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

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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

A Grateful Labor Day

We spent our Labor Day weekend at my parents’ lake cabin in Council Grove, Kansas, soaking in the sun and enjoying some much-needed downtime with my family. Year after year I post about spending time at the lake and year after year I spew out all the cliches about watching my kids grow up in a place I loved as a child, but I can’t seem to help myself. They keep getting bigger and the lake pretty much stays the same. They stare out at the stars as the moon rises over the water and I remember nights on the deck watching the constellations overhead. They cry about the seaweed touching their feet and I remember when I would sit on the dock refusing to get in because of the creepy feeling that wet grass gave me. There are goggles lost to the depths of the water, which probably sit next to countless toys, rings and other trinkets I misplaced 20 years ago, never to be seen again.

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Watching my kids (and my niece and nephews) in this place is like watching an old video tape of my own youth, except, of course, they are more beautiful and lovely than I remember being at their ages. Instead of rocking a discman, my niece lays on the boat deck with her ear buds and iPhone. My sister takes photos with her iPhone and texts them to me. The kids ask to make silly videos of themselves “chicken fighting” in the water. It all feels very new, but also very worn, which is probably why I love it so much. It’s like all of my favorite things are colliding and I get to watch and laugh along.

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I can feel the season changing and as the weather changes, so does everything. I guess that is the one continuous thing in my life thus far…change is constant. My little people are growing and changing every day. Lately, Lucy has refused to let me take her photo. When I try, she makes an angry face or sticks out her tongue. Sometimes she tries (very successfully) to look extremely insane. “Moooommmmm, stop!” she yells when I pull out my phone or my camera. So I have to rely on others, like my sister, for whom Lulu will smile genuinely, to capture her as she really is. Lucy Peters, age 8, full of life and laughter, unless her mom has a camera out, in which case she will quickly turn in to a surly teenager. Sigh. Thank goodness for Tater, who at age 3 still thinks I am all things amazing and wonderful, and will beg me to take his picture so he can look at it later. “Mama, take my picture!” he squeals, calming my mama temper tantrum over his sister’s refusal. She was like that once too, and I know one day he will cringe at my camera. I suppose all I can do is enjoy it while it lasts, or come up with good knock knock jokes to catch them off guard when they are refusing to smile.

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I am so grateful for this full, fun life I’m leading today. I know that happiness comes from within, but the people in my life these days have made the joy more robust than I ever could have imagined. The last year has been really, really hard for me personally, but I really do believe, as cliched as it sounds, that I was meant to go through those difficult times. Today I am so thankful for the simple joys of my life, and I know that the person I was before wouldn’t have appreciated all these gifts the way I do now. I would have expected them and been upset if they weren’t as perfect as I wanted. I feel like a little kid again, reborn and seeing the world with brand new eyes. I feel…full of wonder. It feels trite and silly to say I’m grateful for the hardship my family has gone through, but I know without it, there wouldn’t be the serenity there is today.

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So, at least for today, I am extremely grateful…

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Friday Kitchen Dance Par-tay!!!

Because it’s Friday and what’s a blog for if not for dancing around like a doofus for the whole wide Internet to see?

The world has seemed like a scary place, lately. I know that dancing around my kitchen won’t change the world, but I feel like finding the fun when you’re afraid could maybe help, even just a little bit. Dancing when you’re scared, laughing when you’re angry, helping others when you are hurting…I really do believe this can change our world for the better. So find the fun today, friends! Dance and laugh and love. It really is the easier, softer way.

We May Contribute a Verse

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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

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