I wrote this post originally in November of 2018. With sheltering in place and the world in CHANGE mode, it felt appropriate to repost it here and now. Wishing you all strong immune systems, patience as CHANGE HAPPENS, the wherewithal to find the spark in the dark, and the continued nurturing of a grateful heart.
All my love and blessings, Shannon
I’ve always loved life. Even when things were rough, there was something within me that didn’t want to give up, a kind of spark. It might have flickered dangerously low at times, but it was always there, keeping me warm, lighting my way when I needed it most.
I believe that the Universe, what I call LIFE, has my back. That in its own way and in its own time, LIFE will place people and nuggets of grace before you to pick up, to hold, to invite in.
One of those nuggets for me was Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance ~ A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, gifted to me by my mother whose sister had gifted her the book as well. This was in 1995. Till then I’d lived a relatively thankful life. I didn’t take things too for granted, but I wasn’t fully conscious either. I just sort of… allowed the daily to-do list to become my purpose.
But when I read about Sarah’s The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude something ~ that same light that was my spark ~ whispered, yes…. And so, I began to keep my own gratitude journal. And everything changed for me.
Instead of focusing on the negative, the ick and the uck and muck that I was floundering in, I could see that spark dancing on the people, the things, that I loved as if saying, ‘Look at me! Look at me! Look at all the beauty in your life, the love just waiting for you to see with more than just your head, but to see with your grateful heart….’
My beautiful son, my dearest family.
The books I consumed with so much love, how each in turn filled me up with hope and joy and new experiences.
The sky ~ it was suddenly so big and so blue.
The summer ~ oh, the cold lake water chilling my heated skin, the sun upon my face, the sand beneath my bare toes.
The first sip of the most delicious vanilla breve latte was savored.
My dear friends, that I with greater intent no longer took for granted. I really, truly saw them as if for the first time.
All the kidlets I got to play with, to encourage to grow, to learn, to laugh with.
My body and the fact I was healthy, that my heart was full to bursting….
It was as if I was seeing the world for the very first time. But more than that, keeping a Gratitude Journal allowed me to understand that I was the one who had control over how I saw the world.
It was up to ME to shift my perception, to turn that nth degree to the right (or to the left, or in whichever direction works for you) and step forward into… more love, more light, more laughter and grace and ease, more flow.
I was forever changed and am forever grateful to my mom and my aunt and Sarah Ban Breathnach for sharing Simple Abundance and all its simple, yet profound, nourishment for my soul.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal is the key that unlocked the door to cultivating my grateful heart.
Seeing the world with new eyes, with an open heart, little by little, things got easier. Miracles started happening… actually, I know miracles happen every day, I just hadn’t paid any attention.
So LIFE made sure I did ~ I found out I didn’t have to take that one extra class to earn my Bachelor of Arts degree in English from UCSB. They’d changed the rules…. Where would I like my diploma sent?
My girlfriend told me her daughter’s kindergarten was looking for an assistant teacher… I got the job with no teaching experience. Friends and family stepped in to help with childcare. My part-time job soon became a full-time job, with health insurance. And with that same job came the gift of attending a private college to earn my teaching credential. I’ve been teaching ever since… and LOVE the work I get to do, the young people I get to call friends, that are growing into beautiful, heartfelt adults.
I have lived a blessed life in part, because I have intentionally chosen to live a blessed life.
Yes, STUFF Happens, the kind you’d never wish on anyone, evvverrrr. AND, because I’ve cultivated a grateful heart, have restructured my life so that even on the hardest of days I stand on the foundation of grace and joy and love, on the knowing that the Universe has my back, Life is good. Sooo good. Even when it sucks. Even when I am scared ****less. Even when things are going so fabulous, I have to pinch myself.
But the main point I want to make, is on the ‘HOW’ I cultivate a grateful heart. The answer?
One conscious thought at a time. Where instead of just getting in the car and driving to work without thought, I see the trees as they shift from spring green to fall gold. Where the lights in our town sparkle brighter in the darkening night. Where the sunsets steal my breath away. Where a snuggle and a kiss make my day. Where a student’s laugh fills me up. Where my son’s adventurous soul reminds me that there is a big, bright, beautiful world out there and what a treasure it is we get to live on this planet, here and now.
So, as we journey toward the end of November and my Got Gratitude campaign winds down, I ask that you take the time to figure out what a grateful heart is to you.
Some places to begin:
How do you want to feel? Now do that thing, feel that emotion until you’d recognize it anywhere. Let that feeling be the beacon of light in the darkening skies of winter.
What can you do differently to soothe your soul? Something as simple and luxurious as taking a hot bath, or more adventurous like training for a 5K….
What makes you giggle, guffaw, pee your pants you’re laughing so hard? Invite in those kinds of opportunities for joy to sparkle in your blood, in your bones, to be the foundation upon which you walk.
Cultivate being uncomfortable. I don’t mean the kind of uncomfortable that makes you cringe, but the kind that makes you sweat jussst a little bit. The kind where trying something new makes you anxious AND excited at the same time. The kind that stretches what you think you can do into recognizing you are capable of waaaaay more than you think.
Love yourself all the more. I mean really. Start treating yourself the way you treat your bestie. With love and adoration. With unvarnished truth cushioned in love. With laughter and the memories that delight. With empathy and compassion and the understanding that this too shall pass.
For heaven’s sake, BE NICE to you. You are the only YOU you’ve got. You are the only YOU we’ve got. And we need you. We need you to SHINE. To be the beacon of light for yourself and for the world that loves you.
I’ve done all of the above and this is not a journey for the faint of heart. It takes serious gumption, commitment, and self-love. It’s not always easy, sometimes it’s just flat out HARD. But it is SOOOO worth it. Every tear, every f*bomb, every shout of joy, and shriek of delight.
And you deserve it. YOU ARE WORTH THE EFFORT cultivating a grateful heart takes.
My wish for you this season of thanks [and every season] is that you take the time to recognize that you matter, not just to everybody else, but to you too. Take the time to recognize how you matter to you. To figure out what makes YOU grateful… for You.
Give yourself permission and the opportunity to cultivate a grateful heart, allow yourself to love who you are right now at this exact moment, to cherish where you’ve been because it has led you to here, to now. Don’t like where you find yourself? Lovingly, and with a gentle hand, take a step to the right and walk a different path.
You get to choose. Maybe not what is placed before you. But how you deal with it, and what you do with it. Personally, I like to cover the ick and uck in glitter and poof! it’s now glittery pooh instead of just a stinky pile of doo-doo.
Be kind. Be gentle. Bask in what you do have, the love, the joy, the little things and the big. Give a hug. And allow yourself to receive one back.
I am soon very thankful to have you in my life.
Thank you from all that I am, for sharing this LIFE with me.
Shine BRIGHT, My Beauties, and may you take delight in the shadow you cast.