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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gratitude

My life is definitely not how I envisioned it. Because of that, I guess you could say I've had a midlife crisis for the past couple years. You know...the regrets...the self-recrimination...the what could have beens. There were so many opportunities that I let slip past. There for awhile, I was kind of drowning in all my regrets. Geez, it seemed every hour there was a reminder of what could have been. With such a mindset, every thought kind of spiraled into more regret. I wouldn't say I had a full fledged depression, but oh boy...soooo much sadness and regret. So many "what ifs" and "what could have beens."

But life is what you make of it. Ohhhh, I've heard that many times...the ol' positive thinking, law of attraction...blahblah. It's hard to put into motion, especially when you want...nay, NEED...immediate positive reinforcement for your positive thoughts. How can you keep up with this positive thinking when there is so much crap and regrets around you? It's hard to re-map your thinking; you NEED reinforcement for your new way of thinking, and you need it NOW! How else will you find the fortitude to keep on keeping on with a new and positive way of thinking?

But sometimes, when we least expect it...after years of wanting to think positively...it comes. No fanfare, no big sign that says today is the first day of the rest of your life. Nothing but a slow and growing awareness.

It happened two and a half weeks ago when my computer was being particularly slow. It's a very slow thing to begin with. I have high speed internet, but no one told my computer - lol! I had to get out this rusty ol' computer last January when my laptop died. Computers aren't a luxury to me; they're a necessity because it is how I earn my living (freelance writing online). So whenever something goes wrong with my computer, I get very upset and worried.

Welllll, this ol' thing was taking its time. Now I'm not talking about taking a few seconds to load a page. Ah, now that would be a luxury! Nope, I'm talking about that it would literally take 15 minutes for a page to load. Yes, THAT long. NOT good! This happened for a good two days, no matter what I would do to try to speed it up.

I got frustrated. I got worried. I had to turn a job down. I cried...and cried and practically drowned in my self-pity.

Then there was the boy. He is a good lad, though I guess I can't call my baby a boy anymore. He's his own person and a man now. There he was...putting his hand on my shoulder as I stood hunched at my computer screen, trying not to show him I was crying. He quietly said it would be all right. He pointed out some passages he was just reading from an interview I had printed out (a 70+ page interview...rather long, eh?) I had read it a few months ago, but it's one thing to read something uplifting, and quite another to take it to heart.

The passages he pointed out to me were just what I needed. (Sorry, I'm not going to quote them or point them out, since I believe people's spirituality - as opposed to religion - are a very private matter). At any rate, something started to grow inside me. What had been laying dormant for many years finally started to grow...started to break out of that hard seed pod. Slowly but surely, gratitude started taking hold in my life. Just a small kernel, really, but then it grew to thousands of times its original size. It now permeates throughout my entire being.

I've had a day or two here and there where I woke up happy and went to bed happy, but those kinds of days didn't last long. I suppose that's because they were shallow. My attitude of gratitude was just surface deep, so obviously it would vaporize when met with a solid object - like the usual daily negativity we humans experience. Sure, it helped that I did my daily practice of thinking of five things to be grateful for everyday, but sometimes I just begrudgingly checked off the list; it didn't get to my heart.

Ever since that day of my son quietly pointing out some paragraphs, every day is a joy. Oh, I still have days where my computer acts up, but at least it doesn't take 15 minutes to load a page. Basically, nothing has changed in my life at all. Nada, zip, zilch. BUT I have changed. My heart has changed. I am grateful for everything now. Even when the toilet was getting all temperamental the other day...as I was plunging it, I was grateful for being able to have indoor plumbing all these years. Even when my favorite burner on my stove wasn't working yesterday when I really needed it, I was grateful for it having worked all these years. I was grateful that I have a stove indoors to cook on.

Some people can't understand how I can get through life without a washer and dryer. Yeah, it's a challenge, BUT I have running water indoors! Isn't that something wonderful to be grateful for! Who says we have to have a washer and dryer to be happy? Who says we have to have the latest and greatest to feel fulfilled? Whoever says that just doesn't get it. Their gratitude and contentment are just transitory.

When people talk of a loss of a loved one, why not rejoice for all the years they had with their loved one. I have never experienced a mother's or a father's love. For those who have, don't be sad that they're gone. Be happy that you had all those years together!

For two and a half weeks, I have felt contentment. There's a vast difference between happiness and contentment. To me, contentment is an inner peace - knowing that no matter what happens, it's okay, and it's going to be okay, and it will always be okay. Happiness is more of a surface thing to me...it's transitory and cannot last. Contentment sets up roots inside you and will last forever, because the spirit lasts forever.

Lessons have always been painful to me...always. Geez, if it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all - you know, that kind of thing. But during this time of metamorphosis for myself, I've learned two lessons that were delightful. One, winning those heart nesting bowls. I tend to be an impatient sort, and if I had held the contest, I would've had the "ya snooze, ya lose" attitude. If the person didn't check back on my giveaway to see if they had won within a certain amount of time, I would've drawn another name. Well, they were patient...they took the time to contact me.

Another lesson occurred last Friday. I went to my friends' house to water their plants while they're spending time in California. They let me use their washer and dryer while I'm there, so I've been doing a lot of rag quilting. Welllll...it's been terribly cold here. They wanted me to shut the door to the kitchen, where the washer and dryer are, to help save the costs of running their electric heater. It was 32 degrees in the kitchen (15 below zero outside). Something happened to the washer, and when I went to put things in the dryer, I discovered the whole kitchen floor was flooded! HELP! Luckily, they had about ten towels that I could sop up the water, wring out, and sop up some more. It was a long process cuz there was a LOT of water. I felt so terrible that this happened on my watch. I was also dreading how they would react. But they were kind to me. Their immediate thought was that they were sorry I didn't have access to a washer anymore. Wow! I could get used to learning lessons through kindness. Where do I sign up for such a school!?!

My life hasn't changed one bit, but I have. And that is the key to everything. How you view what happens to you determines if you'll be contented or not.

Service to others and an attitude of gratitude go hand in hand. They're now in my hands...holding each other warmly.

8 comments:

  1. Tracy,
    as I read your post through I could only agree with you on how we handle situations in our lives. I can say I'm sorry that you've endured hardships and sorrows-we all have our own stories to tell-but, we can all learn from them too. I love the last line of this post! We must stay positive, forge ahead and everything will work out.
    Hugz,
    Sheila

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  2. Dear Tracy,
    I just am so moved by your post today. How beautiful, and so very, very true. Hardships that come one after another are very difficult to deal with, whether they be health or situational, or relationship related. But how we handle them, that speaks volumes to how well we'll travel through this life. Sometimes it's so rough we have such a hard time getting through. But finding contentment, gratitude and joy... those things are priceless. I was so incredibly moved to tears when your son pointed out those special paragraphs from that interview you referred to. That's a wonderful young man you have there. You have a beautiful family, Tracy.

    Blessings to you, Tracy. And may your gratitude and contentment spread to others as well,
    Susan

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  3. I would find it hard to stay positive if I lived where you do. My impression is that your winters are remorselessly cold. At least in NYC there are cold intervals but then the snow melts. I'm glad you joined prim pals, which is where I found you. Maybe in the future we can have a swap based on Fringe.

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  5. Sheila and Susan, I've come to know more about you and consider you my blogging buddies. I'm very grateful to know you two!

    Paperpest - lol - yeah, ND can get pretty extreme in cold, but since I prefer cold over hot any day, I like it better here. But, as they say, it's a dry cold (like dry heat). I found living in NY felt colder to me because the cold is a wet cold that seeps into the bones. Plus, I could never take the horribly humid summers in NY. (I used to live in upstate NY). It's all a matter of what our bodies prefer. (smile)

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  6. Hi, reading your Post made me realise, yet again, that my Partner is right when he say's there are good things within the bad. Excample: we had no heating for 4 weeks during building work but at least we had a roof over our head. Or when I was unemployed for 6 Month no work no Money but I had freedom to indulge in my cooking and crafting.....and so it goes on. He say's you can look for the good within the bad....or drown in the bad. We make that choice ourself....so we all need to keep looking on the bright side. Thank you for sharing your...post

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  7. Hi, Silvia -

    Yeah, it's real easy to get caught up in looking at the bad things. It'd be terrible to lose heating but, as you said, you at least had a home. And being unemployed can be a stepping stone to discovering more things about yourself - like being able to indulge in your cooking and crafting, as you did!

    It's hard, though. I've been underemployed since September, and it's really difficult to keep a positive attitude. Oh boy is it ever! But somehow I'm making out all right.

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  8. I can't believe I missed this one! Wow, this post blew me away. How right you are to never take things for granted. And that through kindness you can receive a better knowledge and understanding. I think I still have lots to learn. But I am gonna take it one day at a time. :)


    ~*Hugs*~
    Gen

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