Sunday, December 1, 2013

Final post of the gratitude challenge: Day 30
(and a few thoughts on gratitude)

The word for Day 30: Self.

I am not opposed to the selfie, goodness knows I have flipped the lens around on the phone more than a time or two to capture a good hair day or an acne-free moment! But in approaching the word self, I felt pulled toward something else.

Thinking on those words, how they relate to self, and how they relate to gratitude, made me so grateful for this month, for this challenge, and for what gratitude can accomplish. I've mentioned it before, but the circle of gratitude never fails, it really doesn't.

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." -William Arthur

I saw a few posts in social media this month that put down the idea of a 30-day challenge, of a month where thankfulness is celebrated. The general theme of the complaints seemed to be that we should be grateful every day, not just one month or one day out of the year. I couldn't agree more. But what surprised me was the lack of general goodwill that seemed to surround the notion of allowing others the space to speak their gratitude in whatever way is meaningful to them. I mean, look away if others speaking their thankfulness is somehow annoying, you know?

This was the first year I've participated in a gratitude challenge. In past years I have seen posts trot by via social media and had slightly negative thoughts about the concept myself--how trite, how forced, how shallow. Somehow, this year, with my lack of real time and energy around blogging, the idea of a photo challenge through Instagram seemed doable. And the act of looking at the chosen word and thinking about it--sometimes in advance, sometimes extremely last-minute--became an exercise in daily gratitude that I appreciated.

The trend toward gratitude as a marketable notion, something to be embraced by the masses, is bound to give even the most grateful of us a bit of a hollow feeling--something along the lines of an art masterpiece being slapped onto every fridge magnet, coffee mug, and over-the-sofa posters: one-size-fits-all gratitude, if you will. It's what happens when an idea becomes universal, or close to it. But I am willing to take that down side for all the positives I witness from the spread of gratitude. And, for the small amount of negative noise around the rituals of Thanksgiving and thankfulness, there was much more voice given to the benefits of gratitude.  .

This TED talk is worth the 14 minutes to consider living a grateful life. Many of his thoughts resonate with what I've found to be true about happiness following gratitude, not spawning it.

I don't have to struggle (most days) to achieve gratitude. I'm not saying that because everything is sunshine and rainbows and unicorns in my life. I recognize my blessings, daily. But more to the point, I recognize that my attitude has a lot more to do with how I'm feeling on any given day than the actual circumstances do. There are times when I feel like I should apologize for having this approach, as if the fact that many people struggle to find happiness is somehow my burden (I should cheer them up?), that I need to chill with the gratitude, just to fit in better. Can't do it.

I've had a few situations lately that have shown me how embedded gratitude is in my life, and I couldn't be happier about that. There's an "other shoe dropping" feeling that clutches at my heart as I write that sentence, knowing that tomorrow the Universe could throw myself or a dear loved one a giant curveball that shakes up my idea of gratitude completely. I guess, in acknowledging this, I'm saying that's OK. It's going to be what it's going to be; the only thing I can pick is how I respond.

I wish you gratitude. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Yearlong, joyful, solid and unshakeable gratitude. Me, I'll be back on Friday night. ;)

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