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How to be grateful (Not guilty)

November 28, 2015

Raise your hand if you’ve rolled your eyes at the gratitude movement? Hello! My shoulders would fall the same way each time. I would picture families sitting around Thanksgiving tables saying how happy they were to have their family, or a mother telling her kids that there are starving children around the world, seeing a person in a wheelchair and being reminded of the gift of legs…for me gratitude was nothing but a guilt trip. Sometimes I wasn’t grateful for my family, sometimes they were toxic. Sometimes I was in too deep a state of low self esteem to be joyed to have a body. The “gratitude” was just a layer of feeling like a bad person on top of whatever struggle I felt I was facing.

And that’s exactly why I needed some gratitude in my life. I say this urgently, though not judgmentally (read the paragraph above): if you haven’t stopped to feel grateful about your life, you have a whole source of true joy, completely untapped.

Do not be grateful for the things that you think you should be. That produces guilt. Do not be shy about the things that you do feel grateful for. That produces guilt. Gratitude isn’t about feeling bad about what you’ve been ignoring, it’s about remembering to step into that to see what’s here, and feeling happy and thankful for it. When I finally allowed myself to be honest about what I was grateful for, I finally started to feel some real, lasting change.

A few weeks ago, on a particularly hard day, I could only come up with a few (I usually shoot for 10), the main one being the guitar solo in “The Wind Cries Mary.” My brain tried to make me feel bad about it…”You have a great job! You get to drive your car to any destination you want, you aren’t restricted by a bus schedule, you don’t have a flesh-eating bacteria on you!” But those things aren’t helpful, because in the moment of me making the list, I wasn’t grateful for my skin or my car, I was grateful for some music notes, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, thanks to making the list I leaned on the song a little harder, understanding just how much it meant to me.

To me, it is better to focus your attention on one tiny thing you’re truly gratefuly for, than focusing on all the things you think you should be grateful for. Which one sounds more productive to you? So don’t worry if “My family” doesn’t show up on the list. Instead, maybe a specific thing that a family member did will come to mind and make you feel warm; write that down. Leave the family out, they make you feel guilty enough as it is 🙂

To encourage you to start (small), here are some items from my lists over the last month. And if you still need convincing, or if you think it isn’t doing anything, read this book. Small things add up, they have been since the beginning of time.

  • Learning that I don’t want to make dinner every night
  • Brooks’ arms around me last night
  • Newly enjoying drinking tea
  • Having warm clothes that I like to put on
  • Having a light workload today
  • The sun shining into the room and onto the oranges and greens outside
  • having just enough money
  • making it to the gas station yesterday on E (and fumes)
  • my body works
  • Feeling my long hair on my shoulders and back
  • The quick effects of chapstick
  • Finding “Tiny Buddha” and “Mindful”
  • Seeing and hearing the wind whip through the trees
  • headphones
  • The snow falling for hours while sewing (Main picture is from this day)
  • The birds that love the bush outside our bedroom window
  • Upstairs neighbor not being home so I can sing in the shower
  • working from home
  • my mouth sores being less sore
  • not biting my lips for 20 seconds
  • my sweater
  • it was dark when I woke up
  • Clean clothes in the laundry basket
  • ‘The Name of the Wind’
  • Meeting Will, Sarah, and Mikai
  • Clementines, garlic pasta, tostadas
  • the sun
  • my hair blow-drying quickly
  • sleeping comfortably through the night
  • Michele calling and talking on the phone for an hour and a half
  • Our bedroom window
  • the feeling of my legs in our sheets
  • the smell of perfume on my wrists

Now you try

signoffUntil next time
(P.S. I welcome (nice, kind, sweet, gentle, funny) punctuation advice)


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  1. Mary Vemrillion says:

    This was exactly what I needed! Thanks for writing it! You keep adding to your collection of best things. Today I’m grateful for you!