Monday, November 18, 2013

Gratitude, An Attitude Easier Said Than Felt

Dalai lama lotus
Dalai lama lotus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Does anybody else sometimes choke on the whole "attitude of gratitude" thing, which can go down drier than an overcooked turkey at Thanksgiving?

There are people who've seemingly mastered the art/skill/attitude of gratitude (Dalai Lama, I'm looking at you). For me, certain skills come naturally, and others must be cultivated, and others (Photoshop, you bitch!) are a FAIL no matter how much I study and struggle and repeat over and over again. I want to "be grateful," and sometimes I am, but I think I was born a natural sourpuss.

Kathy Gottberg over at SMARTLiving365 is awesome at it, and is running a whole series this month on Gratitude.

I've tried making lists. I've tried keeping a Gratitude Journal.

I've filled out at least the first 10-15 pages in this.
I'm grateful that I have it.... doesn't that count for something?
While my lovely Gratitude Journal has now become yet another guilt-inducing object in my home, one which, like organizing my photos, I fully intend to get back to, one of these days, I have found at least a couple of things which work for me regarding Gratitude.

1 - You Don't Always Have to Feel It

One of these days I intend to write a book, working title: 101 Surprisingly Useful Things I Learned From Being in a Religious Cult.

Anyway, one of the things my particular cult (COBU/Forever Family, for anyone who's interested) hammered on was that love was not the warm-gushy feeling you had towards another person - that, in fact, you could love someone while not "feelin' it" whatsoever. Your love was measured more by your actions toward that person, by taking a step back and seeking their higher good, rather than seeking to please the other person in the moment.

For example, as a loving parent, you got your kids their innoculations, even if that was a hassle and they cried and said they hated you.  (I know, I know, there is all kinds of controversy now about vaccination schedules, etc., but let's put that to the side for a moment.) It doesn't feel good to get your kids a shot, or to ignore a screaming tantrum in the grocery store. And yet, it is the most loving thing you can do, even if it feels like crap.

Letting go of the notion that Being Grateful = Feeling Grateful allows me to include all the life lessons that aren't particularly warm, fuzzy, or comfortable at this time.

I realize, looking back at my life, that many of my most important life lessons were pretty horrible in the moment. For instance, one of my earliest jobs was working in a home improvement store. I was a cashier; the sales people on the floor (all male) earned more money than cashiers.

I wanted more money, and knew that given the chance, I could do... most of it. I applied, and they gave it to me, with various caveats; I would still have to cashier, if and when the necessity arose, and I would get the "girl" departments: home decor, housewares, and seasonal.  "If you can't do it, of course, you can always go back to being a full-time cashier.

"And, oh, yeah. As part of your duties as part of 'seasonal,' you have to put together these gas barbecues."

The assembly directions were crappy, the illustrations confusing, the bags o' billions o' parts were terrifying, and I had grown up with a totally unmechanical father, who never did so much as check the oil or tire pressure in our car. I'm not sure I had even held a wrench or screwdriver before. I felt persecuted, totally in over my head, and set up to fail.

And yet, I managed, through toil and sweat and despair and getting a little help here and there, to take it one step at a time, and I put those suckers together. I did it; I did not let the task or The Man beat me.

Did I feel grateful for the life lesson at the time? Oh, hell no! I felt scared and inadequate and miserable. Until I completed it.

Do I feel grateful now? It has become one of the most powerful lessons of my life, but there was no way I could tell that when I was in the middle of it, surrounded by billions o' tiny unidentifiable parts and one more blood blister away from giving up. I often look back and say to myself, "Hey, if I can put together a thrice-cursed gas barbecue, I can do this thing."

2 - A Gratitude Jar Works Better for Me than a Gratitude Journal.

Sometime close to the beginning of 2013 I picked up the idea of a gratitude jar, rather than a journal, diary, or list. I just spent 30 minutes trying to track down WHO gave me the idea, but since it's gone viral, everybody has their own spin on it, so if YOU were the one... I am grateful for you.

The idea is to keep a clear jar - whatever size floats your boat, whatever decorations make you squee - and put little scraps o' paper in it, to commemorate things for which you feel grateful. Then on December 31 of each year, part of the ritual is to empty and read all the wonderful things that have been dropped into the Gratitude Jar, and start over in the New Year with a new one.

I started with a small jar, then decided I would need LOTS of room. Found this fabulous big roomy one that reminded me of I Dream of Jeannie on sale at TJ Maxx.

Early Days with my Gratitude Jar
(The background of baby pictures and various texts is my visionboard - more on that later.)

Anyway, as I've read online, some people show an almost Nazi-ish discipline... they vill put somezing into ze Gratitude Yar efry zingle day, ya?

Others put only the really significant things into their Gratitude Jar.

IMO, if it works for you and your family, there is no One Right Way. Personally, I have become a Gratitude Junkie, looking for something fabulous to drop in, as often as possible. But sometimes a couple weeks will pass and I haven't added to the jar. Other times, I will put in 2-4 slips on the same day. (Please don't rat me out to the Gratitude Nazis!)

I decided to pick up some colorful min-index cards, just cuz, and I love the way they look, all rainbow-y in the jar.

I keep the jar near the front door of my apartment, so it's easy to add something, either on my way in from the day job, or on my way out in the morning.

I take gratitude notes on a variety of things, big and small. A really gorgeous sunset. A much-enjoyed visit from an out-of-town relative. A clean report on my latest mammogram.

And I find though I have realized that gratitude is more than that in-the-moment feeling, that I do feel more gratitude every time I look at my jar. I look at all those colorful bits of paper and realize, wow, I have had an amazing year.

However you get to Gratitude, I encourage you to choose what works for you.

As we approach America's Thanksgiving, I may or may not end up spending time with my biological family - we are now pretty spread out, and there are various "things" going on with various family members. But I do feel very grateful for an extended family who are largely supportive and wonderful. (And as to those who aren't, well, they make great character material, so I'm grateful for them, too, and the lessons they have taught me.)

I'm also very grateful that Sexpert Walker Thornton will be back this upcoming Monday to chat about, yep, Sex. (Think about signing up for blog notification via email so you don't miss it.)

What 's your take on Gratitude?
Do you have a jar, journal, or technique to track your grats?
Your thoughts?

Adding this to Kathy's Gratitude BlogHop

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