Five Things I Am Grateful For Today

It is October 26th, and this morning we got our first snow. This is NOT one of the things I am grateful for, mind you, but as I look out my window at the gray, cold wetness that is today, I realize that the only way through this very long upcoming winter is going to be by being grateful, today and and everyday, for whatever I can find to appreciate.

In some ways 2020 has flown by. I for one, cannot believe that it is nearly November when I still feel like I am waiting for summer to happen. And yet, at the same time, I have felt each and every day of this strange year. The angst caused by the pandemic, the anxiety of the upcoming election, fears from job loss or tightening finances, and just the overwhelming uncertainty of not being able to plan or look forward to much of anything – these stresses have gotten to all of us.

I have often ended my day by thinking of five things that I am grateful for and writing them in a small notebook that I use as a Gratitude Journal. But today I am going to do a mid-day gratitude check just to readjust my thoughts on this somewhat miserable gray day. Here are five things that happened today for which I am grateful:

  1. This morning as the snow first started to stick to the grass, leaves, and flowers in my yard, I looked out the window and saw the most beautiful red fox run through my neighbor’s yard. Every so often I see this fox, but it usually in the evening or early morning, and never in broad daylight. But this little guy seemed to be having fun, running through the snowflakes, his thick bushy tail flopping behind him. His coat was beautiful, in fact, and was what caught my eye as he ran by.
  2. Like the fox, I am having a good hair day. This does not happen often, especially when it is wet outside, but there it is. My hair is soft and smooth and making me wish I had a date or something special to do with someone who would appreciate the rarity of this occurrence. But since I don’t, my Book Club will have to be the beneficiaries of my good-looking head of hair today!
  3. I have Book Club tonight – and I have actually read the book. In a rare show of initiative, I am completely prepared to discuss the characters, the plot line, and my overall impressions of the story (Writers and Lovers by Lily King). What’s more, since I have been on my own the whole day, I am really looking forward to meeting my friends via Zoom for a little bit of company and a great discussion.
  4. We have access to technology like Zoom (and Google Hangouts, and numerous other options) so that even now, in the midst of a pandemic, I can visit “in person” with my friends, my daughters and my grandson. At work, I can keep up with meetings and discuss difficult topics face-to-face rather than just exchanging emails. Imagine how hard these last nine months would have been if not for the wonders of this technology!
  5. Full disclosure, this happened yesterday, but I am still remembering it with so much gratitude. For the very first time, my little grandson said clear as a bell to me, “Hi, Gigi.” That made my day, both yesterday and today – and probably tomorrow, too!

So as you can see, once you start thinking of things to be grateful for, even on a cold, wet, miserable, gray day like today, one special thought will always lead to another, and before you know it, you are smiling. At least, I am! Happy Monday!

Are You Finding Peace or Avoiding Life?

Virginia Woolf once said, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” And of course, she is right. Peace as we generally think of it can be elusive at best, changing with circumstances and mood. But true peace, lasting peace, is earned through the hard work that comes with facing and walking through life’s challenges.

The trouble is “finding peace” can look an awful lot like avoiding life.

We “keep the peace” by avoiding difficult decisions, delicate discussions, and painful circumstances. We “make peace” with something that if we were honest about it, we would admit makes us uncomfortable, angry, or discouraged. We search for “inner peace” by creating a facade of outer peace rather than risking a painful encounter or conflict. We content ourselves with being “at peace” with something, though this “peace at any price” comes at the expense of what our gut is telling us — until finally we “rest in peace” after possibly never really living at all.

Honestly, I am as guilty as anyone of avoiding the messiness of life under the guise of “finding peace”. In fact, I have probably raised avoidance to an art form. But “peace of mind” (and heart and soul and spirit) cannot be found through avoidance. Life has a way of leaking into our facades no matter how carefully we try to contain it.

So what are the choices?

  • Let go entirely. Drop the issue, the relationship, the job, the friendship — just walk away. But this strategy can feel like giving up, and worse, giving up on something or someone worth keeping. It doesn’t result in peace, but in a constant state of wondering, “what if”.
  • Lie to yourself. Hide behind being busy. Tell yourself that really everything is OK, there’s nothing wrong, it’s all good and you are doing all that you can do. A very wise friend tells me often that it is impossible to lie to yourself, but I am not so sure we don’t try. Either way, though, this strategy is nothing more than a band-aid and there will be no peace.
  • Have a plan for dealing with the issue — but at some nebulous time in the future. Think “if this happens, then I’ll do that” or “I’ll give it until (fill in any date or circumstance) and then I’ll decide what to do.” While this strategy can allow you to feel a temporary moment of peace, it doesn’t work in the long-term. The plan will need to be constantly revised, the timeframe pushed back, and the terms re-negotiated with yourself — not a peaceful process, to be sure.
  • Acknowledge the issue and its context before taking steps toward the outcome you want. Recognizing the issue and defining its context is half the battle. Maybe you want a new job, but you are afraid to leave the security of the one you have. Acknowledging the issue of wanting new employment and the context of fear allows for a manageable approach. You can address the fears as they arise and watch them dissipate as you begin to achieve your goal.

Obviously, the last choice is the best choice.

Virginia Woolf was correct that real peace does not come from avoiding the trials of life. It comes from meeting those challenges and growing through them!

Monday Morning Inspiration: Ten Blessings

“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” — Buddha

It’s Monday morning and here in Illinois, we are beginning our fifth week of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. It is gray and cold, and the wind is literally howling. The word ‘bleak’ comes to mind. It’s a good morning for a little inspiration, so challenge accepted!

After a little bit of thought, here are ten blessings that I recognize on this otherwise bleak Monday morning:

  1. I am inside. No kidding – the wind is howling and it is 35 degrees. I am on my couch with blanket and a cat as I write this. Blessed, indeed!
  2. I have nowhere to go. Normally at this point, I’d welcome a place to go, but see #1. It is also a blessing to have to stay home.
  3. I have recognized that lack of time is not really an excuse for why certain things are never done (cleaning out closets, for example), and this leaves me free to discover what my real reason for procrastinating is. Truth and clarity are blessings, too, right?
  4. I have accepted that certain projects (cleaning out closets, for example) don’t inspire me and I am likely to continue procrastinating. Acceptance is a beautiful thing.
  5. I have learned to effortlessly use Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Marco Polo to stay in touch with family and friends. In some cases, we’ve talked more since the quarantine began than we did before. Win-win!
  6. I have come to appreciate the simple act of running errands. Everything from grocery store runs to Home Depot – these little “chores” are so taken for granted, and while maybe they are not “blessings”, I am ready to embrace them again.
  7. Conversely, I also appreciate being able to order anything from groceries, garden soil, and tonight’s dinner online. I have discovered services like Instacart (that I will continue to use when life gets busy), and local restaurants that have already become favorites. We are blessed to have all these options even when isolated.
  8. I am picking up old hobbies again, which has been fun. To have a stretch of uninterrupted time to make a mess with craft supplies, sewing, or painting is a total luxury. Do we really need a pandemic to allow ourselves this time? Lesson (and blessings) learned.
  9. Ditto with cooking. I like to bake and have found some fun desserts to make (like Umm Ali, which I will make again today). It has also been strangely entertaining to play Chopped with what is in the pantry. Creativity, no matter where it is found, is a blessing!
  10. Without the structure and busyness of a typical day, I have learned to listen to myself and as much as possible give myself what I need to manage this difficult time. This valuable lesson has been the greatest of blessings and worth the isolation and stress of the past four weeks.

Without a doubt, this time has been strange and unsettling. But as Buddha so wisely said, there are blessings in every situation, including this one. The challenge will be to remember these lessons when this stay-at-home time has passed.