Gratitude, Silliness, and the Lessening of Obscene Hand Gestures

A few months ago I joined a gratitude group. Yes, I know it’s all a little woo woo, but for this recovering cynic, staying positive can be pretty hard work. So when I heard some friends were starting a group all about thankfulness, I was totally in. I love journaling about the happy things in my life, but because I’m only accountable to myself, I tend to let the task slide in favor of seemingly more fun items (like rewatching the entire Fringe series from beginning to end because I’d forgotten how incredibly hot Pacey Witter Peter Bishop looks in a sharp peacoat). Soon I’m grumpy, surly and an all around Grinch, and before you can say “Are you PMSing or something, Megan?” I remember I haven’t been very grateful lately. Mystery solved. Someone call Angela Lansbury.

So I joined this gratitude group and basically we just send little messages to each other via Facebook where we tell the others something we’re grateful for that particular day. Everyone comments on each other’s sharing and it’s really quite lovely and uplifting. Sometimes I share simple things, like when Tate finally napped or when Lulu rode her two-wheeler for the first time. Other times I share deeply personal items, like when I looked around me and realized my life, which was in such chaos not so long ago, felt good and real for the first time in a long, long time.

I don’t know when gratitude changed my life, but I’m sure that it has. A few days ago, a car cut me off on the highway and instead of honking my horn and waving obscene hand gestures, I took a deep breath and told myself that person must be on the way to something really important. Maybe their wife was in labor or maybe their kid was throwing up at the nurse’s office in school? Who knows? I just sent a little prayer into Universe that they get wherever they are headed safely. I know, right? I can’t believe myself either. Who am I?!

I can tell you I am not a person for whom this comes easily, and I’m just as likely as you to scoff at the silliness of it. But I’m also a person whose blood pressure is lower and sleeps better at night. My brain is not wild with the craziness of the ungrateful (and therefore always needing MORE MORE MORE) person I was before. I am not looking to fill some hole in my life with more stuff or more people or more food or more throw pillows or more blog posts…I’m all filled up. Is this because of gratitude? Maybe. Can I prove it? Nope. But I’m gonna keep my glass half-full anyway, just in case.

@dallasclayton just gets it. #rainbows

Image by Dallas Clayton

The Secret

Untitled

I was tagged by a friend for a gratitude challenge on Facebook, and while I know I’m supposed to list out things I’m grateful for today, I don’t know how to limit myself to only a few. My life is so full, so silly wonderful, narrowing it down would be impossible. I believe we go through hard times and struggle so we can fully appreciate it when life is good. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember on the darker days, of which this past year I’ve had many, but then, one day, the sun comes out. And holy wow, life is good. Not perfect, not even close, but incredibly lovely in all its imperfection.

Today I spent the entire day with my family. It was heaven. There was the cider mill and the bike rides and the dog park and the book store and the fire pit and the leaves crunching and the eating on the patio. There were runny noses and skinned knees and bad directions and turning at the wrong (right?) corner and I’m right/you’re wrong’s and I’m sorry’s and I love you’s. I ended my day swinging in a hammock with my husband, wrapped up in a pink snuggie and watching my kids perform a play about ninjas they created in the backyard. This was life today. As I write this I’m snuggled up with a cup of warm apple cider and a pumpkin candle filling my room. My dog hasn’t even eaten any of my shoes today!

Tomorrow might be hard. Yesterday may have been the worst. But right now, today, I am so grateful. My tank is full. It isn’t always easy, but as long as I stick with gratitude, service to others, and connection through my spirituality, I’m good. I don’t need much else.

I hope wherever you’re at today, whether it’s dark or light, you can find a small thing to be grateful for. Gratitude changes everything. Trust me, I’m a certified reformed cynic who is surprisingly… actually… really… truly… happy.

xoxo,
Megan

Family Goal Night

Goals Board2

There is nothing that makes me more anxious or feel more like a kid pretending to be a grown up than “goal-setting.” Am I right? For a recovering perfectionist like me, setting goals has become one of my most difficult tasks. In the past, setting a goal meant I had to accomplish said goal (in record time, with pizazz and sparklers) or else the whole practice was a total bust. Not achieving my goals equaled failure, which was obviously not an option. So when I decided to change my life, and become someone who is more satisfied with what she has and who she is, instead of what she wants and who she wants to be…well, goal-setting became a bit of a challenge. How was I supposed to have goals, but also be satisfied with where I am right now? Am I complacent? Am I passive?

One book that really helped me move forward and get to a place where I wasn’t asking myself hypothetical questions all day was The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. This book has been recommended to me a zillion times, but this summer I finally picked it up from my local library. I loved it. The way that Ms. Rubin breaks down goals into monthly mini-goals, and also changes the language around goal-setting (calling them “resolutions” instead of goals, as resolutions are something you are continuously working toward, while goals are something you check off your to-do list), which helped me immensely. After reading The Happiness Project and downloading some of the materials of Rubin’s website, I felt ready to move ahead.

Thus entered Family Goal Night! Trent is a huge fan of goals and goal-measurement, so he was thrilled I was finally on-board with the idea of “family goals.” We both did research on the best ways to present and create goals as a family and as individuals, then we scheduled a night for us all to work on the project as a family. We all went to our local craft store and picked up poster board, a million stickers, glitter glue, and anything else that got the kids excited to work on this project. We ended up creating a crazy goal board, which was designed mostly by the kids and is completely nuts and wonderful. Sure, it’s no Martha Stewart creation, but that wasn’t the point! We wanted the kids to have ownership over the board and be excited about it, and by letting them go to town with the glitter glue, we got just that. We hung the board right by our garage door, where we leave the house every day and can see it.

Each of us decided to take on three goals and to work toward them for the next three months. Trent fixed whiteboard calendars to the Goal Board, where we can track our progress. All of our goals are different, but reflect who we are and our level of understanding. For example, my three goals are:

1. Declutter the House
2. More Date Nights with Trent
3. Revamp and Organize the Blog

Tate’s three goals are:

1. Poop and Pee in the Potty
2. Sleep in His Own Bed All Night
3. Play More Golf with Daddy

Obviously, the goals relate to the age of the person setting them!

We also created Family Goals for us to all work on together. These include doing charity work and spending more time together as a family. Whenever we do something that moves us closer to our goals, we mark it on the whiteboard calendar, and each month we plan on having a family meeting where we can talk about where we are with our goals, get help, and ask questions.

We are so excited about this process, but we are sure it will change as we go. What about you? Does your family set goals together? How to do you work toward them? How do you get your kids excited to participate? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Goals Board1

We May Contribute a Verse

IMG_9633

The other day I was at a restaurant opening with my friend Lane of Missalaneyus and we were chatting about blogging. I was just about to come back from my self-imposed hiatus, and I mentioned how I’d had this silly, little blog for 10 years. It’s been a long time, guys. A really long time. The blog has gone through so many changes, redesigns and directions in those 10 years, evolving as all things must. But especially this past year, I have found blogging to be a difficult, tedious task. There has been so much going on in my life personally this past year and a half, and while in the past, blogging about difficulties in my life was therapeutic, it just wasn’t an option this time. That made blogging really, really hard, because at the heart of it all, this blog is for sharing my life. I’d post here about a cute outfit or photoshoot, and I felt like a fraud, because I was putting on a happy face while my universe was spinning out of control.

A very positive change that has occurred in the past year is I am no longer very good at “putting on a happy face.” This was my go-to mode for dealing with stress or any other negative emotion in the past. I’d pretend it was all okay and stuff all the yucky stuff deep down inside. While I do believe that positive thinking and gratitude can change lives, pretending like is all rainbows and unicorns when it simply ISN’T just doesn’t work for me anymore. Around the time I realized this phenomenon, blogging became impossible. I’d sit in front of my desktop, willing myself to type out something (ANYTHING!), but nothing would come out. Blogging became a chore, something I hated to even think about, let alone a way to spend my free time. I became anxious and irritable whenever I felt I “needed” to write something. Blogging was once a hobby that I loved…now it was just another item on my endless to-do list. I needed a change.

I spent the last month of the summer really thinking about my life. What do I need on a daily basis to feel generally happy, fulfilled and good about my existence? I asked myself this question often, and spent a lot of time testing out new and old activities, trying to find a healthy balance. I am still not sure of all the answers, but I realized a few things:

- I need time to myself on a daily basis to pray or meditate (or both, if possible!)
- I need a good night’s sleep, which for me means 7 to 8 hours
- I need to get up at least an hour before my kids in the morning to get my day started
- I need to spend time reading a book every day
- I need to do something for fun with my kids
- I need to be grateful and write down what I’m thankful for
- I need to show kindness and love to my husband
- I need to move my body
- I need to reach out to supportive people in my life
- I need to do something kind for someone else

Notice a few items missing? Me too! I always assumed watching TV or movies would be at the top of my list, since I enjoy those things so much, but I found on the days I skipped that activity, I didn’t feel any worse for it. Also, blogging? Not on the list. Taking photos? Not on the list. Now, I’m not sure if it will stay this way, but for now, those activities aren’t making me happy, just stressing me out. I need to fall in love with them again, before they are a daily necessity.

This is a first step. When I started this blog, it was just to write. To write because my life and my experience on this earth are of value. To write because maybe something that I have gone thru may help someone else in the same position. To write so my kids can read this one day and know me as a person, instead of just their mom. To write because writing is how I understand the world around me. Horrible things are happening in our world, and while I may not be able to write about all of them, I have my own life experiences, and writing them down and sharing them is a service. All of our voices are worthy. We all have stories to tell. I am lucky to have this space and these words. I am going to try and not take that for granted.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering…these are noble pursuits, necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love…these are what we stay alive for! To quote from Whitman,

‘Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’”

- Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

For the Love of Poetry

000039460021

“So what’s up with the blog?” she asked curiously. “I thought the plan was to use this time to grow creatively and work on all that stuff?”

The plan.

Plans are fickle things. You start something new and you have the plan in place, at least, that’s how I operate. There is a plan, a way, and things will go accordingly. I will work hard and keep my head down, and soon, very soon, the plan will come to fruition.

But life…life is strange. And just when you think you have it all figured out, BAM, it knocks you sideways and you’re left shaking your head wondering what the hell happens next. It’s confusing and disorienting.

I have learned so much in the last year, there is no way to gather it all into one blog post. But probably the most important thing I learned in the last year was I cannot function without self-care, and sometimes self-care doesn’t fit into one’s plans. For most of my life, I have ignored those signs that most people see easily. I was constantly busy, a fury of check lists and unread emails and calendar appointments. Most days I wouldn’t realize I’d missed lunch until around 4 p.m. I consistently got around 4 or 5 hours of sleep per night, so proud that I could sustain myself on such meager rest.

“How do you do it all?” they’d ask. I’d coyly smile and give myself a silent pat on the back for my amazingness. I was *almost* enough. If I could just finish that assignment or blog post or project, I’d really be a wonder woman! I chased that status like I’d die if I stopped for a sip of water or some fresh air.

The problem with living like that, especially for such an extended period of time, is it’s extremely hard to stop. It’s mind-bogglingly difficult for someone like me to sit down and rest. And it’s compounded by the fact that I have surrounded myself with people who think the same way. Friends, family, colleagues…they are all massive overachievers of the highest sort. So when I tried to stop or sit or breathe, I looked at them and felt guilt. Shame. Less than.

Here is the catch, and the thing I really learned in the last 11 months:

I am enough. Just as I am. I am enough with one blog post every 10 days and I am enough with 5 a week. I am enough with crisp, edited photos and I am enough with a quick iPhone capture. I am enough with late nights working and I am enough with a cup of tea and a good movie.

It’s okay to take care of myself. And it’s okay to be afraid of doing so. For me, it is scary, and I had to learn being scared wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was so afraid if I stopped, and took a breath, I’d find out I was a fraud. All the spinning around in my hamster wheel was a way I could avoid looking at what I was doing, and if it really made me feel good. When I finally did stop, I had to cut it all off in order to see if I missed it…to see if writing and photographing and creating was truly what made my heart sing.

Turns out, it does. I love to write. I love capturing people and moments in photographs. It makes me feel alive. There is poetry in my life again. I feel it. It’s a good thing.

I saw this commercial a while back, and I felt my breath stop, then slowly start again. A creative mind is sometimes a hard place to live inside. My brain isn’t rational…it seeks life and love and joy. It does not spark with items crossed off a list. Which, honestly, is why I believe I felt so lost for so long. I was forcing it to think in a way that wasn’t how it was built. Now, instead, I’m letting it go. It’s scary. But scary things can be very, very good.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...