I asked Alicia to write this blog post because I am always so taken by her gratitude lists. She has a way, with these lists, of making reality into poetry and my heart wells up with a new appreciation for the living of my own life. I am honored to share her unique secret message collecting with you today.
Mad Hatter Tea parties...crazy hair...vintage bikes...Wonder Woman comics...fighting for what matters...sauteed greens...witnessing my teens navigate life..Mona Lisa Smile.
These are random things life nuggets that I have offered up in my daily soul practice of gratitude. A practice that I began in December of 2010.
I think it started when I witnessed a handful of people sharing what they were grateful for on Twitter in November of that year. A sort of Thanks-giving if you will. It was beautiful to me, this listing of life in simple words and images. A prayer from the corners of each of our tiny worlds.
I started that December by listing four things (I’ve since made my regular practice five things) That first night I wrote four simple things.... Chinese takeout, a big bathtub, listening to my parents watch Wheel of Fortune, and hugs.
Since that wintery night in Wisconsin, I’ve written more than a thousand things that I’m grateful for. More than a thousand emotions, objects, actions. What began as a simple listing off of things has become a meditation for me. It has become my soul yoga.
It has evolved and changed me. Changed my awareness. Those five things each night, my mind spinning back thru the day to replay every act, every word, every feeling, every sight. I could list them as they come up throughout the day, but there is something so beautiful about reflecting on my daily life. The complex and the simple.
What began as listing four soon shifted to five. I had read that listing five things you were grateful for each day helped you to be more present and aware. I also try to be really intentional about not listing the same things more than once, it helps me to dive in below the surface and really see things. Even the tough things.
In the beginning I only listed happy things, bright and shiny things. Things that I knew would light up others when they read them. But the practice has evolved. Like any life changing practice does. A couple months ago I listed fire ants as a gratitude after having my toes chewed. Just last week after an outing to the store where I was met with disdainful looks, I listed, feeling the reminder of what judgmental stares will do. Because for me, even through the tears, there’s a lesson in each of the things that I list.
On the really really tough days when I lie in bed at night, attempting to call them forth, struggling to find the things that were teaches for that particular day, I decided to write six, to push myself a little deeper into the beautiful and the challenging.
I have never felt the pressure to be grateful. I’ve never allowed myself the words to believe that I “had to” list my gratitudes or that listing them would make me a “better person”. They’ve changed me and there’s no denying that. The change that has occurred is a more authentic me. A me who is thankful for it all, the pain and the heartache, the beauty and the magic. It IS my own practice and at any point if it shifts to feeling like I “should” be writing them, then I lay down the pen until there’s peace around it again.
I have taken breaks, there have been pauses when life came flooding in and I was using all of my energy to tread water. A couple years ago I was in a very dark place and at that point I just wasn’t in a place to lay them out for the world to see.
Life is such a mighty ebbing and flowing and this, this sacredness is a way to document both directions of the tide. And everything in between.