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Monday, May 16, 2011

"I can find gratitude in anything!"

"Anything?" queried my incredulous friend.

"ANYthing!" I asserted, "Name it - I'll find a reason to be grateful for it."

Needless to say my friend was doubtful. So much so that she challenged me to spend the weekend looking for the holes in my belief.

But I had no doubt I could do it. When people ask me what was the very first thing I did to begin the transformation journey that culminated in a loss of 85lbs, they expect to hear about discovering an exercise I didn't hate or discovering the magic pill that everyone is convinced exists. They are not prepared for my true answer - I began to pursue gratitude.

Gratitude is both a pervasive and elusive thing in our culture. Mothers everywhere try to drill it into their children's heads. Last night on the train, a rambunctious 3 year old sat (stood, jumped, crawled, wiggled) across from me. Revved up following a professional lacrosse game, he was bouncing. I engaged him like any good grandmother would and he kept playing Conductor - asking me repeatedly for my ticket, play stamping it, then returning it to me - over and over again. Every time I handed it to him, he said "thank you" with enthusiasm. Then he said it again when he handed it back. And when his mother gave him a sucker. And his dad gave him his cheering towel. He, at 3, was well versed in his "thank you's"!

But, like so many of us, somewhere between 3 and 23, the meaning of thank you began to elude me - even as I continued to say it. Instead of seeking reasons to be grateful, I was like my well trained 3 year old self - saying thank you frequently throughout the day but feeling thankful less and less as life's burdens piled up. Big tragedies, small annoyances, minor inconveniences, large losses - they laid the foundation of feeling that the world was simply a tough and difficult place to be and my best bet was to simply try to get through it. Which I did - largely by filling my plate with all kinds of artificial happiness and digging in.

I don't remember exactly the catalyst for beginning to keep a gratitude list. I know I was deeply unhappy and looking for something positive to get me out of my rut. I started with just 3 items a day. For the first 10 days, those daily gratitudes were both rote and mundane. "I'm grateful for my husband. I'm grateful for my children. I'm grateful to live in a free country." All true, but, after 10 days of repetition, already boring.

Like many diets started on many Monday mornings, I was at risk of giving it up. So - I mixed it up. It had to be 3 things to be grateful for that had happened that day. This is much more challenging; as I sat with my journal at night reviewing the events of the day, I struggled to find any joy in a difficult commute, a slightly crazed and difficult boss, a 5 hour unproductive meeting, an overful dinner plate, a night spent slackjawed in front of the TV. But I did. Something in this challenge clicked for me.

It wasn't long before I realised that to have something to write at night, I was going to have to look for it all day long. Do you have any idea of what happens when you look for reasons to feel grateful all day long? You find it.

Difficult commute? Hey, I got there with no accidents! Or the lights were green 50% of the time! Crazed boss? Woo hoo, he left early! 5 hour meeting? I got my shopping list made out and planned my vacation in my head! No matter what came up, I started believing that something good might come out of it.

Gratitude is a powerful emotion - I know there's chemistry involved but I'm not that interested in its science. Mostly I'm interested in its powerful impact on my spirit. When I started this gratitude work 8 years ago, I wasn't sure who I was thanking. Now I know that I am sending my gratitude out into the universe as positive energy that is going to come back to me someday. And it does - like a clear, vibrational force that centers and fills me with a deep, abiding, self love. Those of you who know me, know I believe that the magic pill of weight loss is a self love so strong, you would do anything to protect it from harm and that includes taking care of your body through healthy food and exercise choices..

So - did I manage my friend's challenge? Indeed - let me share the toughest example:

I wore 3" heels for 12 hours on Friday neglecting to remember the huge amount of walking I would be doing. In addition to limping to the train on painful, swollen feet, I suffered a quarter sized blister on my toe. I slipped my shoes off on the train, and couldn't get them back on thanks to the instant increase in swelling. I was sitting on the train, exhausted, barefoot and blistered - what could I possible find to be grateful for in that?

First - I'm grateful that I can wear heels - unheard of at 221 lbs!
Second - I'm grateful for the blister because it reminded me that there are always consequences to choice! And, by choosing anything, you choose the outcome and I am so grateful for choice!
Third - the path from the train station to the car was paved and clean and I could get there barefoot - thank you GO train maintenance guys!
Finally - at 51, I don't care if people stare at me walking barefoot in the rain across a parking lot!

Yes - I can find any reason to feel grateful. What are you grateful for today?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • no profile photo CD1004580
    It is truly amazing to read your blog and see that in the other side of the world, another woman is thinking and feeling like I do. You are obviously better than me in finding things to be grateful for. I am practically a novice compared to you. Thank you for writing these. I will be following you. Thank you.
    3580 days ago
    I am grateful for your honesty and reading this blog.
    Thank you for sharing. emoticon
    3613 days ago
    Grateful: how did I miss this wonderful blog??? Happy to have found it now.

    I do agree that we tend to stuff ourselves full of food because we feel empty: and we feel empty because we don't notice and appreciate all that we have, as we would do if we made a point of being grateful. Specifically grateful for the good things of this particular day!!

    That "attitude of gratitude" may sound cheesy but it's a choice, and a choice that works to enrich life profoundly.

    Feeling grateful as an essential element of weight loss and weight loss maintenance. . .I can relate to that.
    3616 days ago
    Agreed - grateful for your blog and your attitude!

    This little girl comes home from her first day at Kindergarten school. And she goes to daddy and says "I am never going to school again."
    "Because my teacher said, 5+5=10; 6+4=10;7+3=10;8+2=10; and that 9+1=10!"
    "And your point is???"

    I'm going to blog about this later... not the joke but the gratefulness that we have so many ways to reach our goals. When I was a wee sparker I just wanted it to be ONE way, black and white and simple. I'm glad you shared that it takes effort and is a learned thing to be grateful. (That at least is how I read between the lines). I have found as I age a tendency to feel jaded towards life and that makes me "Self" centered. My gratefulness opens me up to so many more possibilities. Makes life worthwhile. Makes it a wonderful place to be. That is what I really want.
    3624 days ago
  • KELPIE57
    Thankd you, first on my list of thingsto be grateful for today is this blog!
    3624 days ago
    Well first off I am grateful to see you posting!!!! HI missed you!!! Are you back from FL or wherever??
    So what am I thankful for today. let's start with what I am not thankful for - I have a very bad sore throat, stuffed nose, eyes and ears and my neck hurts really bad. oh add a pain in my chest.
    What am I thankful for???
    That I am not so sick that I can't move around and still function.
    That I have a hubby that cares and encouraged me to call in sick ( granted I wasn't keen on being around my elderly like this !)
    Oh that I have soft tissues to blow this raw nose LOL

    and the one about the traffic - I do that lots. Think oh great got lots of green lights, or glad I went this way heard the other way has an accident hope they are all okay in accident.
    There is always something to be greatful for and yes it can be hard to find but they it nakes it that much more special.
    HUGS and welecome back!!!
    3624 days ago
    FANTASTIC blog!

    (and even when I think I may have difficulty being grateful, my perverse mind tells me, "It COULD have been WORSE!", so that in itself provokes gratitude!) emoticon
    3625 days ago
  • DOOBIE893
    I am grateful that the Lord woke me up this morning in good health.

    I am GRATEFUL for this awesome blog.

    I am grateful that I am employed and did not receive a layoff notice.

    3625 days ago
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