I start a lot of blog posts that I don't finish right away. Sometimes I don't finish them at all.
Some are about memory keeping or specific techniques or stories of our everyday lives I want to share. Many are thoughts/threads I'd like to follow or research or investigate. Some are one sentence and some are significantly more flushed out.
Last night I took some time to look back through a few of my partially finished posts and came across this one that included two different threads about gratitude. The first I wrote right after a weekend with Aaron and all the kids more than a year and a half ago which is why I refer to him as "a friend" (he's significantly more than that now). The other is writing I did for a post on The Gratitude Project that I intended to share here at one time or another.
I'm in a different place emotionally then when I wrote the words below, yet they ring true to me now just the same. Some of my messes are still the same and others are new (or new versions of the old ones). Reading through the words about practicing gratitude in the middle of the mess all over again was a great reminder to check back in with myself and my current gratitude habits.
This month there's a lot of people leading gratitude projects and talking about developing the practice of gratitude. Like Cathy. Like Rhonna. And probably many others I don't know about specifically.
Now feels like a good time to share.
I was chatting with a friend at the park last week and he made the comment that it's hard to savor the moment (beautiful sunshine, fresh air, good company) when the kids are all having their own individual meltdowns (throwing rocks, sulking, being unkind, etc).
That was my answer. At least the answer in my head and my body's reaction to his words.
For me, taking that big deep breath is both a pause and a taking it all in. It's a recognition that all of this - the mess and the joy - is a part of my life.
Learning to savor moments even in the middle of a mess is a practice that starts with a recognition that this is how I want to live my life. I want that for myself - to be the person who, even in the middle of all the crazy, can take a deep breath and be thankful.
It's so not easy, but I'm pretty sure it's worth it.
One of the ways I savor moments even in the middle of mess is to practice gratitude. Somewhere during that deep breath or immediately following, I identify one thing I'm thankful for, one thing that's good in my life. It might be right in front of my face or something I can't see at all.
The key, I think, is to practice savoring moments and being grateful both when you're in the mess and when you're not in the mess.
Do it when it's hard. Do it when it's easy. That's what makes it a practice.
I tell myself, "Look around, what's good? There is always, always something." Always.
What are you grateful for?
Ah, gratitude. My old friend.
I’m obviously grateful for the beautiful basics of my life like my kids, my family, my friends and my home. I’m also really grateful for my work and for the many opportunities I’ve had to travel over the years both personally and professionally.
But at the heart of it I’m actually really grateful for the mess.
Even when I’m knee deep in the messes of life I’m thankful for the opportunity to simply be alive - to learn and grow and make-it-through and be a witness to humanity and all the broken beauty it presents. I’ve been in that place where I was doubled over with sadness and fear and it’s tough to keep an eye on gratitude in those moments, but it’s possible. It takes practice and a commitment to coming back to it again and again even when I fail miserably.
Expressing gratitude is my lifeline. The process of identifying the things that I’m thankful for in the middle of the mess gives me so much perspective. It’s a tool I learned from my Mom. She’s awesome at practicing gratitude in the middle of it all. She writes handwritten letters, she calls to say thank you, she’s conscious of her blessings, she’s amazing at forgiveness and she’s so very real about it all and the struggles she encounters on her own journey.
One of the significant ways I practice gratitude in the middle of the mess is through memory keeping. I use photos and words to document my life and express gratitude as I live my story from one day to the next. It’s through this process of documentation that I truly see (make visible to myself) all the things I have to be thankful for every day of my life.
Here’s to second chances, forgiveness, compassion, embracing imperfections and gratitude in the mess.
Originally written for The Gratitude Project.
I also love this message from Danielle LaPorte about loving your sadness. It's all about living the length and the width.
As I re-read the above writing I can't help but think of Brene and the conversation we had during the filming of her Oprah class on The Gifts Of Imperfection. We talked about how photography is a big piece of my personal gratitude practice and how that has helped me through many challenges, including divorce.