“One of our most popular activities has become the acquisition of things. In our consumer society, feelings of depression, meaninglessness, and despair are widespread. These feelings can be reflective of what’s missing in our society. We often lack gratitude for all the things, material and immaterial available to us. Changing our perspective, so that we enjoy and focus on what we already have, we feel better. This enables us to have more compassion and understanding for those who have less than we do. Usually we only become aware of our good fortune when there’s a threat of losing it due to illness, old age, death or conflict.” ~ Annabelle Zinser, Small Bites-Mindfulness for Everyday Use
Okay here is my answer in one breath:
I would want the world to know that though life has been series of ups and downs, with lots of in-betweens, I would not have missed the wonderful times though they were dispersed with the not so wonderful; I am lucky to have had wonderful parents; I have the best siblings (and their mates) in the world; I love all my nieces and nephews; I married my high school crush and we continue to this day to be in love; I am blessed with two sons that I love to bits; I cherish my friends and fellow bloggers; and I am happy to have been able to express myself in words….
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” ~ Cicero
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. Eat, drink and be merry, because the holiday season is upon us.
“It’s all very hard, but there’s a lot of collateral beauty along the way.”
This quote is in Adair Lara’s book, “Naked, Drunk, and Writing” (a wonderful book for all you writers out there). She does not take credit for it, saying that she read it somewhere. But I find it a very apt definition of Life. Life is hard, no doubt, but it is accompanied by splendour.
There are a few things that make life, shall we say ~ challenging. But today, after seeing the devastation wrought by Sandy (the name should have been less friendly—something like Satana) I am grateful for what I have.
We had a few hours without electricity, which makes me aware that I was merely inconvenienced. There are people who are in danger and in the dark, and it may take weeks for the situation to reach any kind of remedy.
There is no understanding the ravages of nature—it is not something we can do anything about. We can learn from what has happened—we can prepare—but these things are a fact of life at its hardest.
I saw people going through garbage for food. I saw people lined up waiting to get gas. I saw people surviving with nothing. And I saw people helping people.
I see the media drawing attention to things that may be otherwise undetected. I see celebrities trying to do something to help those afflicted “Rise Up”. I see people who were not touched by the devastation helping people who are.
I really do not know how to end this—so I am going to leave you with a couple more quotes that may in their own tiny way help:
“Life is like an impromptu recipe—you make the best out of what ingredients you have on hand.” ~Laura Kalkadian, from American Cookery: A Novel
From what I can see on the news, people are making the best of their situation–people are forming families of neighbours and friends to help them through, and they will Rise Up again. But it is not going to be easy and there will be, right beside the good–the bad and the ugly. People on the whole, will make the best of what they have, will share, and strangers will be turned into friends.
How are you dealing with the aftermath of Sandy?
“Nothing is worth more than this day.” ~ Goethe
Go gently into this good Sunday. That is what I am going to try to do. It is early—4:21 a.m. and it is moving day. I am going to go gently into this day, knowing that it is going to be a long, busy, trying and emotional day. In a few hours we will be loading up the truck and finding our way back to my youngest son’s home away from home. His house is only two blocks from his college—so today these are the things I am grateful for:
1. Tyler is just a hop, skip and a jump from his front door to the college, which means he can get up a half hour before classes, get ready and get to school on time (unless of course he has to wash his hair).
2. He bought himself a new bike for $40 from a charity store—so not only did he help someone out with his purchase, if something happens to his bike then he is not out much. And it is a pretty darn good bike, though not shiny and new.
3. He will be fulfilling a challenge and reaching a goal. How can I complain about that?
Yes, I will miss him. But this is just one more journey of life. I do not always like the bumpy roads on our journey, but I respect the fact that they have to be traversed.
I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of people telling me to live in the now, enjoy the present, don’t look back, don’t look too far ahead…you know the drill. But, what I am not sick of is the fact that they have a point.
It is August, it is still summer, yet our minds are jetting off to school, and thinking about Thanksgiving (after all in Canada it is in October, and early this year even for us) and Halloween. I am surprised the Christmas hullabaloo hasn’t started yet. It is only August 25th, people! Let’s slow down, roll the clock back to today’s date and simmer down.
I have a friend who tried to buy some lawn chairs the other day and was told at the hardware store that they are now putting their winter stuff out. It is August for goodness sake—and in this area we could have warm weather for at least two more months. Last Thanksgiving I remember cooking a turkey on a day that reached temps in the 80’s (or high 20’s for those of us in Canada who think in Celsius—I still have to convert.)
Today I am going to be grateful for
1. The fact that we really have almost a month of summer left. It does not stop at Labour Day. Now summer is not my favourite time of year, and I admit I have been trying to rush summer along to get to my favourite season, but for now, I am going to stop, and live here, today, in August.
2. Not having to don a coat and mittens and boots to go out the door. Just put on a pair of flip flops and go!
3. The fact that my AC has frozen up. This gives me even more of a chance to bask in this lovely season of summer. (I am ironically grateful for this.)
So, what was this post about? Live in the now, enjoy the present, don’t look back, and don’t look too far ahead. (Here I am, being ironic again!)
Being thankful is a good thing—but it can also be maudlin. Now there is nothing wrong with maudlin—it serves its purpose when it is not defined as syrupy and overemotional or sappy and saccharine (which reminds me, I have to get my diabetic husband more sweetener). Okay, so maudlin is not the best thing to be. In order to combat it, today I am going to be grateful for things that cannot be defined as maudlin.
1. I am grateful that I have big ants infesting my kitchen rather than little ones. I am so grateful for them that I have taken to naming them. Yesterday, my eldest son killed Frank by mistake. The funeral is tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.
2. I am grateful for the goofy pictures of my kids that I get to look at over my laptop. No silly smiles on their faces. The picture of Adam says to me: “Get this over with, I have places to go, people to see” and the one of Tyler shows him with his mouth open somewhat like that famous painting “The Scream”.
3. I am grateful that I have one rum raspberry cooler left in the fridge, awaiting me when I come home tonight after covering a municipal council meeting which will be long, but inevitably give me a chance to doodle to my heart’s content when they discuss drainage and sewage issues.
Just because I am not being maudlin in this post does not guarantee that I will not be sappy and mawkish in a future gratitude post ~ so enjoy today if you don’t like the overly sentimental.
Three for Sunday, July 29, 2012:
“The memoir is literally the shape you give to the past, but how might an understanding of the past shape the future?” ~ Laura Kalkakian, The Memoir Club: a novel
“Life is like an impromptu recipe~you make the best out of what ingredients you have on hand.” ~ Laura Kalkakian, American Cookery: a novel
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life… It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie, an American author
My favourites from Saskia Davis’s12 Symptoms of Inner Peace:
1. An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
3. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
4. A loss of interest in judging other people.
5. A loss of interest in judging self.
7. A loss of ability to worry.
8. Frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
10. Frequent bouts of smiling.
“I am a busy person.” ~ Sophie
Thank Sophie. She is the reason that Richard Wiseman decided to come up with some alternative ways to achieve happiness without spending forty years in therapy, six months in an experiential study, or half a million dollars at a spa. Sophie asked Wiseman what he thought of the “self-help happiness industry”. She had just purchased a book on the subject and was curious about his take on the subject. Apparently in response, he sunk his teeth deftly but deeply into the topic and provided her with some of the complex academic works on happiness he was familiar with.
Sophie stopped him in his tracks, told him she was a “busy person” and asked him if he could come up with “some effective advice that didn’t take quite so much time to implement”. He asked her how long. She said: “About a minute.” So he rose to the challenge and produced the book, “59 Seconds – Think A Little, Change A Lot.”
This little book is a gem of down-sized knowledge. It includes all kinds of tests and some myth busters, with a little genuine state-of-the-art scientific knowledge to boot. Wiseman is undeniably smart. After all he is Britain’s only Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, and has an international reputation for doing research in unusual areas.
If you are a “busy person” like Sophie, you can skip to the last chapter of his book, aptly named “Conclusions” where Wiseman provides 10 ways that have been scientifically studied and verified to bring happiness to your life. He says he is quite sure that he could “on a good day….describe all ten in just under a minute”. I have chosen five for your immediate consumption, and if you are curious, you can pick his book up and find out what the other five are. And if you are not too busy, you might read the whole 296 pages of his tiny tome.
Without further ado, the teaser tips are:
1. Develop the Gratitude Attitude. Nothing new here, but it bears repetition. He says you should list three things that you are grateful for each day, and by the end of the month you will be “more optimistic about the future”.
2. Be a giver. Apparently even the smallest acts of kindness produce a fast-acting and significant boost in happiness. (something like an antacid).
3. Hang a mirror in your kitchen. People who do this have a 32% reduction in their consumption of unhealthy food. (I will not be doing this.)
4. Buy a potted plant—it reduces stress and induces good moods, which promotes creativity. (Unless, of course, you are like me and forget to water it, and it dies, which then produces a sense of both guilt and failure.)
5. Touch people slightly on the upper arm. It makes people more likely to agree to a request because the touch is unconsciously perceived as a sign of high status. (I might be selective in just whom I would choose to practice this on.)
A really easy way to be happy is to behave like a happy person. And if you need some help, Wiseman recommends that you clench a pencil between your teeth, which forces the lower part of your face into a smile. He believes people who force their faces into a smile feel happier.
My suggestion? Do this pencil trick in public, thereby not only making yourself smile, but others too—because you will look funny.