A Year of Gratitude

What kind of awesome was 2011? All kinds of awesome. This past year, I decided to use my Twitter account (I’m @damari19 if anyone’s interested) as a sort of personal/public gratitude journal. My goal was to tweet about something I found awesome every day for a year.  I missed a few days, but very few. I highly recommend doing this, whether via twitter or post-it notes or a silent thought right before you go to sleep. Getting in the habit of noticing one specific good thing each day has helped my mood and attitude tremendously.

I tried to find something new each day, though sometimes I forgot I’d already counted something as awesome earlier in the year. Omelets got three separate mentions. So did Dr. Who.

Looking back over my year in gratitude tweets, certain themes are prominent:

My top category seems to be food, which might explain what’s happened to my waistline. See omelets, above. Pie got two nods from me, once on 3/14 and again at Christmas. But I was also grateful for lettuce from our garden, basil from our garden, and the salsa I made using jalapenos from our garden. Halloween candy. A falafel dog from Mutt’s in Oklahoma City. Also drinks – coffee and tea come up, tea more than once.

Family and friends garnered many mentions. My husband cleaned the windows. I noticed when my kids did chores without being nagged. Got to visit my mom. My brother and sister-in-law knocked themselves out as hosts when we visited for Thanksgiving. Coffee with a friend. Inside jokes with old friends. I am immensely and always grateful for my various relationships.

I notice I commented a lot on the trouble don’t last category. Getting over a cold. Kids getting over colds. Rain after a drought. Figuring out how we’re going to pay for unexpected expenses. Cicadas went away. It’s all good.

Then there was nature. Crocus. Daffodils. Peonies. Autumn leaves. Goldfinches who visit our yard every day. Playing in the snow.

I had lots of comments on internet stuff, either cool websites or links to inspiring stories. Here are a few.:
1,000 Awesome Things – my inspiration
ALEKS
– my daughter does her homeschool math through ALEKS.
Khan Academy – another educational resource
TED Talks
Fictiondb – near-comprehensive lists of fiction series.
Newsreel footage of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
Project Gutenberg – free ebooks

Literature plays a big part in my life. This past year I’ve found awesome in authors’ birthdays – e.g. Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. Various books. Meeting with a new writers’ group. Meeting writing goals. Getting paid to write blog entries and newspaper articles as part of my day job. My son asking to go to the library because he’d read everything he has in the house. A student running a banned books library from her school locker.

Events, small and large:  Corn maze. 4th of July fireworks. Biggest family vacation ever – a trip to Florida where we visited Universal Islands of Adventure (one a side note, the Forbidden Journey is the best amusement park ride I’ve ever experienced) and my kids saw the ocean for the first time.

Those that defy categorization:
2/24/11: W. Shatner singing Mr. Tambourine Man & L. Nimoy singing Where Is Love on same CD
3/7/11: Using the large almost-vintage paper-cutter at work, with its dials and wheels. A combination of meditation & steampunk.
7/19/11: Seeing the interior lights come on when I click the unlocker in the direction of my van. It looks so happy to see me!
10/17/11: Curly hair being considered cool again. Thanks Alex Kingston and River Song!

And finally, one from a category I think of as “In Retrospect, the Joke’s on Me.”
“10/22/11: Procured winter coat for son at a great price.”  Yeah, he’s already outgrown it.

 

Opening Up to Joy

Earlier this year my sister and mom were visiting my house. Sis mentioned her plan to buy a new toaster when she got home, to which my mom replied “I have one I never use. You can take it.” 

My sister joked about how easy it was; all she had to do was say she needed something and it magically appeared. Laughing along, I announced to the air “I could really use a new couch. Just putting that out there.” 

It was a throw-away comment that I forgot almost immediately, though truly, we did need a new couch. We never sat on the old one because doing so caused the cushions to slide off. I didn’t fret about it; I figured we’d get money for a replacement eventually. I certainly didn’t expect a couch to appear the way my sister’s toaster did.

But a couple of weeks later I received a phone call from a friend who had been gifted a new leather sofa from her mother.  She wanted to know if I’d like her old one – free. Whoa! and YES! Her old couch was newer and much nicer than my old couch. In fact, I loved her couch. So I put it out there and a couch came into my life.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself reading tips for coping during tough economic times. One of the suggestions was to open yourself to receiving money in any way that’s honest. We could use a bit of extra cash right now. I don’t think of myself as a person who does this kind of thing – projecting out to the universe that I could use some dough, so howsabout it? But then I decided the worst that could happen is I’d feel silly, and nobody else would even have to know. So I spent a couple of days thinking “I’m open to receiving money.” 

Double whoa! A check I wasn’t expecting came in the mail. It was from an insurance company, which might qualify for a triple whoa. I hadn’t realized my husband had passed his medical deductible for the year. Since we paid up front, the reimbursement came back to us instead of the doctor.

I’m an agnostic. To me that means it’s okay to say you don’t know everything. I’m not big on prayer. I’ve been more of the mindset that if I need something, I make a plan and I work hard for it. Yet what was that I did with the couch and the money? Was it prayer? Did I get them just because I asked for them? I wonder. Then I remind myself of the vast inequities in the world. I don’t think it’s a matter of the bridge-dweller not being open enough to receiving what s/he needs.  Lots of people wish for new couches and some extra cash and don’t get them. 

But I did, this time (and time.) It made me think about what it means, opening myself up to something. It’s not as if I only thought how nice it would be to receive these things, with no other influences on the process.  My good friend knew the condition of my couch and I had mentioned a few times in my life that I needed a new one. Isn’t that more like telling acquaintances you’re looking for work during a job search. Maybe it’s more networking than prayer. Plus my husband and I had to pull the seats out of our van, pick up the couch during a certain time frame, and carry it into our house. So, you know, we did some work for it. Plus, I didn’t say I would only settle for a brand new $4,000 leather sofa. I only wanted a good enough piece of furniture.  And with the money, even though I had lost track of where we stood with the deductible, I did the work of filing the insurance paperwork; it wasn’t a case of some anonymous benefactor picking my name out of the phone book. 

Another factor I’ve been considering: I have witnessed people, myself included, lose out on things because they closed themselves to the possibility. How many people have missed what could have been great friendships because they weren’t open to others who were too different in some way or another?  

The sofa and the check probably would have shown up at the same times, whether or not I had consciously said I was open to them. Perhaps what I opened myself up to most was noticing the goods I was receiving. Maybe in telling the universe I was open to receiving something, I was really informing myself. Maybe. 

I haven’t been able to stop my mind from wandering down the what else path. What else should I “open” myself to? I have a feeling I should keep greed out of it. So what do I really want more of? What do I need more of? What would make me happy? During one of these musing sessions, my brain conjured up a quote from Aeschylus: “Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.”

2008 has been a challenging year for me, with a lot of stress, a fair amount of worry and some loss. Often I feel as if I’m in trudge mode, getting through my to-do list and not much more. I tried to remember the last time I felt real, true joy and I’m not sure when that was. Yet, I have so many blessings, my husband and children not least among them. And don’t forget the couch, nor the friend who gave it to me. I need to remember to notice them, to make the effort to take joy when I can.

So here it is. I am opening myself up to receiving joy. Just putting that out there.