Gratitudes…

Today I waved my child off on the bus and though “Shew, I’m done. I’m just done today…. ”

And then I caught myself.

I caught myself starting to slide into negative thoughts, and thoughts of exhaustion, inability to cope… Just… being done, in that sense of not wanting to adult. You know what I mean? Taking responsibility, dealing with the trash, tacking the chores list, the house work, the work needed to do to create online work that allows me to pay my bills… Just adulting.

But more, engaging with life.

So. I caught myself thinking this. I caught myself in that slide. And I slapped myself – ever so gently – around my own skull with that metaphysical wet fish.

I recognised that thought pattern, and questioned…. “What the hell? Where did that come from….?” (Now sometimes, I enjoy the slide down that particular rabbit hole, but I’m trying to be more present, more focussed, more engaged with my day to day life… and basically, just enjoy it. I’m trying to stay on more of an even keel, more often, and do less of the swings from one extreme to the other…

And when I caught myself in that slide, and questioned, I came back with “What can I do, just in this moment, for the next step of whatever needs to be done next?” And I fed the birds, wondered around the garden picking up after the dog, took out the trash…

But more importantly, I flashed into my gratitude practise. Just the reflective process of asking myself what I was grateful for in my life today…

At first, the answer from grumpy me who was done adulting was a hmph, don’t want to do this… can’t be bothered, can’t think of anything…

But I remembered that yesterday, I grabbed spontaneity by the horns and phoned a friend to go for a walk before kiddie pickup. I remembered that I phoned another friend who had been on my mind and had a good chat which reminded both of us of how much beauty, joy and potential there is in the world, in the midst of all this pandemic craziness…. I remembered that I came home to a surprise gift left on my doorstep, making me feel like part of an extended family I haven’t seen for months… This morning, we woke up late, and I jumped into my child’s bed for a cuddle before the day started – normally it is the other way round. My child, without encouragement, got up and made me a cup of tea – this was the third ever cup he’s made for me. I got some chores done before breakfast, the fire loaded up, we danced in a warm house and even worked out… And this was all before I really started to look for things to be grateful for…

So the passing thought as the bus drove off was just that part of me playing, wanting to slide down into a pity party and have an excuse to stop. And I get it. We all need days like that…

But I realised at how deep a level The Gratitude practise is within me. It isn’t something I’ve only done recently, but something that started as a child for me. I read a lot – things like What Katie Did, and Anne of Green Gables, and so many others. And I remember, after one of my families more epic moves – Scotland to South Africa, and moving into our own home again, being in my bedroom as a child. And my mom, being so incredibly upset about the fact that the container with the bedroom curtains hadn’t caught up to us yet… And I said, in all my innocence, “At least I can see the moon and the stars, I’m grateful for that”. And when the curtains did arrive, it was like a small miracle… and that began a catch phrase for us – “At least we can be grateful for small mercies, like curtains.” By the time they had arrived, I’d grown to love the moon and the stars peeking in at night, that I used to open the curtains after my mom left the room at bedtime, or even, climb out the window and wander around in the moonlight… Looking back at it now, I can also see how it was part of the pattern of a small child, offering comfort and an early part of my pattern of wanting to rescue and comfort others… and that is ok too.

Throughout my childhood – with all its challenges, moves, parent’s divorcing, and teenage angst – that saying “Be grateful for small mercies – like curtains” – and that thought of looking for beauty and things to be grateful for was a constant. And it still is.

For a while, I just did it in my thoughts – it was the way I thought. And I didn’t even realise it. It just was the way things were in my brain.

My dad passed. I took on a project bigger than I realised. And I was deeply affected by grief….

And I forgot that intrinsic pattern of looking for small mercies. Like Curtains.

And I slide into depression, grief, exhaustion…. I just had nothing left to give or share. I didn’t know how to look after and nourish myself and keep going…

After a few years of that, I asked for help. And I got it. – A round of counselling – Louise, the therapist did Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with me – and the whole process was profound. She identified for me that the work I had been doing was something that was equivalent to the work load for three people. And that it was no wonder I was feeling so deeply exhausted – and that it was ok to stop. Ok to rest. Ok to just not. Ok to have boundaries… And she invited me as part of the process, to start up a gratitude practise. And I realised that I had lost that way of thinking and being which had been part of me for so long…

Becoming a mom, then shortly after, becoming a single mom – it was that same gratitude practise that kept me sane. That kept me strong enough to keep going, keep valuing, keep coming back into self-care so that I could nourish my child – and be grateful for each moment.

As my child grows, and the challenges change, it is the gratitude practise that keeps me looking for the beauty, laughing at the challenges of a flood washing through the house or down the drive… At the ongoing exhaustion at the end of each day… – that 4th shift, once the kiddo is in bed and the house still needs cleaning…

And it is this gratitude practise that has kept me sane and focussed in each moment during the last year of pandemic, lockdown, home-schooling, job loss, and accepting the amazing support from the local community, and of friends further afield. I only moved into this area 7 years ago, many of the people here are born locally, so in many ways, I am still an “off comer”.

Gratitude – and the practise of it – has kept me alive to being present to everyday moments of Beauty throughout the last year. The act of looking for things to be grateful for has kept me inspired, creative, open to miracles, humble – and oh so incredibly grateful. For the smallest things – which add up together to bigger things.

It doesn’t mean my life is easy. It doesn’t mean my life is a bowel of cherries…. It doesn’t mean I am living my marvellous dream of a life – though I am actively working towards this… It does mean that I am open, present, in love with the Beauty I see around me – and always actively seeking towards more. And working towards more… It does also mean that my intuition stays open – that things other people are amazed by – being in the right place at the right time happen naturally for me. Like for someone giving away a Drum Kit when that is on our “manifestation list”. It does also mean that I am always seeking to do more, be more, give more – because spreading inspiration and joy – just means that I feel more. And I can’t imagine not wanting to do more of that! Because it feels good. Not rescuing, because that is exhausting. But sharing and showing, and demonstrating – and just plain living a life that is so deeply connected to the Beauty that surrounds us that I can’t help but feel inspired to do more, be more and give more myself… And I want this for others too… So, my gratitude practise is part of the ripples that I throw out in the pond, – and if it touches or resounds in something within you – I am so deeply grateful.

Not so long ago, a couple of friends and colleagues were in touch, telling me how much my gratitude practise was pissing them off. Because my life was marvellous – and theirs wasn’t. And they were jealous of me, hurt, frustrated…. And, in their eyes, it was all my fault for having a marvellous life – and theirs wasn’t when they were trying so hard, when they were doing everything “right”… Hearing that hurt. It really hurt – but at the same time I was so grateful for the pain. It helped me to bring into focus why I do my gratitude practise. At the time, I felt like I was only just clinging to my sanity by the skin of my teeth. Post Christmas blues, anxiety about the bills coming in, end of winter exhaustion – and struggling each day to pull myself to myself enough to find something to be grateful for. The fact that a few people had said how much it was hurting them, hurt even more. And I just got knocked sideways. I could understand where they were coming from, I hurt for them – because life is just tough sometimes, and I could see and feel how much they were struggling… The idea that I was causing them pain, through my gratitudes hurt.

So. I stopped. For a while, I just stopped.

Throughout February, I stopped posting gratitudes on Facebook, I stopped looking for them. I stopped actively seeking.. I stopped adulting. And instead, I nourished and rested, and snoozed on the sofa with good books and trashy books, and took long baths in the middle of the day… My child was delighted – he was so grateful for the extra screen time he got allowed…. And we ate chocolate, and slept in, and played in the snow and we danced….

And doing all of that, I found that my energy cleared and lifted. My body started rejecting the chocolate and feeling sore from lying around too much. I found and remembered the simple songs which reminded me of deep truths. And I found that as I rested, I came back into a sense of connection with that sense of gratitude. Until I came to a place where I wanted to be actively writing them and sharing them. Not for anyone else – I have always been clear that I don’t share my gratitudes for anyone else’s benefit. The fact that others find it inspiring is just a lovely side affect, though it does make my heart smile sometimes to hear from others…

Towards the end of that time, my child was opening the curtain in my room, and it came off it’s tracks. His response was classic! “Oops mommy. Never mind, at least we can be grateful for the light coming in. And the days are getting longer anyway. We only use the curtains in Winter to keep the cold out.” Which is all true. And I remembered that little girl, in South Africa and told my son the story of being grateful for small mercies like curtains…

And here’s the thing, This is my dance. This life is my dance, and I get to do it the way I choose. And you get to do yours the way you choose. No judgement, just gratitude, for the learning and the growth.

And I choose to do it with Gratitude. Every day. For all of the Beauty I see and experience – and all the amazing miracles I experience daily…

Just for today, these are my Gratitudes…

Small mercies like curtains. Friends who share truth, even when it hurts. School buses. A curious brain that thinks in at least 3 directions at once. Acid tummy from chocolate. Dog poo picking up thinking moments in the garden. Crispy bacon and poached eggs. The amazing skill I have of being able to walk into a strangers kitchen and cook breakfasts for up to 30 people with relative ease… Hot cups of tea and chocolate. Juicing lemons. Cups of tea made by a child. Family fitness workout challenges – done for the day! Time spent goozing and recharging when its needed. A love of words. Spring flowers. Surprise miracle packages left on the doorstep on the day just when I’m needing some TLC…. for all of this and so much more, Thank you.

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