Friday, November 3, 2017

Gratitude Roses for those thorny problems, issues, challenges, set backs

No, it's not a rose
Funny how things come together. This morning I read an article about gratitude that made me stop and think. For about a year and a half, I have been consistently keeping a gratitude journal. (Not bad for someone who has been consistency-challenged her entire life.) 

I believe passionately in gratitude and my journal has served me well. Recently, however, it has become something of a chore rather than the delight it was in the beginning. (Of course, the fact that I decided to smush two things together and write it in Spanish, probably didn’t help.)

As I was syncing the article to my Evernote folder, I came across something I wrote several months ago when my life was, somewhat unexpectedly, turning upside down. I was feeling stressed and uncertain about my decision to move to Mexico, so here’s what I wrote and what I did in hopes that it might help some of you who have made a life-altering decision and are now wondering about the wisdom of it. 
This morning's article and finding this writing is bringing me back to gratitude and how to make it fresh, delightful, and powerful again.

March 11, 2017

This came to me in a dream, waking me up at four am. (Which, of course, reminds me of John G. Rives great TED talk on the subject …

I have been practicing gratitude now for 40 weeks.
That sentence needs to stand alone because I have never, ever practiced anything consistently in my life (other than teeth brushing, etc.). But, yesterday, I wrote my 280th consecutive entry in my gratitude journal. You may not be amazed, but I am.

A few weeks ago, I was reading Pam Grout’s books recommending that we notice the absolutely awesome things that happen to us every day. I decided I needed to add that to my gratitude practice and, because some experts recommend writing three gratitudes per day, I started a 30-day Facebook process of writing three gratitudes and recognizing one absolutely awesome thing every day. I finished the first 30-day process and am now half-way through the second.

So, what has this practice done for me? Who really knows? This is not a double-blind study. There’s no way to know if my life is one whit different than it might have been without the gratitude practice. All I know is I’m as happy, healthy, and contented as I’ve ever been. My life is an adventure and I’m meeting interesting people, following the passion of writing that called to me as a child, making art that I never dreamed of making and about to change my life in a way that excites me and brings me joy. Not bad for a 71 year-old woman, I’d say. With all the gifts I’ve been given, not to be grateful would be ridiculous.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg, the gratitude or the gifts? All I know is that being grateful calms me and reminds me of just how fortunate I am. And, what is this four am thing? The idea that woke me up was about creating Gratitude Roses around a particularly complex, stressful, challenging or thorny (sorry!) idea … a deep dive into the gratitude of something that looks more like a pain, trouble or discomfort.

I’m excited about my upcoming move to Ajijic, Mexico … the color and beauty, the weather, the culture and language, the walking lifestyle are all things I’ve wanted for a long time. However, it means doing one more really deep downsize. I’ve done three major downsizings in the last ten years. I like to think I’ve trimmed most of the fat. Now, I have to go even deeper and get rid of almost everything. I have to look at everything around me and ask if I need this thing, this bright bauble, this memory artifact, to bring me joy.
I’ve been stressing out about this a bit. Sometimes more than a bit. I’ve even waffled about the idea of moving. It would be so much easier to stay where I am. I have a comfortable home in a lovely part of the country with good friends and interesting volunteer opportunities. Nothing is making me move … except whatever it is in my core that calls to me to live in Mexico.

The image that was in my mind as I awoke was like a flower with all the gratitudes for why I’m making the move on one side and all the gratitudes for the challenges and discomforts on the other side. The number 12 came with the image. I opened Scrapple, my favorite, simple mind mapping tool, and created the map below. It may not be a pretty rose, but I now feel much calmer and ready for the challenge ahead of me.

I'm going to print this out and stick it on my refrigerator to remind me why I’m doing all of this and how grateful I am to have the time, energy and resources necessary to free myself from stuff and make an international move in this new stage of life.

Gratitude Rose about moving to Mexico
Plug for Scrapple … any form of mind mapping stimulates ideas and helps bring order to your thinking. At only $15, it’s a deal. Great for writers and project organizers as well as all the rest of us just trying to make it through the thorns.


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