An Attitude for Gratitude

G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E!

Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude helps you bring recognition to the value of every aspect of your life and the lives of others.

In my observations, it was apparent that while people issued thank you’s, there was a huge gap between the thank you and the gratitude.

1499365595873and realized that I was just as guilty of not overindulging in it as so many others.

To be honest, when I first began this journey into the dissection of gratitude, saying thank you and being grateful was one big melted crayon. I wasn’t aware that they were two separate entities that were co-dependent on one another.

Consider this:

In the supermarket, an elderly couple were waiting for the cashier to ring up their items. The wife left the line and returned with ice cream sandwiches. She said to her husband, “I know how much you like these so I grabbed you a box”. The husband, who had been looking at a magazine never glanced up but said, “Thanks”. grandparents-962866_640The wife became visibly irritated and told her husband he was very ungrateful. He looked up and said, “What? I said thank you”.

At home that night, the supermarket couple came to mind. This time in a different way. While I could only see the side of her face, the elderly woman’s posture gave away her disappointment in her husband’s, seemingly, lack of appreciation for her thoughtfulness.

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At the same time, her husband, whose face was in full view when he turned to look at her, had an expression of genuine shock and confusion because he overestimated the power in his thank you.

It was easy to put myself in both of their shoes. I understood what made her feel unappreciated and I also understood why he thought thank you was enough. There was a void of gratitude or, at the very least, their use of it was very weak.

Here’s another one:

When your mind is set on something the expectation is that you get what you see at face value. You tend to not plan for deviations. You know what you want and you expect to get it.

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For almost 2 weeks, a friend’s car had been out-of-order. I offered to transport her to and from work until her vehicle was ready. One day, however, I was not going to be available and, 2 days prior, she was informed that she would need to find an alternate way to get to work.

She was bothered instead of being grateful that, for 9 work days out of 10, I made sure that she made it to and from a workplace that I was not employed (I work from home). She allowed one deviation to drop a nest of entitled hornets into her happiness bag.

The verdict was clear. When you are not well versed in gratitude, one stray hair can ruin your whole hairstyle.

Having an Attitude of Gratitude humbles the materialistic selfish desires of the human nature and teaches you to recognize the value of what is already in your possession.

You learn to appreciate more what you have and look forward to what can be yours and then you learn to appreciate that. You learn to celebrate what’s current and constant in your life and, through it all, your happiness increases.

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I started thinking about the countless times I was less than appreciative. Those times when my thank you just didn’t match my gratitude and I was NOT impressed.

If you thought about yours, how many could you count? (Hint-Even one is too many).

In comes the gratitude challenge.

The act or expression of gratitude has taken a backseat to narcissism-but not always on purpose. Sometimes it gets rusty and dusty from under-utilization.

I created this challenge is to encourage you to:

  1. Look at yourself. Where you have been, where you want to go, and where you could possibly end up. Your vision can change with the blink of an eye.
  2. Look outside of yourself. gratitude-1251137_640Recognize that you’re not as self-sufficient as you think you are. From the insects to the sun and the gardeners to the teachers, there is someone doing something beneficial to you.
  3. Look to those around you. Be willing to be a source of direct and indirect motivation, positivity and generosity. In some way, someone at sometime was all those things to you.

I believe gratitude is something that should come full circle but it has to start somewhere. In order to make big, meaningful and permanent changes you have to:

  • Make the decision to change
  • Make the committment to change and
  • Start small
  • Share your gratitude and teach others to recognize and appreciate their own beautiful messes.

Once you start living intentionally in gratitude, the world will open up, take on a new look and have new meaning. Are you ready? (Click the image below).

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I’m Ready For The Challenge!

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Pulling the Weeds and Trimming the Hedges.

And this just in:

“I’m making some changes in my life. If you don’t hear from me you were one of them.”~unknown

So nice, I had to say it twice! The second time doesn’t sound as cruel as the first. At this stage of your life change, it actually might be music to your ears.

Now that your mind has been recruited, it’s time to make a few necessary adjustments in the who, what, when, where and why’s of your social circle, both personal and professional. Not everyone will be happy with your steps towards change and you will find that you may need to change the people around you. No worries! Your change is for a better you not a bitter them.

Not all of your old friends and associates will be able to or even want to speak your new language. Running with the same crowd may make you feel like the odd man or woman out, especially if your goal is to change some of the mutual habits shared that you want to lose but they wish to keep.  Those behaviors may be a negative impact on all of the progress, regardless of how small, you have made and you just don’t need it! Switch it up. Find local or online groups of like-minded individuals that you can interact with. Go to museums, art galleries or do volunteer work at an agency of your choice that will keep you in step with your goals. Whatever compliments your mental framework, just do it!

Next, is it time to move on professionally? If your current employment venture is failing to adequately meet your needs, it may be. I don’t, however, recommend storming into your boss’s office spewing different forms of profanity and then quitting on the spot. While it may be a great source of temporary gratification, it would certainly be the end of work as you know it. Instead, brainstorm. Think about the possible options available to you. Is there room for advancement? Are there other departments that may be more suitable for your needs? If you do need to seek out other opportunities are you qualified to meet the demand or will you require formal educational training?

Whatever you decide, stick to the plan. Only you know where you want to go. If you have prepared yourself mentally, you will successfully navigate around issues as they occur. If you have begun cultivating an environment that will enable you to grow, you’ve already won half the battle. No plan is without flaws so you should expect setbacks, within reason. Do your best not to succumb to discouragement and just keep pushing!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Mental Preparation

“Your mind is where your problem is in the first place”. ~Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind.

As mentioned in my previous post, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Change?, transitioning from the person you are to the person you desire to be is a far cry from being simple. Mental preparation should be the first step in your journey for change. Well, maybe not the first step. You do need to be able to recognize when change is essential. Once hindsight has been discovered, then the process can begin.

The way you mentally process information and situations today may not be appropriate or provide room for growth in where you see yourself tomorrow. Your thoughts can manifest into your actions. If you envision yourself on the road to happiness or success you will physically place yourself on that path. Likewise, if you are pessimistic in thinking you will see many unproductive days.

It’s ill-advised to think that real change can happen overnight! Don’t get me wrong, your situation can be one way today and a different way tomorrow, by chance. That doesn’t necessarily indicate true long-term change or even a stable one, for that matter, if you are not mentally prepared to make it so. Securing your mindset enables you to hold yourself accountable for every thought, decision, and action that pertains to anything you do when you are in a season of transition and beyond. You may find it beneficial to talk less and observe more. This doesn’t imply that you should not speak up it simply means sometimes, when you incessantly verbalize, you block out the lesson that’s being taught. During your mental transition, its all about learning new ways and molding them into your own self structured life plan.

To help you gain clarity, try these suggestions:

  1. Meditate
  2. Keep a journal to help you stay focused.
  3. Recognize triggers that offset your peace. Find a new more positive way to deal with them or, if you can, get rid of them all together.
  4. Replace negative thoughts and emotions with positive alternatives.
  5. Surround yourself with people who are supportive.
  6. Incorporate new daily routines that serve as a pathway toward your desired goals.

Again I say, mental preparation is by far the hardest part of the change process. You are, after all, attempting to redirect what is now a hard-wired thought design that is years in the making. Even more challenging is that a mental change is not a cosmetic attribute and, the way our hard wired thoughts are set up, any change or anything new needs to be visible. We like to flaunt it. What is there to possibly flaunt when we are on mental haywire balancing act? FLAUNT YOUR FOCUS!!!

Listen, if you are one who still has major concern about what someone else may see when they look at you during YOUR season of personal change, then you are already sabotaging your success. It doesnt matter what they see! What is your vision for yourself?  What do you see?

 

 

Choosing to be Better

A quick check-in as another week is nearing it’s end.

Sundays are notorious for being church, laundry, house cleaning, big meal cooking, sports watching or do nothing all day kind of days because the new week – be it a work week, school week or homemaker week – is about to begin.

Regardless of what you have to look forward to in the upcoming days, are you happy to face them as the same person you were yesterday? You probably met deadlines – barely, interacted with people in a not-so-great mood, started a new diet with a little enthusiasm and a lot of self-doubt, or had a mountain of items on your to-do list and only managed to check off the box for the things you didn’t get done. Maybe  your milestones were at the other end of the spectrum. Maybe you jogged that extra mile, drunk more water, or spent less time on social media and more time with family.

Whatever your flow was this week do it better next week. Think about what you can do to push yourself forward and what you need to do to eliminate those things that keep you stagnant. Make a greater effort to host a positive atmosphere because the energy you give off has a way of finding it’s way back to you. Take small steps each day to be better than you were yesterday. Remember, little things can turn into big things if you focus on it long enough. Just be wise about which little thing you want to grow.

Enjoy!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Through the Looking Glass

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with the husband of a woman who had recently passed away. This was my first time ever speaking with him but I immediately felt a connection. He wasn’t sad about her passing. In fact, he was happy to share feelings about his wife’s life and death as well as his own. He said talking about it kept the sadness at bay. Listening to him pushed a multitude of emotions through my system. It made me happy, sad, nostalgic, curious and enthusiastic. It also made me appreciate and respect all that life is and can be.

He spoke about his past and, being an older African American man born and raised in southern Alabama in the late 1930’s, his past was full of good, bad, and ugly. He talked about cousins lost to lynchings, brothers tarred and feathered, sisters raped by white men, and friends beat beyond recognition because they looked at a white woman.

He talked about watching his mother struggle to make ends meet when his father had to leave home for long periods of time just to find work, and often coming back empty handed. Altogether, there were 11 of them-his father, mother, 6 brothers, 2 sisters and himself.  The lucky seven. That’s what his mother called them. All 7 of her sons lived through a time when many became strange fruit or alligator bait. He remembered how they all would pitch in to help earn money to put food on the table-cleaning yards, chopping wood, delivering groceries and anything else they could find to do. He remembered a time when the only thing he could call shoes was the 2 pieces of cardboard that he had to tie to his feet-but he still went out and chopped that wood. He said his momma taught him how to cook, too, and that’s why his wife married him.

When he and his wife met they were both getting over previous relationships and had children of their own. He remembered how fond his mother was of his wife. She told him, ‘don’t you hold that gal in a drawn out situation if you dont want to hold her heart through life. She’s better than that last one you had and she deserves better than that last one she had’.  He told me he was almost certain, to the best of his old mind, that those were his mother’s exact words. Then she asked him what he was going to do.

I now pronounce you husband and wife…

As a couple, they had been married for 54 years. They had their ups and downs, which is to be expected in any relationship, but they never gave up. I listened to him reminisce about the different things that they did together. He laughed at how often his southern charm put him in hot water. His wife was a firecracker and she didn’t take no mess. She had been sick for a long time, cancer, and as much as it brought him joy to see her smile, his heartache tripled to watch her suffer.

Towards the end, he had become sick himself and had to be admitted to the hospital. “I got that wheezing problem and have a hard time breathing”, he told me-asthma. His wife was supposed to come visit but his daughter called and said she hadn’t been feeling well and was taken to different hospital. He said when he was discharged, he would go visit his wife and, even laying in the last bed she would rest on, she would vibrantly cuss him out for that old southern Alabama charm and those nurses.

Till Death, Do Us Part…

On her last day, he had an appointment and wouldn’t be able to get to the hospital until later in the day. He said she called him. She sounded tired but he was used to hearing her like that. He said she asked him how much longer before he would get to the hospital because she was trying to wait for him but it was getting too hard. He knew what she meant. He said he told her not to worry because he would be there even if she wasn’t. They exchanged I love you’s and said their goodbye’s. That was the last time they spoke.

I allowed him to speak for well over an hour and in that hour he was able to recount what took more than 54 years to live. Yes, he was going to miss his wife. Their lives together was the equivalent of a single strand of dna. He would miss her but he will always find her in those memories as long as he was able.

Remember those emotions I mentioned earlier? Well, I was happy because I was blessed to be able to get a glimpse of the past through the eyes of a stranger. Nostalgic because he made me think of my childhood and how vastly different it was from his. My sadness was because, like most children, I didn’t recognize or appreciate my parents and the sacrifices they made as much as I could have. My curiosity and enthusiasm made me think about all the things that were to come. I don’t know the order of my steps but I’m looking forward to where they may lead. I appreciate this man for allowing me a glimpse at his life. I now have a more heightened respect for those older than myself. The next time you encounter an elderly person, I hope you are as lucky as I was to have been taken through the looking glass. I know I will never speak with this man again but I thought it would be appropriate to give him recognition.

Thank you, Mr. Gordon!

 

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Reversing Murphy’s Law or, at least, remaining sane while it wreaks havoc.

For those of you who are not familiar with Murphy’s Law it simply states anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Feels good to have a name for the chaos in your life now, doesn’t it?

Have you ever had one of those days where Murphy’s Law and all of his friends camped out at the foot of your bed and followed you around all day? I’m talking about one of those days where, after you get off of work, pick the kids up from school or whatever your daily ritual is, you find yourself at the grocery store intending to get something for dinner but, instead, you purchase 3 bottles of wine, two tubs of ice cream, some cereal and some milk. The day you had may have been so overwhelming that this form of splurging is all that made sense at that moment.

I do believe that, to a great extent, we can control the positive and negative energies that we interact with which can influence 1) who we are, 2) our actions and 3) our reactions. If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think to yourself is that you are going to have a feces filled day, that’s exactly what you’re going to have to look forward to. You’re allowing yourself to be consumed by negativity. You move through your day thinking it’ll all be fine once you get home or it’ll all be fine once this day is over but, the truth is, if your mind is trained to seek out all of the negative shades in any situation, you wont be fine. Every day, without fail you will repeat the same thing over and over again. The problem may not be the situation the problem may be you.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
-Anais Nin

Don’t believe it? Think about that friend, family member or coworker that does NOTHING BUT COMPLAIN. Everything that can go wrong with that person does go wrong. When was the last time you heard that person say something genuinely positive that did not have genuinely negative undertones? My guess would be Neveruary 32nd 1800 BC. Have you ever assessed the situation only to be more confused because there was no clear issue to be found? That person just may be negative soul seeker. Don’t be that person!

I’ve learned to live with, laugh at, learn from and love every part of my crazy days-even when I hate them. If you think about it, what good would it do for you to submit your anger to problems that you have no control over? It doesn’t change the fact that the problems exist and it, definitely, doesn’t bring resolve. I don’t know about your problems but mine can be very resilient and borderline hardcore bullies that laugh in the face of my anger. So, if you find yourself constantly in the grips of Murphy’s Law, give him a wedgie. That’s what my son did to a bully on his school bus and it seems to have worked.

On a serious note, these ideas worked for me and maybe they will help you too.

  1. Find focal points that convey positive thoughts. Pictures usually make great focal points.
  2. Know your anger threshold. Breakaway BEFORE you reach a level unreasonable feelings.
  3. Set meaningful but reasonable goals for yourself. These are very positive reinforcements that you actually can control. I’m a control freak so when I have my own goal that no one else has access to as long as I remain focused. I. REMAIN. FOCUSED.
  4. Throw some optimism at ’em. I have won many internal and external conflicts with an ounce of optimism.
  5. If you can’t gain some positive mileage, take a look at your surroundings. It might be time to change your environment and the familiar faces in it.

Listen, life knows how to go all out for the best comedy drama of the year award. The only thing is that the actors don’t usually find it funny. When I’m up for nomination, instead of flipping the bird and rearranging my letters to form various sequences of curse words – okay maybe I do do that (do, do/ do-do 🤔…I hate when my word-formation forms other unintentional words). Anyway, yes, those actions are done by me. Is that better? I try not let those things consume me. I still manage to get past the irony that is a part of life. Yes, I may need to take a step back,  inhale and exhale but then i regroup. It’s doesn’t have to be permanent and I’m not going to let it determine how the rest of my day goes. So the next time you wake up, breathe life into the kind of day you want to have not the kind of day you want not to have. Heck, why wait? You can do it now!

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A Cup of Coffee

It’s amazing how normal everyday things can be a source of inspiration when you have the desire to write. Something as simple as a cup of coffee can help you tell a story.

Imagine sitting across from someone whom you haven’t seen in years. Imagine, placed between the two of you, a table on which sat two mugs of freshly brewed coffee. Imagine your surroundings. Are you at home or at a local coffee shop? Imagine the weather. Is the sun dominating the sky or are the clouds flexing their muscles? Imagine the face of a person who you’ve missed who now sits at this table with you and those two cups of coffee.

Here’s what I would want my person to know.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about the road that I’ve travelled. The experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned.

If we were having coffee, I would share stories about my children. You would be as proud of them as I am.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I still have not found anyone who could make cornbread and lemonade quite the way you do and, no matter how many times you gave me the recipe, I knew it just wouldn’t be the same.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how much I missed summers at your house when I was a little girl.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how I still laugh at the memories of you hopping from one foot to the next doing the ‘Ooga Booga’ dance just to get Vicky to eat.

If we were having coffee, I would ask you whatever happened to that blue blanket that Richie refused to leave home without. The one that you could only wash when he was asleep. Then I would tell you that you were a genius in successfully getting rid of it altogether.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how spoiled Freddy was but then you already knew because you were the one who did it. You spoiled me too.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you to drink yours very slow so I could cherish every moment until it was time for us both to go. ❤

What would you say to your person?

 

Family Ties

It’s true. Our family are the first friends we have in life. They are the ones who witness just about all of our firsts. They are the ones who pick us up when we fall-after they laugh, of course. They are the ones who wear our clothes without permission or steal the last ice cream from the freezer even if they know you haven’t had any, only to share with you later-sometimes and wipe are tears when we cry.

Family, whether it’s your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or cousins, are the first ones to teach you how to love, how to hate, how to dream. The bond you have with your family should be one that trumps all others. It should be a bond rooted in strength and forgiveness, kindness and trust. Family is home and home should be your sanctuary.

Times have changed so much. Nowadays, the family circle is broken and, in some cases, irreparably so. As we get older, we change. Our interests change. Our thoughts are overloaded with the sights, sounds, touches and tastes of our environment. We meet new people and adopt some of their qualities. We go through the many sequences of trying to shape-shift into who we are meant to be in our next stage of life and, sometimes we step away from our sanctuary.

Stepping away, in my opinion, is not the same as branching out. When you branch out, you remain rooted to your core. You still flourish from the nutritional strength that gave you life and maintained you and you can now expand it and make it stronger. This in no way declares eternal dependency. It, instead, develops independent success. When you step away, you detach yourself from that which you came. You can no longer gain sustenance and you can not add to it.

There may be many reasons why we step away from the roots of our beginning. Sometimes, the cause is so extensive that the only choice we have is to sever the ties. Sometimes, however, the cause is just a wrinkle that no one wants to straighten out. Sometimes our own mind magnifies a situation to imaginary proportions; other times, it’s our pride.

No one ever wants to be the first to say they’re sorry because, let’s face it, who likes to admit they’re wrong? In some cases, you may not even be the one who’s at fault. Those are the times we need to rise above the glass encased emotions that we harvest and recognize what’s really important. If you can remember a time when your family was crazy but cool, you should also remember some key factors in keeping them cool (the crazy will always represent itself):

  • Communication is one of the essential elements that keeps a family strong. Take time to talk to each other. Celebrate successes. Talk about future plans. Send a quick text to say hello. Keep it personal. Social media love isn’t always sufficient.
  • Be positive. The sun doesn’t always shine. Sometimes you have to bring your own light to illuminate someone else’s darkness. They’ll thank you for it and you’ll recognize their appreciation if you’re not, solely, looking for it.
  • Family night. A lot can happen in a week. Plan a day-maybe once a month-where everyone can get together to catch up. Have fun with each other, play games, reminisce. Make memories.
  • Be there for one another. Even the strongest shoulder needs someone to lean on. Let your family know that you are there for them. Even when you think they should know, say it anyway. Reinforcing how much you love and care for someone can move mountains.

There are so many ways you can maintain the bond with your family. It may take lots of creativity and patience but it’s well worth the effort. Just like you’ve changed, so have they. You all have so many NEW things to learn about each other. Take advantage of it.

Is it an act or a fact?

If your act of kindness is only for the camera or for the praise, it’s not kindness at all.  It’s just an act.    ~Liz McKenzie

How many of you know someone who is always there to lend a helping hand BUT they have to prepare their acceptance speech first?  How many of you are that person?

The acts of kindness and appreciation are, slowly, becoming extinct.  Many people, I find, get so wrapped up in their expectations of the reactions of others based on a, seemingly, good deed that they forget to appreciate the fact that they were in a position to help in the first place.  It’s easy to hone in on what others don’t do but what about you?  What about all the things you can do but don’t do?  What about all of the things you take for granted on a daily basis?  Do you genuinely appreciate what others do for you or do you simply feel privileged, like it’s your birth right?

Let me be the first to confess that, as the baby girl to four brothers and one sister, I thought it was my birth right to expect without much appreciation.  Then the growing pains of reality hit…HARD.  Luckily, for me, I was able to recognize it for what it was (not instantly, but after some bumps and bruises, I was good).  I wasn’t so trapped in a wonderland that I needed to pout or throw a tantrum just to have my way.  I learned that wants were not necessities and was able to outgrow my selfishness and embrace the perspective of, not only putting other people first, but also being genuine in my thoughts and actions. Let me interject; putting others first DOES NOT mean ignoring your own needs.  It DOES mean prioritizing your wants when someone else is need.

I’m sure you have all, at some point, been told not to expect people to behave or react the way you would.  If you haven’t, reread that last sentence and consider yourself told. If your actions are based on how you think someone should react you are setting yourself up for huge disappointment.  Learn to give without receiving.  Learn to understand that the kindness of giving is not just monetary.  Giving is time.  Giving is lending an ear or giving advice.  It’s sharing words of encouragement or a joke to clear the air. It’s all of these things sans the need to gloat.  Additionally, in your time of need, try being the person you want others to be. Put your privileged thoughts aside. Lead by example.

Don’t try to find you in someone else.  Everyone is different.  We all live, laugh, and love differently.  We talk differently, find happiness differently and we have our own ways of showing our appreciation.   Remember, if your kindness isn’t genuine, the appreciation will most likely be reciprocal.