Full of Thanks

A year ago for Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a gratitude jar. Every time I was grateful I was to write my gratitude on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, I could look back over everything for which I was grateful. I’m sorry to say that jar stands on my bookshelf empty. (Sorry, Tana.) However, it is not because I was not grateful. If I’d actually followed through, the jar I was given couldn’t possibly have held all the paper slips I would have put into it. A gallon jar, maybe.

I am so very thankful. Lately I find myself thankful for the most basic things. We’ve had some rain, and it made me so grateful that I can afford a warm and dry home. This is not a “yada yada yada, I need to try to be grateful” thought. I am sincerely thankful for the financial resources to have rented a decent house. That has not always been the case. There was a house in LA that I loved simply because it was a house with a yard and I’d been living in apartments. House is being generous. It was a shack. The roof leaked. There was missing siding, and that, combined with the cracked drywall, meant that there was a breeze in my bedroom. No central air or heat. No insulation. Threadbare carpet. Mold under the curling linoleum. I lived that way for 15 years because it was the only way I could afford to live in a house in LA. Now I appreciate a home with a solid roof and walls, and the ability to pay for it more than I ever would have if I’d never lived in that shack.

I am thankful for the people here who welcomed me as if I was a friend who’d been away for a few years and had come home. Uprooting 25 years of life and starting over is absolutely terrifying. They made it seem effortless. I am grateful for each and every person who has graced my life with their friendship and made me feel instantly at home.

There is immense thanksgiving for a job I love. Six months ago I was struggling to learn the names of our clients and put them together with faces. Now I know the names and faces, and enjoy seeing them whenever they come in to work out. Work is a constant flow of friendly faces sharing stories, jokes, and laughs.

Even more, I am thankful work provides variety and outlets for creativity. Years ago I was watching an episode of the Daily Show where they were saying goodbye to a producer who was moving on to another show. Jon Stewart described how he started at the bottom, was really good at what he did, and they thought, “Huh, I wonder if he’d be good at this, too. And he was.” And that happened over and over again until he was producing. As he told that story, I literally started to sob. That was the experience I thought I would have at CBS. I thought when I got to a national network, and people saw me as hard working, responsible, and pleasant, they’d think, “Huh, yeah, she’s good at prompting, but I bet she’d be good at this, too.” And up, up, up and away I’d go. Instead what I experienced was, “She’s really good at this thing and other people aren’t always so good. She’s dependable. She does whatever we ask. Since it makes our lives easier if she keeps prompting, let’s make sure she keeps doing that.” It felt like such a betrayal, though I’ve since learned that’s standard operating procedure there. Why, I have no idea. Seems very short sighted. Anyway, I am now in a situation much closer to the Daily Show.  Yes, some of my duties include taking out the trash, invoicing clients, collecting money, and answering the phone. However, I know on any given day I might be asked to write a press release, or design a flyer, or take on a task that my boss believes I can handle even though I’ve never done it before. Shoot, they even got me to be on camera in a comedy sketch. Work is challenging. There are possibilities. Having been without it for 20 years, I am so thankful for that!

The list could go on and on and on and on and I could probably do a paragraph on each thing I’m thankful for. I’ve come to realize that the things I’ve listed here, and many others, are all the sweeter because I have been without them. So, the very final slip of paper I’d put in this year’s gallon jar of gratitude is for those periods of lack. It’s not something I could have done at the time, but now I see that they have given me much of my joy today.

So, today I am full of thanks… and pumpkin pie… but mostly thanks. May you be as well.

And Tana, next year, I promise… I’ll start actually filling the jar.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Wonder and Gratitude

The writer’s group was really fun. There were two manuscripts to discuss. Each of us had around 7 minutes per manuscript to discuss our thoughts on what we’d read. The authors politely sat through it all. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, but I’m about to find out. They asked if I had anything I want to submit, and I foolishly said I could. It’s amazing how I am suddenly very motivated to write. I’ve stumbled upon a routine for my writing. The 4 days of the week that I don’t work, I will focus on writing new material. On the 3 days that I do work, I will focus on editing what I’ve written. I’m figuring it out, I really am.

This week I’ve had a dawning realization that things are shifting in my brain. When I first got here I was a bit frenetic. That was partly due to life in the city, and partly the stress of accomplishing every task needed to move my entire life across the country. Only now am I beginning to appreciate the effort it took to get all the gears to slide into place in the right sequence.

Then there were stresses that crept in naturally even once here.

Work – I was worried I was so used to the TV world that I wouldn’t know how to deal with the real world. I didn’t want to let my friend down who had recommended me for the job, and felt I had to prove myself, probably more to myself than anyone else.

Socially – There were also a whole lot of faces and names coming at me that I had to put together and remember. I worried about fitting in and being a part of things.

Diet – I fell into comfort eating during this transition and was feeling the pounds pile on. I felt pressure to get my eating back under control.

Writing – I even felt pressured to get writing and make some real progress…

Untll…

While talking with my best friend about my weight and finding an eating plan I could live with, she made the comment that she was impressed I was even addressing the issue this soon. It made me sit back and think about all I had just gone through. I completely uprooted my life of 25 years, and transplanted it to a place I’ve never lived before. I made the decisions, and it mostly worked out as I’d planned. Perhaps I needed to cut myself some slack, and just take it all in.

Not long after that, I must have processed that information, becase there was a definite and unconscious shift.

Work – I no longer felt so driven at work. I’m still doing my job, but I’m doing it with an ease that was not there before.

Socially – I’m relaxing into myself. I no longer worry so much that I’m going to do or say the wrong thing. I’m content with what is. There’s a story told about me as a child of 4 or 5 that illustrates my true nature. My sister was trying to take a picture of me while I was swinging. When she missed the shot and only got my feet I responded, “That’s okay, feet are just as good as heads.” For long periods of my life, I have been just fine with whatever life delivers. Sadly, the pressures of life in LA buried that, but I’m thrilled the inner core is still there, just waiting to come out and shine again.

Writing – I have remembered that a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t worry about time limits quite so much.

This shift has led to my emotions beginning to balance out. I no longer feel giddy joy, which I knew was not sustainable. Now I’m settling into a deeply grateful contentment. Last night I sat on my sun porch, which has yet to be screened in, on a dining room chair, because I can’t really afford patio furniture yet, and watched the cats chasing crickets. I enjoyed the fireflies dancing to the percussion of the insects and tree frogs as the sky faded to black. There was a dreamlike quality to the moment, and I was filled with wonder and gratitude. I pray my writing is good enough that I never have to wake up.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

At Last!

Yes, I know I missed a week. I was tired of writing about things that were impending. If I had posted last Wednesday, I still would have had to talk about what was to come. But finally on Thursday, the house sold. Then there was a flurry of paying bills and buying a car. For the past two years I had been working hard to finish up my college degree, and on Monday, all those loans got paid off. Feels great! I have a degree, but no debt. Now life settles into normalcy and I am so looking forward to that. It was a little frightening to have made my leap and not have the safety net in place. Glad it’s there now.

I joined a local a cappella group. It is a bit more of a time commitment than I had expected. The music is very challenging and requires a lot of rehearsal at home as well as the 3 1/2 hour weekly rehearsal together. However, standing on those risers and hearing the voices blend together into beauty makes it worth it. I’ll give it a few months and if it is taking too much time from writing, I may try to find a less intense group to join. There are some interesting personalities, one type I’ve had recent experience with, and it makes me a bit leery of joining. Basically it’s the kind of person who puts on a smiling face and seems like the nicest, most helpful person in the world while consistently placing the dagger between your ribs. Lots of passive-aggressiveness. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but if I can’t, there are definitely other choirs to join. Life is too short.

Now that I’m settling in, I’m a little worried I will lose my attitude of gratitude. The honeymoon phase will eventually end. I can thank that honeymoon phase on my miserable life in LA. Pixar came out with a movie recently called “Inside Out” which I thoroughly enjoyed when I wasn’t dozing off because of exhaustion. The American culture is one that only allows for happiness. If you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Stop complaining. Only be happy, happy, happy, happy, happy! And if you’re not happy, happy, happy, happy, then go away! But the truth is, we are bio-chemical machines and those other emotions play a role. “Inside Out” reminded people that sometimes sadness or anger is not only necessary, it’s useful. The misery I had in the last few years of living in Los Angeles did not feel nice, and I didn’t always react well to it, but it was necessary to spur me to change.

Even futher, the misery there in contrast to life here, has unleashed much of the joy and happiness that is required to be an American. Every little things floods me with gratitutde. The short commute. The civil drivers. Quiet movie theaters (I’m part of a movie group and now go see movies regularly, somthing I rarely did in LA). Ample parking. Friendly, helpful people. Fully being a part of the team at work. Using my intelligence and talents creatively at work – designing flyers, social media posts, and working on new ways to bring in more clients. Flexibility at work that allows for a social life. No entitled celebrities. No more entitled people who think they’re special because they work in TV. Car insurance at half the price. Long showers. Green! Thunder. Lightning. The ease of running to the store and it not taking an hour or more. Shorter lines. Lack of competitiveness – because there’s enough for everyone. Watching a guy play with his dog in the park across the street (which I’m doing right now.) Not hearing a Harley at 5:20 a.m. every day as it idles at the stoplight by my old house and then roars off, being audible for well over a mile away. The new definition of rush hour – when an older couple pedaled past my house on their bikes, followed by a pickup truck a minute later. Living on one level instead of having to climb stairs every day. Old growth trees in a big yard. Activities that are easily accessible. Feeling safe. Feeling supported.

The list could go on and on and on. As I said, I feel gratitude for every little thing simply because of the contrast of what I just went through. However, I know human nature, and that contrast will eventually fade. People here complain about traffic. They have no idea, but eventually I will probably complain too. Despite loving rain, after several weeks of it, I was ready for some sun. Just too bad it also comes with humidity. See, there’s a little complaint sneaking in. But, thankfully now that I’m heading in the gratitude direction, it will be harder to turn the ship back around. It will be easier to keep the heading, as long as I am aware, and stay present at the wheel. That’s my goal. Remember where I am, compared to where I was. As long as I do that, it’s so easy to be grateful!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather