I have to be honest and say that this is a day that I’ve been dreading since I was in high school. Today is one of the big birthdays, a turning point, something with a zero after it. In fact I can remember when I was 18 or 19 and thought how old 40 sounded. I even remember making a pact with a friend at the time that if we were still single at this age that we would just end it all. Luckily and happily I am not single, but married to most amazing man anyone could hope for.
I’m currently reading “May Cause Miracles” by Gabrielle Bernstein and one of the first journaling activities is to focus on an attitude of gratitude. It hit me that I was dreading this upcoming birthday, I was focusing on so much stuff in a really negative way. And if I wasn’t taking a negative look at this upcoming birthday, I was thinking about all the stuff I wanted, or felt I lacked. This journaling activity really opened my eyes. I have so much now to be thankful for.
I think as an American society we are taught to always want more, be better, be faster, be stronger, be competitive, beat the person next to you. In fact if you think about small children one of the first words we learn is “more, more, more”. “More milk, more candy, more toys” etc. You very rarely hear a child saying the words “thank you, thank you, thank you”. Then we grow up wanting to have the best house on the block, the fastest and most expensive car parked outside.
Trust me when I say I’m also guilty as charged. I grew up very poor, but I mean like REALLY poor. We lived on dairy farms, in small trailers, and didn’t have much. I wore hand me downs or clothes my mother made for me, was on free lunch at school, etc. I always promised myself when I grew up that I would have a better life, have nice things, make more money than my parents did. And for years in my 20s and early 30s that was what I focused on. I wanted to portray this image that I had made it, that I was living this charmed life, with designer clothes and shoes, nice things etc.
Now I’m not saying all that is bad, but I had stopped being thankful for everything I had, but was focused on getting ”more, more, more”. I’ve recently have been focusing on having an attitude of gratitude. Whenever feelings of lacking come up, I take the moment to count all that I am thankful for now in my life.
For instance, I had hoped to be at my goal weight, and looking the best I ever have at this milestone birthday. I’m not quite there, but through hard work lately I’m close. But I had to stop and be grateful that “I am alive! I am healthy!” I have a body that may not be my physical ideal right now, but look at all the things it can do. I can walk, run, ride a bike, practice yoga and pilates. My body allows me to do something that I love, which is teaching yoga, pilates and spin classes. The recent marathon bombings here in Boston, also helped to put this into prospective for me. How I could I feel bad about my body, when there were people who just recently lost arms and legs? People who were not letting this get in the way of their dreams of running the marathon again next year. Who was I to complain about anything at this time?
And even this birthday, I have no right to feel down about turning a certain age. I don’t feel old (in fact sometimes I still think I’m in my 20s), I don’t look old. What is “old” anyways these days? Instead I learned to be grateful for this birthday! I’m alive! I was born and have had many incredible experiences over the last 40 years. I am grateful for this birthday (even though I may still lie about my age and tell everyone I’m really 35)!
I very grateful for an amazing husband, friends and family who support me in whatever I attempt to do. I’m very grateful for the freedoms we do have in this country, I am very grateful for everything we do have in our lives now. I am grateful that we are able to travel and see other places and cities. I am most recently VERY grateful that Spring has arrived, filled with warmer days, shining sun, chirping birds, and the flowers blooming. I am grateful to be able to walk outside and just breathe in clean, fresh air.
I want to help make this “attitude of gratitude” be contagious. So I sat with it and thought, how I can help others to share this? So I came up with the idea to create an online community to Practice Gratitude. Right now it will be a Facebook community page, where anyone and everyone can share what they are grateful for through words, thoughts, stories, pictures. I hope to grow the project into something even bigger later on down the road. But for now, it’s just to help others have an “attitude of gratitude” and to share that. Join me at http://www.facebook.com/practicegratitude1