"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, November 23, 2014

In a New Light

Today I am grateful for warmer weather, family time, and good pizza. I am also grateful for the perspective I am given when I consider others and daily gifts before I consider my frustrations and wants.

Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree and other decorations. We enjoy doing that together and usually do it about a month out from Christmas. I have plenty to say about what is disturbing and concerning about the ever-increasing marketing and advertising surrounding Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, but I will save that for another day. Today I choose to write about one of my favorite holiday traditions.

Tradition is a good thing and it doesn't require any shopping. The only cost need be our time. And what better place to give our time than to family? Bringing out the totes of lights and decorations, enjoying the cooperative nature of my husband and son as they assemble the tree and add the lights, family holiday heirlooms that bring memories of loved ones and our younger days. We added a new twist this year with helping my stepdaughter Emily decorate her apartment for the season too.

One of my favorite things each year when we decorate is enjoying the new light that envelops the rooms of our home. The colorful lights of our big tree. The blue lights of a smaller white tree. The candles that send off a calming glow. I love this new light each holiday season. I love getting up, turning the tree lights on, and sitting quietly in the warmth and peace.

In a new light. Just for today.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Pattern of Blessing

Today I am grateful for sleeping in and for eggnog. I am also grateful for friends who trust me and count on me. It goes both ways.

A quote from my gratitude journal has been hanging out in my head in recent weeks.

"Taken separately, the experiences of life can work harm and not good. Taken together, they make a pattern of blessing and strength the like of which the world does not know." (V. Raymond Brown)

Woven throughout my life are both challenges and triumphs, joys and sorrows. It takes all kinds of life experiences to create a meaningful life. It takes tough situations to teach us what we can only learn through the struggle. It takes joyful times to open our hearts and souls to the wonders of life.

I consider my life to be deep in meaning, rich in blessings. I know the joy of love, marriage, motherhood, recovery, serenity, friendship. I have experienced the pure energy of a marathon completed and the amazement of a writing that flowed right out of my soul.

Yet, I have known dark self-hatred and paralyzing self-pity. I have known the grief of loss and the fear of deadly diseases.

All these diverse experiences have been woven together to create the life I know and love today, to create a pattern uniquely beautiful. Only with the help of faith in a Higher Power and regular practice of gratitude am I able to see the beauty.

Gratefulness doesn't make me immune to the struggles and challenges, it helps me through them. It helps me weave a stronger thread of meaning throughout the moments and hours of my life.

What do you see in your pattern of blessings?

Friday, November 21, 2014

A New Pair

Today I am grateful to be able to get new prosthetics locally and I am also grateful that recovery has taught me to take life one day at a time, one hour at a time.

On Friday I got a new pair of breast prosthetics. I was overdue for an update. This is just my third pair since my bilateral mastectomies nearly 6 years ago. I don't wear them all the time, so I am able to extend their life.I kept the appointment short. Same size. Pick out a couple new mastectomy bras. Thanks and I'll be on my way.

Thanks and I'll be on my way. It gave me pause to consider a few things. How grateful I am to be here, healthy and living life, when tens of thousands of other women and men have died of cancer in the years since my diagnosis, treatment, and surgeries. Life is precious. Life is fragile. Each day is a gift, make the most of it.

How affirmed I am in my choice to not have reconstruction. It was the best choice for me and I don't regret it. I like to have the options I do. Prosthetics when I need them and flat and free when I want. My hope for every woman facing this difficult decision is that they have the information they need, and the time to do their own decision-making, so that the decision is the one they feel most comfortable with. And believe me, "most comfortable with" is a very relative terms in these circumstances.

How breast reconstruction is not a "boob job." How insensitive it can be when someone tells a breast cancer patient "well, at least you can get a free boob job."  Really? "Today's special: along with your very frightening cancer diagnosis, we can offer you breasts that will never sag."  These are personal journeys with very personal decisions and plenty of steps, pain (physical and emotional), appointments, time, healing. Please don't make light of it all.

I am thankful for where I am at today, thinking back to six years ago when I was just weeks away from my mastectomies. I try to keep it all in perspective.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Carbonated Holiness"

Today I am grateful for one breath at a time. I am also grateful for the conversations Darcy and I have.

Yesterday's "Word of the Day" at www.gratefulness.org was this short zinger
from Anne Lamott:

"Laughter is carbonated holiness." 

I love Anne Lamott, her sense of humor, and her faith-filled wisdom. To read more about my favorite author, try here and here. But sometimes I find laughter hard to come by, or painful to listen to. It is a good barometer for me. When I feel that way, I need to lighten up, not take life and myself too seriously. I need to accept more and expect less.

The use of the word "carbonated" brings to mind "fizz" and "flat" as well. Will there be fizz and liveliness in my day today or a flat and disengaged demeanor? That is up to me. Starting my day with prayer, meditation, and some gratitude practice sets me up for more fizz than flat.

I appreciate Lamott's use of the word "holiness" too. Like spirituality, holiness can have a broader meaning and reach. This quote helps me think about the holiness of those individuals who are laughing, sharing joy, releasing stress in a healthy way. It also helps me think about the wide reach of God or Higher Power. I believe that this higher force, whatever you wish to call it, resides in each of us as well as around us in nature, our pets, the air we breathe.

When I look at it that way, I feel a connectedness and a compassion for others. I feel a deepening gratitude to be a small part of a larger wonder.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Speaking of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for a good cup of coffee and for help from my colleagues Paul, Stephanie, and Sarah.

I have been writing about gratitude for many years, and blogging about it for well over two years. I have been practicing it in my own life going on twenty years. But speaking about gratitude to others in a group setting has been a newer experience for me. I have appreciated each opportunity in this area.

Yesterday the opportunity included speaking to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders about things like positive psychology, resilience, "circles of support," and the proven overall health benefits of things like gratitude practice and meditation. I think it went well and I hope each student walked away with something to ponder or put into use.

It gave me the chance to hone my words and discussion to a different age level than I had previously spoken to. I appreciated that. Every effort to prepare such presentations teaches me more and further affirms the value of gratitude practice and the growing science behind it.

My colleague Paul helped by leading guided meditation with three different groups. His presence and experience in this area helped make it a worthwhile experience for all the students. Stephanie and Sarah helped by facilitating a session where students put gratitude practice into action by writing thank yous and choosing some other options. None of us were sure how this time would go, but their willingness to embrace this activity with the students helped make it a success as well. A big thanks to all three of you!

And the students came through with their cooperation and their genuine efforts to do what we asked them to do.

Speaking of gratitude...it has made all the difference in my life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"In the morning, I wake up . . . "

Today I am grateful for working heat in my car. I am also grateful for the new day ahead, and for the opportunities that await me, one hour at a time.

This was the quote in my gratitude journal today:

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to live on this beautiful and astonishing planet Earth. In the morning, I wake up with a sense of gratitude."  (Earl Nightingale)

This morning, I woke up early and tired. I had a work event last evening and have presentations to give to middle school students today. Between thinking about those two, my sleep was far from peaceful.

I begin each day with some gratitude focus and intentional practice. If I don't wake up with a sense of gratitude, I try to cultivate it early. There is more fertile ground for cultivating this morning, even in my tired state, because the presentations I am giving to students have to do with gratitude practice and related positive benefits. I am both curious how it will go and excited to be discussing these ideas with them.

I appreciate the reminder of "this beautiful and astonishing planet Earth" as well. I am but a small part of an amazing whole. But I am. I exist. Like the trees in our yard exist. Like the snow on the grass exists. It is humbling and inspiring all at once to consider nature and how everything flows.

And I close with being "being grateful for the opportunity to live."  If I wake up dreading the day, I am missing opportunities and zapping energy. If I wake up looking forward to the day, I seize opportunities and create energy.

I look forward to this day. I hope you are looking forward to it too. Have a good one!

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Go with the flow" or thrash?

Today I am grateful for lessons in compassion and acceptance. I am also grateful for the wonderful father my husband is to all three of his children.

Some recovery friends and I were discussing the line "go with the flow" the other day. I like that phrase and the way it reminds me to accept, to let life unfold as it should instead of forcing it. The analogy of a river came up. Am I going along with the current or am I swimming upstream? Am I thrashing or floating?

When put that way, why would anyone choose thrashing? Why would anyone exhaust themselves by swimming upstream?  But we do. I do for sure. It is part of my humanness. I don't always accept present circumstances calmly. I don't always trust that things will work out. I don't always possess the requisite amount of patience. I try to control. I think too much. I try too hard. I let my fears and my wrong-sized ego take over. I begin thrashing.

How does one slow the thrashing and allow the floating? Pause. Pray. Step back. Listen. Be quiet. Those are all a start in the right direction anyway. So is considering the present moment and what there is to be grateful for in it. Just the here and now. That's where I can catch the flow and join it.