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Gratitude 

I’ve had a wonderful time enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday being in the house with my family. For an introvert like me, it has been a slice of heaven. I’ve read, slept, cooked, and watched mind-numbing t.v. My children might feel otherwise. Unbeknownst to them, I’ve been soaking up their chatter, laughter and conversation. I didn’t host anyone for dinner this year, which hasn’t been the case for a long time.  It was just us and that was plenty. 

I’ve read countless articles on the benefits of being grateful and of expressing gratefulness  and I absolutely agree. I’ve also read passages on being grateful for all experiences, good and bad. In the past year, I’ve experienced so much (breast cancer, mom’s death, husband’s health struggles, son’s struggles in school) and I’m still here to tell you about it. I have 2 healthy children and a husband who loves me.  I’m healthy. I have the support of my family and friends. I have a job with health insurance. I have peace of mind and contentment. I can go on, however, I want to point out that wish I could turn that grateful button on when I’m in the midst of a gut-wrenching problem or one of my self-inflicted ruminating tirades. 

For me, it takes work to be grateful. In case you are one of those people rolling your eyes at what I just typed, hear me out. I believe being grateful and expressing gratitude is a practice. I have an awareness that there are some mental deficiencies in me that trigger self-sabotage and other unpleasant outcomes if I don’t keep them in check. I constantly have internal conversations with myself to lighten the atmosphere in my mind because I can “go there”.  Inevitably, no matter what perceived turmoil I’m experiencing, eventually things settle down and I can see the whole picture for what it is. 

If it takes work for you to be grateful in the midst of challenging times, don’t despair. I suspect I’m not alone. Be persistent with your positive self-talk. Surround yourself with the things and people that bring you joy and remind you why you’re grateful. Spend time alone. Let go of things you can’t control. Read books and articles on gratitude. Pray. Repeat…

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Gratitude

This is the time of year for giving thanks, so it’s no surprise that I’m about to lay out exactly what I’m thankful for in this post. Before I do, I will point out that practicing gratitude on a daily basis is something I’ve aspired to do over the years.  At one time (the impetus is fuzzy, but I suspect upon reading an article in a magazine on the benefits of expressing gratitude), I arranged for each of my kids and my husband to have their own gratitude journal. I personalized each journal with their name followed by a heart ♡ that I drew myself. The plan was for us to write or draw what we were grateful when the urge hit. 

Looking back, that was my attempt to instill the process of journaling in my kids. To my chagrin (I may be exaggerating), I don’t know what happened to those journals. I was just kidding myself thinking my husband would do it, but for a time I think he used it to write his notes from church. I’m not even sure where mine is, but I’ve had so many journals over the years it’s likely somewhere. My daughter loves paper, notebooks, and journals, and she never really learned to use the whole book before starting a new one. I don’t take responsibility for that because I’ve harped on this many times. (I probably should not have bought so many supplies at once or maybe I could have hid the extras, but that’s neither here nor there for this post.) Whatever the case, I gave up. Occasionally, a journal that’s been missing/forgotten would pop up in a corner after months. That’s the case with these gratitude journals. I vaguely remember a few months ago that one popped up somewhere in the house. I thought to myself, “Oh look. I remember you”, and kept on walking. 

In the world we live in today, there is so much competition, so many choices, and so many opinions. I get frustrated sometimes with simply reading the comments section on social media posts because many opinions are rude, mean, and thoughtless.  There are also many pleasant, thought provoking, and affirming comments, but I hate it when I get blind sighted by a mean, rude, thoughtless one. It does give indication of how people across the world think, even if folks are hiding behind a different persona than when not on social media.  All of this can be overwhelming to navigate, making it difficult to hear our own voices. Perhaps these are only my perceptions, but I suspect that if I’m feeling it, someone else is too because I’m not that unique.

When I write posts, although I may not indicate it, I often research definitions to ensure that I’m using words accurately even though this blog is a reflection of my thoughts. I did a quick superficial search to compare the definitions of gratitude and thankful and they are generally synonymous. A very slight difference is that the definition of the word gratitude includes the word “expression” (i.e., expression of gratitude).  Thankful is described as a “state of being” (i.e., of being grateful/pleased). Both can be used as an expression and both can be used as a state of being. Feel free to research these nuances on your own, but I’ve used them synonymously in this post. 

It is so important to be grateful for the little things as much as we are grateful for the big ones. This year, I’ve been living more in the present than ever before. Here’s a short list of what I’m thankful for:

  1. God bestowing His love and favor on me
  2. Waking up
  3. The love and support from family, friends, and all my social connections (church, fitness)
  4. My mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical (actively working on the breast cancer) health
  5. That I can purchase and cook nutritious food that tastes good for my family…like the homemade sweet potato pie I made shown in the picture 😉
  6. Our cozy home
  7. Creating memories with my loved ones
  8. My little, furry nuggets of love (i.e., my 2 kittens and cat)
  9. That I am a compassionate person and chose a career in social work that serves people that are marginalized, poor, and often unseen/forgotten
  10. Doctors, nurses, and other medical and health professionals that truly care about what they do
  11. The wealth of information that is available and accessible
  12. Living in the USA

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that you get to spend your day expressing gratitude to those that you love and to those who don’t have a place to go.