Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Resolution

I come from a different time. When I was growing up, the day after Christmas was spent around the kitchen table, thank you cards spread out amongst us, pen and pencils at the ready, mom and her address book and a sheet of paper with what everyone got and who gave it to them. By December 28th, everyone had been thanked, in writing, and that thank you was in the mail, heading to the gifter. I learned how to be thankful for socks and shirts as well as for toys. Someone chose to select something for you and you needed to express your gratitude for their time and effort, even if you hated the socks Aunt Irene sent you.

This post is not about the decline in saying "thank you". I could go off, happily, down that road, but the end result would be to make people feel either guilty, resentful, annoyed or vindicated. This post is about gratitude and looking toward a new year.

As my marriage crumbled, I took a job in a bookstore. It was 2 days a week, sometimes on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The owner was someone I'd known for several years prior to her buying the place. I hated retail and it's still not my favorite profession, but I needed a job, she knew it, and I grew into the position. One thing I took from those years of working there was how Jane always thanked us for anything we did, anything. It was just natural for her to say, "Thank you" when you did something, even if she didn't know it needed to be done. I learned from that and I try to incorporate "thank you" into my every day life.

We don't say it enough to the people around us. A simple "thank you" can make someone's day. Judging by the look on someone's face when I say it, people don't hear it enough. I'm not sure it's a phrase that can be overused. This got me to thinking about my life and the ways I express thanks.

You've been with me this long so you know the story of the past 2 years. It's been tough. It's always a balancing act when I would like to just get off the balance beam for a change. I'd just like a month where nothing breaks or needs money thrown at it. I'd just like a month where, "Gee, I'd like to go see the Muppet Movie" becomes a hop in the car and head over there instead of a "Can I afford it?" or "What do I give up so I can do x?"

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that perhaps my perception is wrong. My focus shouldn't be on what I don't have, but on what I do have. Interesting concept, no?

I'm sure you've seen the stories in some media where someone has just lost something precious. My thoughts reference the homes lost to tornadoes last year. Invariably, someone is interviewed who says, "God is good." I've met people, low income people, living in what I wouldn't come near, without a job and a sick husband and a pregnant daughter who already has 3 kids, all stuffed into this house next to a noisy road under construction and they say, "God is good." I have wondered, "How can God be good when all around you is pain?"

It's gratitude. It's because of their perspective. From where they stand, they have something to be grateful for, be it their lives or being surrounded by people they love or whatever. This isn't about the proverbial glass being half-full or half-empty. This is about something deeper. This is about being grateful there is even a glass. ...grateful there is even a glass...

This concept dawned on me right before Christmas and I've been stewing about it since. What if I changed my whole perception? What if, instead of ruing what I don't have, I'm grateful for what I do have? What if I'm grateful there is even a glass?

I live with depression. It's a constant companion. Sometimes I can see her reflected in the bathroom mirror. She might leave for a bit but she comes back. She insists I haul her around. She makes me tired. She makes me weary. She makes me long for things to "be better". She reminds me that I fail. She makes me not get the things done that I want to get done. She's always there. But, she's not around when, in those few fleeting moments I'm clear headed, I am grateful for something, something simple. She doesn't know how to behave when I'm grateful, when I feel gratitude for life and what I have. She has to leave and think about a different way to keep me in check.

So, all this leads to my New Year's Resolution for 2012. I'm not going to read half the stack of magazines on the ottoman. I'm not going to read 6 books this year, lose 50 pounds, exercise more, eat vegetables or take up daily walks. I might do those just because they are there. I'm going to practice gratitude. I'm going to, every day, when the negative thoughts close in around me, consciously be grateful that I have clothes to wear, a house to sleep in, cats to love me, food on my table, a sunny day, a break in traffic to make a left turn, 2 hours without the phone ringing so I could blog instead. I'm going to, consciously, seek out things for which I am grateful.

This is complete attitude adjustment. I have no illusions that this will be easy. I am my own worse critic and it is very, very, very, easy; did I mention how easy it is; to get down on myself for anything. I will fall and, right now, I'm dealing with the pain in my hands and how it slows and prohibits what I can do. I must find things to be grateful for even as my hands hurt.

I feel, deep down inside me, that changing my outlook to reflect being grateful is the best gift I can give myself in 2012.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


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