Being grateful is easier said than done. "I'm so grateful!" "Thank you so much!" "So much gratitude." Easy. You just say it. It sounds nice.
The version of myself that I aspire to be is somewhat of a gratitude saint. She is a benevolent Mother and friend with infinite patience. She is a kind and sweet wife who never complains and is supportive to a fault. She is a warrior at work where ideas are birthed into existence effortlessly and in peaceful collaboration with others. She always lifts people up to be their best and her ego never gets in the way of anything. She is grateful just to be alive and smiles wherever she goes.
Ha. Yeah, right.
In reality I am a tired working Mom who gets stuck in self-centered fear and skews towards judgment of others and myself. I am ambitious, striving and climbing every minute for more, more, and more! I am a decent wife, but I complain a lot about dumb things like making the bed and taking out the trash. As for smiling, I live in New York City -- smiling at strangers makes you creepy. I have a long way to go before I become a saint of any kind. But there is some good news. I have found that gratitude is an actionable tool that, when used, can switch my thinking around and get me into a place of acceptance and maybe even happiness.
A few years ago some friends of mine started sending each other gratitude lists -- it's a simple group email to which we reply all with five things we are grateful for. Some days it's difficult to find reasons to be grateful. On those days I am usually stuck in my head thinking about the things I should be doing, or criticizing myself for the things I have already done.
When I'm stuck in this spiral of self -loathing I tend to forget about the beautiful simple things that are really good in my life. That is when hearing what others are grateful for can really change my perspective. When I am able to shift my focus onto the good things in my life and get into an attitude of gratitude, it's hard to have time to beat myself up. I have seen that no matter what extraordinarily difficult things we are going through as humans, there is always something to be grateful for.
I haven't always been this high on gratitude. In my late teens and early 20s I was in a lot of emotional pain and self-obsession. I acted out through a myriad of unhealthy behaviors and was angry all the time. I drank too much, I dated unavailable men and I was bad friend. At 25 I surrendered and made a decision to turn my life over. It was only after surrendering that I was able to move fully in a direction of gratitude.
What am I grateful for today? I am grateful for my loving husband who makes me delicious dinners and takes care of our sweet son everyday. I am grateful for my son who has expanded my capacity for love. I am grateful that I have a job that I love on most days. I am grateful that I have friends who reach out daily for love and support and to whom I do the same. I am grateful that I get to go on fun adventures like going backstage at the Broadway musical "Wicked" (thanks Randy!). I am grateful for the Internet and all of the exciting opportunities it allows. I'm grateful for heaters and warm hats in fun colors (I'm not grateful for March in NYC). I am grateful that all of my basic needs are covered today. I am grateful that I have a relationship with a loving higher power. I am grateful for love.
Wow. It is amazing how good I feel after writing these words. I am smiling at my computer, my heart warm with love. I feel at ease and relaxed, knowing that everything is okay in this moment. There is no reason to be afraid and no room for self-loathing. Gratitude has entered the space between my ears and my inner critic has left the building. I am a success.