Monday, November 22, 2010

The real talent in the art of Gratitude is the ability to turn an adversity into a beautiful picture. 

 Snuggled down into my warm, comfortable bed, surrounded by mounds of pillows, I always pause and connect with my Creator.  Sometimes it's just a quick peck on His heavenly cheek, but most nights, before dozing off, I review my day. If my assessment reveals something negative, pre-slumber, I place it at the top of the "to-do" pile for morning.  My nighttime ritual is naming those things that I’m grateful for within the course of that specific 24 hour period.   In the past I would robotically tick off my thanks for the obvious; the roof over my head, food in the refrigerator, my health.   I don’t want to minimize my appreciation (and relief) for those things.  I recognize they aren’t “givens” and many people, are struggling with the necessities or health issues.  The purpose of this exercise was to expand my vision and understanding of how immensely blessed I am by just about everything that life hands me.   I think the only way its possible for us to adopt this philosophy of gratitude in tough times, or with unpleasant facts, is when we recognize that we are more than these fragile bodies designed for us to move around in, during our earthly existence. I like to think of this as earth school, preparing me for something greater. When you look at challenges as mid-terms, it makes  it easier to be grateful for the learning curve knowing the outcome, someday may be an "A", as in Ah-ha- I get what that was all about!    My thankfulness these days is a byproduct of those late night rendevzous’ with my God.  Identifying blessings in what appears to be negative circumstances also brought awareness to the bigger picture.  I simply am looking at things in a profoundly different light.  It is by non-judgementally viewing my life (the result of forgiving- myself and others) with its kaleidoscope of unique, and sometimes challenging opportunities, I have been able to truly comprehend gratitude and its power to change everything. I also began to see the truth of this quote by Frank A. Clark, “ If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get." With Thanksgiving just a day away, I’ve been really thinking about those things that months ago I viewed as negative life experiences, now miraculously seen by me, as gifts.

Little Indian Maiden
My biggest gift has been time.  In my freedom from regular employment, when I finally simmered down enough to stop feeding the panic and fear with daily doses of projection, predictions, and blame, (and this took many, many months) I heard the message, “BREATHE...  Be still and know I am God.... One day at a time please.”  That’s when the adventure began.  I’ve had the opportunity to cultivate and deepen my relationships with neighbors, friends, family, and most of all my grandchildren.  Not only have I enjoyed their unique personalities, they've gotten to know their Mimi better too.  I discovered this at a recent grandparents day luncheon when my middle granddaughter, Sydney Rebecca, presented me with a paper.  It was a little story about her grandmother.  In it she says, “My grandmother is special because she is always there for me. I like it when she takes us to her house and we spend the night.  My grandmother can do many things.  I think she is best at writing books.  My grandmother is as pretty as a model.  She is so smart too.  She even knows how to speak French!” Hmmm.... Guess my use of the word “Oooolala” has lead her to believe I am bilingual!  What a joy.  The littlest one, Cameron,  has discovered I am not very good at games, but she sure appreciates the fact I’m not a sore loser as she continues to gleefully pummel me at Go Fish, Buckaroo, and Candyland.   My oldest, Alex, now knows her grandmother is a trustworthy confidante and she's opened her heart to me often in the past few months.  I am so thankful my little ladies are getting to know me too.  I don't recall even knowing what my grandmothers' favorite color was, let alone anything about who they were.  
Pre-School Thanksgiving Program
Champion Mom - 2010
My relationship with my daughter has always been close, but it too has evolved to a new level.  A mutual admiration society of two has emerged.  Because of the time we’ve spent together recently, I've been able to appreciate the enormity and responsibility of her jobs as a phenomenal wife, a community volunteer, a home-based business woman, and most important as mother/counselor/director/example to those three little girls.  I am often in awe.  She has come to appreciate a mother who despite disappointment, continues to get back up, brush off the seat of her pants, rethink the journey:  sometimes take a different path (which in itself is a great lesson) and continue moving forward, usually wiser but always more joyful.  She's getting to know a new mom who no longer feels the need to be perfect, or abandon herself in order to not feel abandoned.  Good stuff in breaking old family dysfunction and patterns.   She won’t need to try to makes sense of and discover who I was, after I am gone.  She knows. Another beautiful gift.   
I’ve also been blessed with some new friendships.  I had the time to engage with several new groups, and the result has been exposure to enlightened folks who have set the bar higher for me, encouraging me to use this time to grow my spiritual life.  Meditation, mindfulness practice, and new teachings have been the by product of these admirable new mentors that have entered my life.  My open-mindedness and willingness to step out of  the box, experiment, and try some new things, has been the result of these angels who speak to me in wisdom, and dance with me in friendship. I am very thankful for their entrance in my life. 
With money in shorter supply, I have once again found some of the simple pleasures I enjoyed so many years ago, as a young, broke adult! Cooking at home has become a soothing pleasure with yummy fruits to share.  Socializing and simple entertaining; DVD’s, games, coffee parties, community theatres, little day trips enjoying local scenic spots and picturesque people. These things have provided me with more pleasure than the extraveganza of world travel, dining, and big events in the company of all “the wrong people.” As trite as it sounds, these small pleasures have been some of my best, especially when indulged with loved ones or interesting, like-minded, souls. I feel the pull to continue to seek the simplicity. Downsizing is the buzz word these days and the politically correct thing to do and that also applies to my activities.   
I am immensely thankful to my God for helping me rediscover a true love from my childhood, buried deep beneath layers of not enough time, insecurity, and old tapes that lied to me about my talent and its value.  Writing.  I loose track of my days as thoughts and words spill out onto paper.  It’s like having a brand new lover that I can’t get enough of... getting lost in the eyes of the moments, that slip too quickly by.  My mind is obsessed with ideas that seem to flow 24-7, and I can’t wait to sit down and be together again with my paintbrush and palette of words as often as possible. 
Who would have thought I would end the year being thankful for a little weight gain!?  Amazing, but I am.  It's challenged me to think about the spiritual connection between my soul and my body. There seemed to be a short circuit there. Years of thinking my body belonged to everyone but me, and others opinions, desires, and needs were more important,  have finally ended.  I decide what I want it to look like.  I decide how it feels to me. I decide who I share it with.  It no longer must fit inside the circumference of society’s absurd standards, photo shopped perfection sneering at me everywhere I look.  I'm making a decision to make no more contributions to the mega wealthy diet industry.  My days will not be made (or broken) by the number on the scale, or the size of my pants. I refuse to allow an occasional bowl of cookie dough ice cream, guilt me into thinking less of myself. Or, think more of myself because my will power allowed me to starve myself into a slinky dress for an occassion or someone else.  And, I am really not all that  interested in hanging with people who view the blessing of delicious food as the enemy. I am done with diets, deprivation, starvation, medicating with food, eating away my emotions, or harming myself in any way.  I could go on and on, about this subject, but that’s a post for another day. These days I am simply trying to honor this earthly body that allows me to enjoy the gifts of being a human while ethically recognizing it also houses my Creator. It's respectful of me to take care of it in healthy ways, through moderation, sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. I believe by treating my body, and Him respectfully, diets and weight gain will never have to be a part of my world again. Most important, that seems to me to be a tangible way of reverently, thanking Him.  And, this awareness is indeed a huge gift! 
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for every moment of my life.  The setbacks, the rejections, the lessons, the stillness, the abundance, the evolution, the delight.... life itself on its terms rather than life defined by my ego.  So many things I never thought I could possibly be thankful for. The country song by Garth Brooks rings in my head, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers"........ I clearly don't always know what's best for me.   I’ve pieced together a whole lot of words to express it here.  This post could have been quite modest if I would have followed the wisdom of Meister Eckhart who said, “ If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.  
May you always locate your blessings, whether they be out in the open, or in hiding, waiting for you to find them!  I wish for you the kind of abundance that overflows in your life, and spills into others.  Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  ~William Arthur Ward