When I was growing up Southern Baptist, we did not observe the liturgical calendar. In my mind, Lent was one of those strange things Roman Catholics did that seemed to involve lots of eating fish.
I didn’t become aware that there was any more to Lent (or any other season in the liturgical calendar) until I was an adult and chose to become Episcopalian. Perhaps because I came to it as an adult, I have found the observe of the liturgical seasons to be a rich source of meaning. It’s a time to focus on different modes of being in a special way.
It’s precious to watch a young child (or a newborn animal) just learning to walk. They pull themselves up and stagger along on unsteady legs as they build their strength and learn to balance themselves upright. It often involves more than a few tumbles and moments of abrupt sitting down before their gait becomes natural and steady. And they must learn to walk before they learn to fun.
This process is not unlike my own process when it comes to learning a new way to approach life or replacing an unhelpful pattern with a new one. I begin practicing that new pattern (or new outlook) is unsteady ways that involve lots tumbles and shaky moments. Eventually, though, the new pattern becomes my new normal, and I can navigate it without effort.
I’ve learned over the years that I have pretty strict requirements for the amount of rest, downtime, and self-care I need in order to maintain my mental, emotional, and physical health. Compared to most people, this is fairly narrow range of tolerance for extra doing, decreased sleep, or missed routines.
This week has been extra hectic and stressful just because of the confluence of too many things all at once. I’ve been packing too much into my days, staying up too late at night, and skipping my morning pages some mornings to squeeze in a little extra rest. Missing my morning pages has left me feeling off-kilter during the day, which adds to the stress, and the lack of downtime and sleep has worn me down.
It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, a time when my mind naturally turns to looking back over the last year and forward to the next one. Even though I gave up on New Year’s resolutions a number of years ago, there is still something about this time of year that encourages reflection on changes that I’d like to see in my life.
As I look back on 2012, I see yet another year of much change—both external and internal. While this change in 2012 has at times been challenging and has caused me to make some fairly radical changes to where I thought I was headed, overall the year has been one of positive changes. This is especially true compared the amount of difficulty and heartbreak that 2010 and 2011 brought with them. It’s encouraging to note that I seem to have turned the corner from the process of being completely melted down to the start of the process of being rebuilt into something new in this journey through the chrysalis.
Today marks the end of my month of publicly posting my daily gratitude statuses to Facebook and Twitter. The month has gone by quickly! There are still so many things that I am grateful for that I didn’t get a chance to mention.
Although this is my third year of doing this on Facebook, I still made new discoveries this year about myself and my relationship to gratitude as I observed my progress through this exercise.
In honor of the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday in the U.S., gratitude seems like an appropriate topic to explore for this week’s link love.
I’ve shared a lot about how powerful the practice of gratitude is in my own life. The truth is that it’s still easy to be grateful when things are going well. It’s harder to maintain a practice of gratitude when things are not going so well. Of course, the true power of gratitude shows up when we use it in the hard times, even when we’re not finding it an easy practice to continue.
This week’s set of links are focused on practicing gratitude in those difficult times in our lives when it doesn’t come quite as naturally to most of us. (Or at least it doesn’t to me.)
I’ve shared quite a bit recently about how great an effect my new gratitude practice is having on my life. I continue to be amazed at how much space this has created for long-needed shifts to happen, how much it has benefited my attitude and outlook, and how much more goodness I am noticing in my life all the time as I pay attention.
Every time I have adopted an intentional gratitude practice into my life, it has had surprisingly large benefits—beyond what would normally be expected for the amount of time and energy it takes. But the ease of doing the practice is probably why it tends to become so easy to take it for granted and gradually slip away from it.
I just spent time talking with my coach about all of the positive changes I’m seeing, and I think I’m finally convinced enough to make this an ongoing practice from now on, though. I am also eager to invite others to try a gratitude practice of their own to try it out for their lives.
I have continued my practice of adding one thing each day for which I am proud of myself to my daily gratitude journal. I am amazed not only at what this small practice has done for my confidence and outlook on life, but also at how it has enhanced my overall feeling of gratitude in general.
It did not seem intuitively obvious to me that recognizing myself for things that I have done well should have any impact on my gratitude. In fact, I commented on this last week in a bit of puzzlement and surmised that it stemmed simply from feeling a sense of gratitude to myself for having done something well.
I attended a fall festival today at a local orchard. There was a corn maze, a hayride, games for kids, live music, food and drink available, lots of produce and products made from produce (like apple cider, jams, jellies, butters, and more), and a collection of artists selling their wares.
One of the vendors that I talked to was from Niger, and he produced lovely silver jewelry. He commented that he was a sixth-generation silversmith. It’s hard for me to imagine the amount of time and practice he must have put into his craft as he learned it from his elders. It also made me wonder whether he ever wished he had been born into a different line of work. Or did he grow to love this craft as his skill grew and his creations improved?
My conversation with him reminded me that it’s impossible to create well without investing in the time and practice needed to learn the craft of the kind of thing one wishes to create. There is always a learning curve (some steeper than others). Everyone has to start out as a beginner even when born as a descendent of generations of that craft.
As I continue making my gratitude lists each night, it’s a delight to see how often the “little” things in life are the things that spring to mind to be grateful for: the joy of watching new grass sprout where I’ve seeded, the extravagant colors of the fall leaves, the delight of a good cup of tea, a delicious meal, kind words from a co-worker, a snuggly cat, the satisfaction of having completed a dreaded task.
It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I need big things (like a winning lottery ticket) to make me happy when I’m actually surrounded every day by more than enough to wrap my world in joy, if I just take the time to notice. There are indeed so many things to be grateful for even in the toughest of days, and it is good to remind myself of this.