I love that there is a "30 days of gratitude" movement happening right now on Facebook. A very good friend of mine shared with me a few months ago that he had been doing a "gratitude practice" where he was writing down 75 things, every night, that he was grateful for. Think about that. Seventy five individual things. I was intrigued. What I noticed as I wrote out those seventy five entries is that once I got past the usual "Spouse, Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter, shelter, food..." list...I had to really drill down into my heart and open up to the beauty in my life. It is an incredible MINDFUL practice.
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein
My life is blessed is so many ways, but I have shed many a tear over a huge challenge that a very close family member is striving to overcome. And I have actually said "why me?" in one breath, but in the next breath "why not me?" I truly believe that God gives you what you can handle, and apparently I can handle it. But it is not in the handling of the challenge where there is growth, it is actually in the acceptance and then appreciation of the challenge where the heart opens. Pushing up against it only causes pain and anger, but acceptance and gratitude is where the heart really wants to reside. So I have shifted my mindset. I now say that I am grateful for this challenging path because I can see SO many gifts that have opened up BECAUSE OF it, not in spite of it. And that's the truth.
So back to the list of 75. Because of this practice, it made me aware of the LITTLE THINGS in my life that I am grateful for. I remember driving home with Tom after a movie this summer, in the jeep with the top off. The just mowed alfalfa had filled the warm evening with an aroma that was so intoxicating that it brought tears to my eyes. A wave of childhood memories surged forth from my days of riding. Then a few weeks ago it was so cold in Colorado that the boiler (our house is OLD, 1902!) was having a hard time keeping up to heat the house. I went outside to shovel, which I actually kinda like because it is meditative to me, and I remember my heart being touched by the beautiful crispness of the air and the crackling of the snow under my boots. A flock of geese flew so low over my head that they barely cleared the house and they let out a squawk that echoed in the blue sky. Breath taking. THESE ARE HEART OPENING MOMENTS...if you are aware. It is hard to flip off a person tailgating you after a moment like this. Gratitude and especially a gratitude practice makes you mindful and energetically sends positive and loving emotion out into the world. Energy out...energy back.
So this Thanksgiving I am immensely grateful for not only the breadth of my life but also the depth of my life. I accept AND appreciate that life has its ups and downs and that it is in the valley where the gifts often reside. On the list of seventy five, hardly any of the entries were material THINGS, but rather experiences and relationships. Because what I am really grateful for is the the aroma of alfalfa, the crackling snow and the low flying geese. Quite, quite simple. And yes, of course, my family and friends.
For a written out gratitude practice go to www.daysofgratitude.com or just start journaling daily seventy five things you're grateful for.
-with gratitude, denice
Okay so I don't really know if I have OCD, but I do know this...I am a neat freak. I like things in their place, not too many things in their place because more is not better in my book! I like things clean and neat, even if I am leaving the house. Why? God forbid, the robber find my bed unmade or dishes in the sink. Seriously, that has gone through my head. Kinda like, you better be wearing good undies in case you get in a car accident and they have to strip you down. I think I heard this from my Grandmother and it has haunted me for 40 + years, but that's another story.
As I left my house today, I had to let go of control. Major, no maybe minor strides forward in the OCD camp. Because my house is a bloody nightmare on Christmas steroids mess. Tom agreed to some great people that "oh heck yes, WE would love to be a part of the Christmas tour!" And then brought me the three page agreement, and oh by the way, they will be here tomorrow to tour the house so they can start planning. That was in September. I agreed, did I REALLY have a choice, not so much. It will be cool. No biggie.
Fast forward to this weekend. November 15th, THREE weeks before the event, and they are wanting to start decorating. Okay, sure you can leave the 6 carloads of garland, Christmas trees, wreaths, more garland...on the porch. Oh, what's that...wait, you want to start decorating now??
I am now in my own home, the home that vaguely feels like my home but is more like a Christmas store in Estes Park than my home. And I am leaving for Vegas tomorrow, luckily and thankfully. But wait...huh? Now I have to take ALL of my stuff, my lovely coffee table books, candles, family pictures, collectable this and that, and put them away so that they won't get mistakenly sold on December 4, 5, or 6th. AND, all of my artwork on the walls has to come down. SOOOOO...this led to what I prefer to call a "teaching moment" between my gracious and giving husband and myself. It roughly went like this: big breath in before I spoke, "honey (hopefully I said honey) YOU HAVE GOT TO PAUSE BEFORE YOU SAY YES TO EVERYTHING, because when you just say HECK YES to anything people ask you, I OFTEN SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES” (or Marianne, our amazing assistant, but this was all about ME clearly, in the moment.) He smiled and said, "I will work on that." PAUSE......So this is where I think, okay, is he just trying to get me to shut up so he can take his nap...or did he really hear me and is going to process this whole thing and really work on it? Because that really IS a great answer, right? "I will work on that," every wife's dream answer just occurred. Now in the past I would have had to go through it all again, to make sure that it wasn't just a blow-off, but seriously, I was just too darn tired.
So there you have it. My house is a tchotchke Christmas winter wonderland (that might be an oxymoron, or something like that) with glitter sparkling on every piece of upholstery, bins piled to the ceiling, strangers in my home pounding nails in my walls… AND I am leaving today. I am ironically singing the song from the movies Frozen…”Let it go, let it go! Can't hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go! Turn away and slam the door!" Yes, those really are the lyrics and yes, Grandmother, I have on nice clean undies.
I have been married for over 15 years. It has not been all roses and puppy dog tails. Marriage can be hard. Like reaching down into your soul hard. But like most things in life, gifts are often packages wrapped up in problems. We once went to a therapist in Denver to see if we could get some help through a really rough patch. He suggested we go buy his book. So we went to Barnes and Noble that afternoon and bought the book. Two of them. We go to checkout and the cashier says, "Hey man, you've got two copies of the same book here." My husband said, "yes, correct, the last thing we need to be fighting about is who gets the book!!" Oh, and by the way, the title was "Fighting FOR Your Marriage."
So throughout our fifteen years (as of 2014), we have asked for help. We have made the call because our pain got bigger than our pride. It has helped, quite a bit. I am blessed, goose bump blessed, to have the husband that I do. We chose each other. He makes me want to be a better person because of WHO he is in the world. It is AWE-some to have a partner like Tom. And I want to be a better wife. I want to be kinder, I want to be more patient, I want to give more. So I am always interested in any insight couples who have weathered the test of time might have, and I found this study, modified here, from The Atlantic (June 12, 2014) very interesting in a beautiful and simplistic way!
Of all people who get married, only 3 in 10 end up together (not divorced) and healthy and happy. So Social Scientists started studying marriages in the 70’s by observing them in action. Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work.
With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.
Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.
There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward. There is an innate generosity that occurs when someone is kind, kind in their actions, kind in their words, kind in being present. So that’s what it all came down to: KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY.
let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. -Rumi
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