Life

A word on gratitude.

I’m a bit late, I know. “Thanksgiving was last week!” you may be thinking. Indeed it was but as tends to happen during the holiday season, this girl got caught up in the seeing-as-many-people-as-possible-in-4-days game and didn’t have time to even sit down let alone write anything until after the holiday. So here we are.

Gratitude makes the world go round. I wholeheartedly believe that. I try to be grateful everyday- I send some words of thanks in the morning for waking up and I send little prayers of gratitude each time I sit down for a meal, in my own, unorthodox form of grace. I say constant prayers of gratitude out for my family, my friends, my boyfriend, all the wonderful people in my life who make my life both more enjoyable and more fulfilling.

But as I’ve mentioned before, gratitude is hard. It’s hard to remember to be grateful everyday. Because life happens and you hit traffic and you don’t like your outfit and your day lasts longer than you expect and it’s raining and it’s cold and you don’t have time for the gym and you don’t have time to stop for coffee and you have a headache and someone made you mad and it’s Monday and your phone died and life just happens, all around us, everyday.

The last few months, I have been exhausted, mentally and physically burnt out. For anyone who has dealt with any sort of mental illness, you know that anxiety, depression, disordered eating love when this happens. “Look!”, they say, “her guard is down! Let’s move in! Bring your blankets, kids, cause we’re settling in for awhile”. And they come, gloomy and all-consuming, and try their hardest to suck you into their little world. And because of the exhaustion and the weariness, you don’t have the energy to fight them.

And you try! You do, you try your hardest to stay positive and cheery and when you’re not positive and cheery, you feel in some strange way like you are failing. You try to remain positive even when you question if you have it in you. “It’s not like I really have depression…” I say to my therapist. She replies half-jokingly, but mostly seriously, “no, you really do!” Oh. Well. Okay then. Leave it to me to try to lighten up the topic of depression.

Last Wednesday was my first full day home for break. And I had a lot of things to do and I wasn’t sure when I would be able to do them all. I had plans with friends, I had a meeting a woman to discuss possible job opportunities, I had to prepare things for Thanksgiving. And I had just taken two full days off from exercise, which sends me into a real tizzy (the worst kind of tizzy). And even though I was home with my family, even though I had been waiting for this day for weeks, even though I was finally on break, I felt irritated and incomprehensibly blue. I wanted to lie in my pajamas all day, which is what I did at some points during the day. My mom came in at one point and I could see the concern on her face, which made me feel worse.

I decided I would go for a run, which can sometimes make these things better for me. And for the first couple miles, I couldn’t shake my weary mind but once I was into my third mile, I started to thank the universe for everything in my life and I continued to do this for the next two or three miles, until I returned back home.

I said my normal prayers for my parents (all four of them), my sisters and stepsiblings and grandmothers and uncles and cousins and all my family, for Charles and my friends and their families and all the people who enrich my life. I said thanks for the important stuff- the Earth, a warm bed, my family’s health and happiness, not having to worry about where my next meal was coming form, having a roof over my head and reliable transportation and the opportunity to pursue what I am passionate about in life.

I said prayers for the stuff I don’t always think about- for a kitchen to cook in, a computer to work on, a phone to talk to my family on, a healthy body to live in. Access to healthcare, supermarkets, a doctor, a therapist. Wonderfully patient and understanding internship directors, friendly neighbors who look at my car when it’s broken, college roommates-turned-best-friends whose texts cheer you up every time. I said words of thank for the excited 4th grade faces when I go to teach classes everyday and the hugs I get afterwards. For the way the world seems to come together in the wake of events like those in Paris, in a heartbreakingly beautiful sort of way. For the things I’ve struggled with in my life that made me a more understanding and compassionate person.

Then I said prayers for the “little” things- hazelnut coffee with the perfect amount of milk, books to read, libraries, banana bread, ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, spending Thanksgiving with my family, eating breakfast out, wine, blue pens, writing in my journal before bed, winter vegetables, my fingers and my toes, fuzzy socks, warm blankets, fields and crops and the people who tended them, yoga and Christmas lights and nature and the ability of the Earth to have provided for us for millions of years. And I prayed sometimes for the “silly” things- “I’m thankful for that tree! And that tree! And that rock! And brooks and rivers and oceans and lakes! And paved roads and mailboxes and hanging your clothes on the line and driveways and chimneys and that rock again!”

I thanked the universe for everything I could think of over the course of about 30 minutes. To think only of the good and to think of all the things in your life as things to be thankful for is a wonderful way to live. I would like to say that after these revelations, my whole day and weekend turned out, I was the epitome of cheer! But that would be lying. Because, as always, the thoughts that you try so desperately to keep out fight their way back in. But moments of unabashed gratitude remind you that it’s okay. Those thoughts can come and sit with you if they need to but at the end of the day, I do believe, really and truly, that having a grateful heart and a grateful mind will conquer all the bad thoughts.

Happy late Thanksgiving all!

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