At the beginning of the year, I decided that this would be the year of gratitude. Or at least, learning about gratitude. That didn’t turn out too well, and a little while ago, I decided to ditch the whole thing. Except somehow, trying for gratitude has sort of seeped in. So here’s some things my gratitude journey has taught me.
I have lost my courage on several occasions this year. But remembering that I have courage tends to give it back to me. Concentrating on the ways that restore the soul – spending time with those that care about me, expressing my difficulties and challenges creatively but not destructively – helps. Gratitude is a big part of that. Because it reminds me why I need to have the courage.
- Dog walks can be fun.
This was the year of the dog. Or specifically, getting the dog. Which means training the dog and walking the dog and trying not to get upset when the dog chews all the things. At the beginning, it was hard, because everything about the dog seemed like work. And then one day, I was grumpy and I dragged myself and the dog out for a walk. And she wagged her tail and I ranted about how awful everything was, and she wagged her tail and chased the birds. It was a beautiful moment, a chance to find gratitude in the midst of a mess. Yes, the dog is hard work. But she is also loyal, hardworking and patient. Plus, when I go out and I have her with me, I can talk and people don’t think I’m crazy.
The dog teaches me to find the gratitude in the moment. Also to optimistically greet people with a toy and an invitation to play.
- Strengths, Weaknesses and Relationships
The Dude politely describes me as a “Marmite person”. I tend to provoke a strong response. I tend to enjoy provoking a strong response. Sometimes it’s a great strength. Frequently it’s a great weakness. But this year, I have had to confront this Marmite-ness in myself again. And find some sort of resolution. I don’t want to be less than myself. Watered down Marmite is just universally disliked. The solution? Relationship.
I am grateful for friends that are willing to be the cheese to my Marmite. It’s not that my Marmite-itude needs to be watered down, but rather that it needs to be mingled with a million other flavours. I was designed to be part of a larger group. My contribution will never make sense in isolation. I am grateful for friends that have stood by me and with me and helped me on this journey. I am grateful for the way that they stand with me still, and the way that we make each other better.
- Just because it’s not what I wanted and it’s hard doesn’t mean I can’t do it.
Parenting is hard. Parenting when it means giving up on your dreams can be harder still. Parenting a child with special needs which means that all the best bits of parenting take longer to happen is even harder still. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. And it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.
Because Little Person has a special something. Not because she has autism, not despite her autism, but because she is brave, and strong and always willing to give it a shot. If she will never give up, neither will I. I am grateful for this lesson, that life, my life, is not all about me. And somewhere along the line I became okay with that.
- Hope is a thing.
What do I hope for? A better tomorrow. Not as in the day after today, but as in the opportunity to build something. Despite all the pessimism, and the stupidity and the selfishness, I have hope. Because love. Love wins in the end. Always and forever. And that means that when I don’t know what to do, I can love. And if I can love, there is hope. And somehow, gratitude seems to be a reflection of the hopes that I had yesterday that became a reality today.
- Sometimes trying for gratitude is not a thing.
Because when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed and frustrated, pressurising yourself to be grateful for these things is stupid. Sometimes it’s enough to say I am tired and it’s too much and I don’t know what to do. And that’s where the other people and their love come in.
- I don’t have to look after myself first. But I do have to look after myself.
There’s a meme with an empty teacup and the message “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Look after yourself first.” Which is fine. Positive. Useful. Unless, you know, it’s completely impractical. Looking after myself first is a luxury. Looking after myself is a necessity. I can do this in a hundred different ways – walking the dog, conversation with friends, writing a blog. I know this is important, so I can find ways to squeeze it into my day. And quite often, but always, those moments are the ones that resonate with gratitude.
And that’s my 2016 gratitude attitude in a nutshell. (It’s a very big nut.)