateful for compassion that has no judgement, simply does what needs to be done. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back a small bit of what I have been given.
Happy Memorial Day. Enjoy the weather, the family, the picnic – whatever you have planned. I’ll be gardening and taking a long leisurely bath.
Remember those who served with their lives. Remember that many have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. Remember the families of those who have served. And in remembering, think about all of those whose service was dismissed, or uncredited. There have always been women serving alongside the men, but because they were not “official” were not counted. There have been blacks and Native Americans in service for this country whose “special units” were often placed in the most dangerous situations. Japanese American families lost loved ones in the internment camps in the US during WWII. There are many kinds of service, many kinds of sacrifice. Let’s honor that in gratitude for what we do have. Let’s remember.
As I pack boxes, clearing out my kitchen so that “someday” I can get those cabinets replaced (and a few other things taken care of besides) I find myself disheartened. There is so much to do that it can seem overwhelming. There isn’t even a start date, much less and end goal in sight.
I’m talking to contractors, talking with bankers, packing boxes and still the day-to-day life goes on. I have a lot to be grateful for. Many of my friends have been sick with the spring crud. Several families I know are experiencing the family member in the hospital in critical condition trauma . It’s not as though my kitchen is entirely worthless. I’ve managed to deliver a few meals since I started packing things away.
I’m grateful that I have the time to be helpful to my friends in need. I’m grateful to be healthy enough to face the tasks of the day. I’m grateful it’s not Orion in the hospital this time, or me. I’m grateful for the unseasonably warm weather. I’m grateful for the blossoms on my jasmine plant.
As I go through my things and pack them away I find myself unpacking old issues that I apparently still carry around. There have been moments where I’ve caught myself in a memory vortex. I’ve run into out dated cans and remembered my parents moving out of their “forever” house into their retirement home in the North Woods. I’ve come across baby spoons and sippy cups and remembered both the child who used them and the one who didn’t. I dug up cookie cutters and remembered back when I’d bake for large events.
Packing is bittersweet. I’m trying to keep it reasonable with a one box a day goal. I’m trying to remember this is an opportunity to declutter. I can use this to bring more tranquility into my home. But right now it doesn’t feel tranquil.
I’m shopping this week with a friend of my parents. I chauffeur her around to run errands. Occasionally I pick something up for myself along the way. Now I have to resist. I can’t be bringing new things in, knowing I’ll just be packing them away. New things are for later. Right now it’s time to pack up the things I’m keeping and to unpack the things it’s time to let go of.
March is a long month, and this week is only half way through. Best wishes for more sunshine and spring awakening!1