Gratitude and Joy

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Last month I had what ended up being a pretty life changing experience. It has drastically impacted the my day to day journey from start to finish. Part of that experience is what I’m about to share with you.

Life has been difficult for me in the past months. While my suffering is no greater or worse than anyone else’s – it is only my experience – I was really struggling every single day. I was begging for answers, and coming up empty; until two wonderful people took the time to sit me down and give me truths I needed to hear and the healing I needed to feel. While the experience that I had is a bit too long to tell in a simple blog post (it would probably end up being more like a book), I want to pass on the simplest and easiest part of it. Anyone can do it, anytime.

Part of what these two wonderful people told me was this: “When you wake up in the morning, even if you don’t feel it, say out loud: Today I will find gratitude and joy. Say it with purpose, and again, even if you don’t feel like you’ll find either one, say you will. Even if you’re crying, say it.”

Even though I didn’t really give much creedance to that part of the advice (how could I be expected to even remember to say the very words gratitude and joy amidst one of the hardest periods of life I’ve ever faced?!? I was NOT finding gratitude or joy even when I called out to it), I trusted them, and every day from that point forward, even when I could hardly move myself to get out of bed, I said the words: Today I will find gratitude and joy. Some days (ok, quite a few days) with tears stinging my eyes, because even thinking of gratitude and joy made me hurt…they were so far from my grasp.

But….

Slowly (and in the grand scheme of things, very, very, very, quickly), I began to feel different. When I spoke that phrase aloud, I truly started to feel gratitude and joy. On certain days, I’d only remember to say it in a quiet moment of small happiness – a hot coffee, a smiling stranger, a beautiful sunset – but now, every day, I’m remembering to say it because I’m finding it every day. Now don’t confuse that with everything being perfect…it’s not. My life is a work in progress, but the clouds have parted and I have to say, I am finding joy every day. Joy…a word I never get much thought to, now fills me.

There is no magic happiness pill that will poof you into a state of bliss. And even what I’ve told you is just one small and simple part of what it takes to fill all the gaps in our lives until it pours over the brim with happiness. I am not the first to suffer, and I won’t be the last. So, I’m hoping that in passing along this little nugget, I can help someone the way I was helped – without expectation and out of love.

Today, I will find Gratitude and Joy.

– A

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If People Had Warning Labels

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I’ve often thought life would be a lot easier if people came with warning labels. It would save us the trouble of discovering things we should have known from the beginning; things we all hold back for fear that we may not be lovable if we showed who we really are. The bad and the good. How many times in life have you taken someone to be the person they presented themself as, only to discover down the road, they’re not the person you thought they were. Why not just show who we are from the beginning? What are we all so afraid of?
Now that I’m truly entering a new decade of age this month (30 was last year, but THIRTY-ONE?! I’m really “in it” now), I feel less inclined to hide parts of myself. I’ve grown to accept the things about myself that make me imperfect, and I’d really like to think that anyone I invite into my life from this point forward will know the real me. I’d like to think that by putting my own warning label out there, maybe others will do the same. To save anyone trouble in the future, here’s what mine would say:

WARNING:
Known to bust balls (I’m from Massachusetts. Get a backbone or get away).
Quotes movies incessantly. Incessantly.
Tends to isolate and retreat inward when faced with difficult situations.
Nostalgia has been known to incapacitate and depress for periods of time.
Doesn’t know how to ask for help.
Laughs too loud.
Never listens to voicemails.
Doesn’t work well when combined with individuals with subversive or passive aggressive tendencies.
Has frequent urges to spend long periods of time alone.
Wakes with the sun.
Has an aversion to talking on the phone.
Disorganized.
Cannot make the simplest of decisions.
Intolerant of judgmental people.
Has smelly feet.
Falls asleep at 9 p.m.
Likes to be in control.
Has a habit of starting projects and not finishing them.
Sees the good in everyone.
Won’t play “the game.”
Doesn’t back down.
Holds those around to high standards.

This is me.

And I’m quite sure I’m leaving something out, even. I’m not saying all of this to indulge in narcissism, but in the hopes of making others less afraid of showing who they really are. I want people around me to know who I am from the get-go, so I know they have me in their life for the right reasons. Because for all of the things that may be bad, there is more good. I know this.

If getting older means becoming increasingly unapologetic about who I am…bring it on.

What would your warning label say?

-A

Radiate Warmth

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Several years ago, I read something that changed the way I think about people I encounter, and as I spoke to one of my beautiful friends/co-workers yesterday, it came up again. It’s just six little words, full of simple wisdom, that really helped me to grow. I’m not sure excactly who said it first, as even a Google search of the vast internet doesn’t yield the author, but nonetheless, I want to pass them on. So, for now, it will go uncredited.

Ready?

“Surround yourself with radiators, not drains.”

Such simple words, but so impactful. For some reason, when I read or think of these words, a feeling comes over me. When I was young, during the frigid New England winters (and autumns…and okay, springs too), I’d wake up in the morning, stand up and twirl my blanket until it was wrapped around my body like a mummy, drag myself downstairs into the living room, and lay directly on the heating vent. The warmth would permeate the blanket and surround me in a cocoon of goodness. If you have never done this, I suggest you take advantage of the chilly nights/mornings and do it as soon as possible. It’s the most comforting feeling.

Now, haven’t you met people who make you feel the same way? People that leave you feeling cocooned with warmth and goodness after you’ve been around them. It’s almost like holding your hands up before a fireplace. They, quite literally, radiate. In fact, I’m sure you’re thinking of someone like this at this very moment.

Next, picture warm water in a tub. When someone flips the switch, all the warm water is sucked right down that drain. Aren’t there people that do this, as well? People who just seem to drain the energy and goodness right out of you? Chances are, at this moment, you’re thinking of another individual and thinking, “Well…yes, I know exactly what you mean.”

If we view people as either radiators or drains, we begin to analyze and understand their place in our lives. The more radiators you surround yourself with, the better you’ll feel. If, right now, you’re thinking: “I think I’ve got way too many drains and too few radiators,” you’re probably feeling tired and slightly empty. You needn’t feel this way.

I have been fortunate enough to have so many radiators around me. The most amazingly warm and wonderfully encouraging and loving people. Not to say there haven’t been drains…there have. There will always be. But, reading those six words above really helped me in my path to surround myself with radiators.

I hope they help you, too.

-A