Grateful. I always have to remind myself to be grateful. And you should, too. No matter how crappy things may seem at the moment, or how down in the dumps you may feel, you still have to take a moment to be grateful for what you DO have.
I'm not going to lie -- for much of the past few years, frustration has been my all too often first response to things. I think it's just human nature to immediately get frustrated when things don't go the way we want them to. Think back to being a kid and how our ingrained reaction to not getting our way is to pout. I found myself reverting back to that mode four decades past when it would be considered acceptable behavior.
Granted, I was facing an uphill battle on quite a few fronts. I'm a stay-at-home dad, and as much as I love my kids, the supervision, endless questions and overall parental exhaustion can take its toll. Work-wise, my career as a writer/actor has been in a bit of a lull. It's always a cyclical ride of busy and slow periods but this dry spell seems to have lasted forever. To top it all off, with my fiftieth birthday fast-approaching, I was as out-of-shape as I'd been in a long, long time.
The road to grateful started for me around this time last year. A medical emergency had me riding in the back of an ambulance with my crumpled 3-year-old suffering a febrile seizure. He recovered quickly but the dizzying terribleness of those few hours shook me out of my parental rut and made me really appreciate every day I get to spend with my kids. I am so fortunate that I get to be a stay-at-home dad and have so much quality time with them. Sure, sometimes the third straight hour of knock-knock jokes and playing Legos can get a little monotonous, but seeing the joy in their eyes and the giggle in their smile is the best reward ever.
Career-wise, being on the lower rung of all the creative endeavors I pursue can be a fast path to a life of frustration. The occasional highs of booking a network show or getting a good review are few and far between. The rest of the time I spend going out on the occasional audition or writing scripts that I'm not sure will ever see the light of day. Then last summer I started doing improv again. I'm sure getting up on stage in front of strangers with no idea of what you're going to say until you say it is terrifying to most people, but that is my wheelhouse. The joy of performing and the camaraderie of working with like-minded, talented people was just what I needed. It got my juices flowing to start a new project. I considered diving back into stand-up or shooting another short film but those paths lacked the immediacy and adrenaline rush I get from performing and the ability to control my own destiny, which I knew I needed. Then a wise friend of mine suggested I do a one-man show. It was a seamless blend of all my creative pursuits. I could write it, perform it and stage it how and when I wanted. The perfect fit for a goal-oriented narcissist like myself. I started developing my show back in November and have been grateful everyday for the opportunity to work exactly how I want to work. I hope people like it, but the true reward is the satisfaction of achieving that goal. I start my first performance in just a few short weeks and the show has already been accepted into a big festival in the fall. With each rehearsal I feel so grateful that I am even able to undertake such a daunting project.
And as far as being out of shape, that required the biggest step out of my comfort zone. The same day I started writing my one-man show, I realized that whenever I got around to performing it, I wanted to be in better shape than the 222-pound guy I'd ballooned into. In years past, I'd just gone back to running to chase the weight away, but that had gotten harder to do as I got older. I needed to mix it up. So I joined a nearby CrossFit gym. On paper, it was the exact opposite of what I would normally sign up for. I have the body strength of a 10-year-old, the flexibility of a calcium-deprived 90-year-old and I've hated group workouts ever since my awkward, post-pubescent high school days. I would rather bomb onstage in front of a hundred strangers than struggle to do ten pushups in front of people I know. Which is exactly why I joined. I needed to shock my system. I've chronicled my CrossFit experience earlier here, but suffice it to say it was exactly what I needed. The tentativeness with which I walked into that gym that first day is completely gone. Now I look forward to every chance I get to go there and workout. The group experience I'd dreaded has turned into a tremendously supportive community that propels me to impressive accomplishments I never thought I'd achieve. As an added benefit, they are also supportive of my creative pursuits and have purchased boatloads of tickets to my upcoming performances.
So yes, I am grateful. Frustration is still there sometimes, but when I feel it coming on, I try to take focus away from whatever roadblock I'm confronted with in the moment and think about all of the unbelievable things I have to be thankful for.
Now you try it. I'm sure there's a whole bunch of things you can think of to be grateful for that you've just been taking for granted. Appreciate them.
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