Starting the New Year(ish) with a Gratitude Practice

Anyone want to join me in starting a gratitude practice for 2016?

(And yes I know it is January 4th. It is ok! I give us permission to start on whatever damn day we feel like. Isn’t it fun pissing off the inner perfectionist?)

Last year I started a daily(ish) walking meditation practice and I am STILL hooked. (By the way, walking meditation is just a fancy way of saying that I took a walk, breathed in and out, and paused to express gratitude.) It has become integral to my mental health. I’m more centered, calm, and I certainly yell less at my kid. Win-win-win.

I wasn’t thinking of adding an additional gratitude practice this year…but then I saw Elizabeth Gilbert with her big ol’ jar of gratitude (see below). Sweet Moses, how fun would it be to read through those at the end of the year?!

It got me thinking that there might be other neat ways to practice gratitude. Here is a round up of some simple ideas I came across. As for me? I think I’m going to do a variation of the gratitude jar. Needless to say mine will not be made of glass. (Oh, just imagine how quickly my kid would shatter that lovely jar!)

FUN GRATITUDE PRACTICE IDEAS:

1. Gratitude Garland

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Photo from http://www.wildfeatherswellness.com/the-gratitude-garland/

Wildfeatherswellness provides instruction for creating a Gratitude Garland. You write thoughts of gratitude, remembrance, inspiration or refelction onto your garland and hang it where you can see it and be reminded of it.

What a beautiful way to remember a loved one or simply make visible the moments that fill your heart.

2. Gratitude Jar, courtesy of Elizabeth Gilbert:

3. Gratitude Journal

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Raven + Lily’s Uzma Recycled Cotton Travel Journal (Available Here)

Simply write down your thoughts in a journal as you see fit. (I like this one, this one, and the one at left from Raven + Lily, a company that helps employ over 1,500 marginalized women with the goal of alleviating poverty among women.)

Or, if you prefer modern convenience, consider using a gratitude app for your phone!

Any other gratitude practices you want to share? Please feel free to comment below or on Twitter or Facebook.

It’s a “Bluetiful” Christmas

After we lit our Christmas tree this year, my nearly three-year-old daughter stood back and declared, “it’s bluetiful mommy!”

She didn’t realize it but her mispronunciation rang true. It is a blue Christmas. It’s a beautiful Christmas.

It is bluetiful.*

I am slowly, ever so slowly, starting to accept that bluetiful is the new normal.  That the moments of greatest joy—like Christmas—are also moments that carry so much loss.

Often it is in the little unexpected things. As I was meticulously placing the lights on the Christmas tree, I stepped back to assess (and ask my daughter for her opinion, as though a three-year-old has opinions about tree light placement). Not satisfied by the gaps in light coverage, I removed all the lights and started over so I could get it just right.  I then realized I was utterly and completely channeling my mother. I laughed and also shed a tear.

It was bluetiful.

As a kid I never understood all the sad Christmas songs. How could a holiday full of so much joy inspire so many sad tunes? And why did so many adults make such a fuss about the fact that I was so full of joy at Christmas time? How could it be so difficult, I used to wonder, to find the joy in the season?

Last year was a difficult Christmas. It was the second Christmas without my mom, and somehow it was much more difficult than the first year she was gone. I knew the first year would be hard. I expected difficult. But the second year, well I thought somehow it would magically all be OK again. And when it wasn’t, I was let down and angry.

This is the third Christmas without my mom. This year I am expecting the sad moments intertwined with the joy, like lights strung on the tree.

I know that I’ll tear up when I pull out the sweet Mickey Mouse ornament she purchased for me when I was not quite a kid anymore but not quite an adult.

I know that there be joy though, too. My daughter seems to have inherited my enthusiasm for the holiday. She marvels at the lights on houses, she points excitedly to any and all depictions of Santa Claus, and as she curls up on her pillow at night, she whispers “Santa Claus is coming!”

It is all so bluetiful.

I will do my best to delight in her unadulterated joy as I play (just a few) sad Christmas songs in the background. (And maybe even adjust the Christmas lights on the tree one  last time.)

How is your holiday season going? I hope it lands gently for those who are missing loved ones. -Sarah

*A tip of the hat to my favorite blogger of all time, Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery who inspired me to see my own mashup by sharing her own (brutal + beautiful=brutiful)

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ocean of Tears Larger than the Four Oceans

It has been a heart-wrenching couple of days.

On Sunday, my husband found out that his colleague’s wife and son were in a horrible car accident. This morning we received word that his son passed away from injuries sustained in the crash.

It is hard to type that sentence. It is an unthinkable loss that no parent should have to endure. I hardly know this family, and I am stunned and silenced by this grief.

I have cried so many tears these last two days. To the point that I wondered out loud to my sister, What is wrong with me? The kind soul that she is, she gently reminded me that as a mother, of course this loss would shake me. But she also reminded me that I have been steeped in grief these last few weeks. And this just stirred up the grief pot in a major way.

Of course she is right. Once I was able to step back from it, I could see that the steady stream of tears from the last few days is but one part of what has felt like a waterfall of grief. Grief after grief has poured forth over the last two months.

If I had to describe the theme of this autumn, it would be, “Sarah tends to unattended sorrows.”*

It makes sense why this grief has come on so strong. After two years of huge life changes (birth, moves, new house, new jobs), it is only recently that I have felt rooted and grounded enough to tend to the loss of my mom, who passed away two years ago. But what I wasn’t expecting was that a lifetime of unattended sorrows, losses, wounds and pains would come rushing in.

The Buddhists, ever on-top of this human condition stuff, have a term for this pouring forth of grief. They say that when you open the heart and tend to its needs, sometimes all the unattended sorrows are released. The result is “an ocean of human tears larger than the four oceans.”

So here I am, swimming in four oceans of tears.

Tears for this little boy. Tears for his mother who is recovering from her own injuries. Tears for his father. Tears for his sibling. Tears for my mother. Tears for my grandmother. Tears for my father. Tears for my childhood traumas and innocence lost. Tears for every damn loss I have ever felt. (Ok, that last one is probably an exaggeration, but that is how it has felt.)

I am (still) angry at death. Why is it so unjust? Why must a child die? Why must so many kind, loving people experience so much pain and suffering? It seems senseless. And seriously, I am sick and tired of these grief tears. I’d like only the happiness tears from now on, OK universe?

And yet, as I stomp my feet and blow into tissues, I know that the universe is like, sorry kid. You want to be “whole?” Well, that means you get the sad tears with the happy tears. Not one or the other. Both.

Healing and becoming whole is sneaky like that. Painful grief cracked my heart right open. But what I didn’t know was that in doing so it also provided more space for love, compassion, and yes, even joy.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/020/0/7127968/il_570xN.481648279_gqp0.jpg
Nope, I’m not the messenger of any profound life lessons. – Lisa Frank’s Unicorn

(I hate that about grief. Why can’t all our profound spiritual growth come packaged in Lisa Frank unicorn/kitten/rainbows instead of personal tragedies? Clearly I am not in charge of the universe.)

For now, I am taking comfort in the fact that this too shall pass. Until it does, more tears.

More than four oceans of tears, to be exact.

 

* The name of my autumn theme is basically lifted from Stephen Levine’s book of the same name, which if you haven’t read you should check out. It is amazing.

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