"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March In, March On

Today I am grateful for the bird I heard singing this morning and for some good rest this weekend.

I am also grateful that I got to see my friend Sara and her husband Jason twice in the last two days. Our cancer stories crossed paths in 2008 and today we are both healthy. What a blessing!

It was fitting to usher in March with birdsong as I walked Oliver this morning. February was very busy and full. The light was slowly returning, but now that March is here, there is real hope for warmer days and new life.

I love the changing seasons and always seem to be ready for the next one. I am certainly ready for spring. March will also bring new life to our family as we await the arrival of our first grandchild.

As March comes in I can also see the end of a very busy school year on the horizon. There is still plenty to unfold in this year, but June doesn't look as far away as it did in September. It has been a really good year in many respects and I am ever hopeful for an even better year next year. But it has been exhausting and it has had some stressful aspects, so in that respect it will be a good year to finish out.

March is in and the best we can do is march on. Each day. Each hour. If the discipline of living a life of recovery from alcoholism and the discipline of regular gratitude practice have taught me anything, they have taught me to keep marching foward in the present. To not dwell on the past and its regrets. To not get ahead of myself and live in fear and worry of the future. Simply to march forward and take the next right action.

It works, when I am in a mindful enough state to do it. That takes practice. More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Early Mornings

Today I am grateful for smooth-writing pens. I am also grateful for my dad and the difference he made in my life.

I always think of my dad on this day, February 28, his birthday.
We miss you and we love you.

Early mornings are typically my favorite time of the day. The house is quiet. I am refreshed from sleeping. I have always been a morning person. I don't see that changing. I enjoy the time with our dog Oliver, that first sip of coffee, a morning workout, and more.

When there is a lot to be done, whether work-related, family, writing or other, I will sometimes wake up earlier than my usual early. My brain engages and starts ticking off all the things I need to do, and the sleeping is pretty much done. There have been many mornings like that this school year, and most days this week were like that. I like my early mornings, but too many of them exhaust me.

I am a little exhausted and tapped out this morning, but one thing gratitude practice allows me is enough energy to face a new day with hope and appreciate it for what it is-the present, the only thing we really have.

What is your favorite time of the day? Why are you grateful for it?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Some Sun and Some Grapes

Today I am grateful for my job, my co-workers, the students and parents I get to work with. I am also grateful for the week's end during a very busy week.

Yesterday I wrote about "the expansive exploration of spirituality."
The quote below from Galileo is fitting:

"The Sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen 
a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."  
(Galileo Galilei)

That is the essence of expansive spirituality. The amazing energy of the sun and a little bunch of grapes ripening. A God or Higher Power who can do all things but still takes time to remind me of my priorities.

Exploring my gratefulness is also an ongoing spiritual expansion. It does indeed unlock the great fullnes of life. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spiritual

Today I am grateful for the spiritual growth I have had and continue to have. I am also grateful for smiles-my own and those of others.

Spiritual health is an area that used to confuse and frustrate me. At times I didn't care and I equated spirituality with religion, which I was tired of. At other times I wanted answers to tough questions. I wanted to understand what it took to find spirituality. Like many other things in my life, about the time I stopped trying so hard is about the time I started knowing my soul, the base of my spirituality.

Today I don't consider myself a religious person. The rituals and the regimen seem too narrow to me. I like an expansive exploration of spirituality. It is good to start from a place of humility. I take less for granted--things like my physical health, my recovery from addiction, the gratitude practice that encompasses all of it.

But some of the practices of my religious upbringing are a valuable part of my spirituality today. One of those is praying on my knees. Many days that is how I start my day. It is a place of humility as I mention above.

I am excited about the potential that is found in exploring and expanding my spirituality today. A Higher Power and many others help me, sometimes with concerted effort, sometimes by chance.

Earlier this week, this quote was the "Word of the Day" on www.gratefulness.org

"O Great Spirit, I awake to another sun, grateful for gifts bestowed, granted one by one."
(Twylah Nitsch, Seneca medicine woman)

To pause at the start of a new day is to put myself on a healthy spiritual plane. That allows the rest of my being--physical, mental, and emotional--to also be put on a healthier plane. It's a good place to start. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Emotional

Today I am grateful for the peace that can be found in silence. I am also grateful for a closet full of clothes.

Thoughts and prayers for my brother-in-law Clay as he recovers from extensive surgery.

Emotional health has to do with feelings, the whole range of feelings. Life will give us plenty of ups and downs, triumphs and struggles. Emotional health means I acknowledge that range and honor the variety. Painful emotions are just that-painful. But if we never knew pain, how could we appreciate joy?

Some will go to great lengths to avoid pain or protect others from pain, and in actuality create more pain for everyone around them. Emotional pain is a powerful motivator. It can tell us it is time to leave an unhealthy relationship. It can tell us it us time to get sober and make healthier choices. It can tell us acceptance is the answer.

Some will search endlessly for joy and happiness and miss the joy and happiness right in front of them, here and now. We shouldn't have to chase joy. It finds us.

Those are some of my random thoughts on emotional health. I am grateful I can better identify my feelings, spend less time in the painful ones, and more quickly recognize the little joys in each day.

Gratitude practice helps me generate more positive emotions, helping create more physical and spiritual energy and giving my mind a productive focus and direction.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mental

Today I am grateful for people who care about me and people I care about. I am also grateful for healthier thought processes.

Mental wellness has to do with my thought processes and my thoughts. Are my thoughts negative and defeating or are they positive and forward-moving? Can I think clearly or do I get hung up on a few thoughts and keep replaying them? Are my thoughts calming me or agitating me? These are all useful questions.

When it comes to my thoughts, I used to be my own worst enemy, and then some. I got really good at beating myself up. I finally learned a key lesson-whether you think you are worse than others or better than others, those are both functions of ego. (And even though I hated myself on some levels, I also had self-righteousness that told me I was right and someone else wasn't.)

It has taken training, effort, and time to shift my thoughts from less healthy and irrational ones to more healthy and rational ones. The work continues, but I feel confident saying that my default mode has changed from pessimistic to optimistic in terms of my thinking patterns.

One of the things I did years ago, a few years into sobriety, and on the advice of a recovery friend, was write down several positive affirmations on a piece of paper. Just writing them down was a start. I carried them around in my pocket for months. I read them several times a day. I committed them to memory and said them in the shower in the morning. I rewrote them on a new piece of paper when the other one got too tattered. That is what it took.

I still remember some of the affirmations on that list:
"I am lovable and capable."
"I am personable and likeable."
"I do love myself."
"I am loved by others."
"I am worthy of that love."

I couldn't simply think my way into better thoughts. I had to take actions like the writing and repeating.

Today I know that healthy thoughts lead to motivating energy, which makes me more likely to feel better, move more, and appreciate more. I'm not there all day,every day, but I am there far more than I ever used to be. For that I am so grateful.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Physical

Today I am grateful for my physical body-scars and imperfections, working limbs and joints. I am grateful this earthly vehicle allows me mobility and an active lifestyle.

It promises to be a full week and I will need plenty of energy to move through each hour, each day as the week goes on. Much of the busy pace has to do with work. The student group I advise is sponsoring Wellness Week 2015 this week. The group has done this for several years now, bringing focus to and raising awareness about overall wellness. Focal points range from eating healthy, to stress reduction, to depression awareness and suicide prevention, to exercise.

Teens and people of all ages can benefit from consideration of how our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are interrelated. I likened wellness to a 4-legged stool in this post a year ago. It is something I have come to know and appreciate more in recent years, and for me it is all tied together with gratefulness.

So today let's consider physical wellness. When we talk about health it is often what people first think about. Over the course of my life, I think I have done more good for my physical health than harm, but there has certainly been some of both. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol to excess were obvious harms. As an intense teen, I also would sometimes hit myself in frustration and anger, enough to leave bruises or sore spots. I usually did this in response to a failure of some kind during athletic contests (a missed shot or a strikeout perhaps) and also when I was full of drunken self-hatred.

Today I could be better about getting enough sleep and not eating too many sweets, but I am so grateful the drinking, smoking, and hitting are only distant memories.

What I am consistently good about is moving my body, getting adequate exercise. Exercise creates energy for me. It clears my thoughts, boosts positive emotions (endorphins are free and very effective) and gives me ample sources of gratitude.

I have run 12 marathons. It has been well over six years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I am NED (no evidence of disease). I can get out of bed in the morning. I can take the laundry to the basement. I am blessed in so many ways.

Today I will pay attention to my physical body and what it provides and makes possible.
I will remember those who have physical pain and limitations and wish them comfort today.