Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties Posts a Year of Gratitude

Remember how I posted this a year ago, about how I was going to do the 365 Grateful Project on Instagram for 2014?

Raise your hand if you didn't think I'd do it.  Go on, admit it.  I can't see it, anyway.

Well, suckas, I did.  I was not perfect at it, but I think overall the amount of days I missed could be counted on one hand.  I'm no mathematician, but I that means I ROCK.  A woman in her thirties means what she says and says what she means.

The 365 Grateful Project was eye-opening and totally worthwhile, and let me say for the record that if you are reading this and are tempted to give it a try for 2015, DO IT.  Here are a few of the many things I learned being #365grateful.

1.  It was way easier than I thought.

I am a picture taking fool, so taking just one picture every day was a piece of cake for me.  But it was more than just the actual taking the picture.  I was worried that I would struggle to find something genuine every day that I was grateful for.  Especially in the depths of the Polar Vortex, endless sleep deprivation, etc. etc.  But it was easy.  SUPER easy.  In fact, I could have posted twice a day with no problem.  Once I was in the habit of being grateful, I was grateful for lots of things, all the time.

One of my favorites, from early in the year.  

2.  The little things were sometimes more profound than the big things.

I had so much to be grateful for this year. Remember how I published a book, and my life-long dream of becoming a writer came true?  That was a BIG thing.  

Of course I'm so grateful for that, but the 365 Grateful Project made me step back and think about the rungs on the ladder to getting me there.  The things I might have taken for granted.

Hot wheels on a miserable February day.

Sweet Daniel, and all the happiness he brings us (when he's not stealing the kids' food).


Life isn't all about the big things, it's the little things, too.  And they all add up, when you start seeing them.

3.  Gratitude is a state of mind.

It is not enough to be thankful sometimes.  It has to be every day.  It has be be an engrained part of you, like potty training.  Yeah, that's it.  Being grateful is like being potty trained.


What I mean is that once I started looking at life through a lens of gratitude, it became a part of who I am. Here's a good example:

This picture was taken after a solid 24 hours of puking.  Hard to believe Anna had it in her.  And once she was done, guess who was next?  Only I had it worse than her, to the point of needing IV fluid.  But as I lay on the couch and took this pic, I kept thinking, 'at least she's better.  At least L is home.  At least my neighbor can take me to the ER.'  

See what I mean? Being grateful doesn't necessarily mean being happy.  (I was certainly not happy when I snapped this pic.)  But I was aware, and thankful for the things I knew would get me past the hard part.  

4.  Gratitude helps you live in the present moment.

If there is one thing I'm bad at, it's this.  Meditation is the hardest part of yoga for me.  Napping is not in the cards; never has been.  My mind is constantly moving toward the next thing, the next thing, and then the next thing.  It's annoying.  

But the 365 Grateful Project helped me recognize the moment, the space I was inhabiting, for better or worse.

For example, look at this picture of my little Mister Buddy.  Look.  No, really look.  Think about how many times you look at your kids, your pets, your partner, in all their sleepy perfection and not take a moment to soak it in.  I do it all the time.  But not this day, not in this moment.  And I'm so grateful, because now I have this picture to melt over for all eternity.  

5.  Gratitude is contagious.

I've taken some flack over the 365 Grateful project, I won't lie. I'm sure my once daily posts got annoying for some, especially if they were not in the mood for Polly Positivity.  But overall, the people I've talked to that have followed me on Instagram have been overwhelmingly glad that I did it, because it has encouraged them to be grateful, too.  Maybe not in a snap-a-pic every day kind of way, maybe not in a public kind of way.  But maybe in an ever-so-slight mind shift kind of way. 

At least, that is the hope.  And I think, at the end of the day, that is what is point of gratitude.  Hope in the face of adversity.  Thankfulness, even when we don't feel like life is going our way.  Figuring out small happinesses, and by sharing them, paying them forward.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties and Community

When you're buying a home for the first time, people always repeat the same old mantra:   Location, location, location.  I remember it from when I bought my first home, a townhouse in Sacramento near the river, and I remember it when we moved many multiple times since then, and I certainly remember it when we bought our house here in P-town.

For those of you not from here, or maybe those of you who didn't see our family grace the cover of our neighborhood magazine...

This is T and H, both laughing uncontrollably at that magazine cover.  I love my friends. 

... Pleasantville has a bit of reputation for snobbery.  Not just my neighborhood (though it certainly does), but the whole of P-town. We are called cake-eaters, which is pretty dumb if you think about it, but I get it now.  Especially as an outsider, someone who didn't grow up knowing many of her neighbors, and doesn't have much to relate to when it comes to country clubs and nannies.

Here's what I've discovered in the last five years living here:  The reputation I live amidst is not completely unfounded.  As a friend said the other day, 'You get caught up in the bubble; you start comparing yourself to the people around you and focus on what you don't have, rather than what you do.'  Yes.  Yes here, yes for many women in their thirties, I would imagine.

However, two things happened this month that made me appreciate this bubble in which I live.  The first involves this big, gray cloud that has hung over me since I was about sixteen years old-- a molar in my mouth that never came down to play with my other teeth and ended up fuzing to my cheekbone. The technical term is 'ankylosed', and to make a long story short, that thing had to come out.  I really didn't know what to expect in terms of recovery, but I figured shoot, I recovered from a C-Section, didn't I?  And at least this time I didn't have to breastfeed after.

I didn't tell too many people what was going on because I was in denial felt like I had things under control.  On surgery day, L was prepped and ready to take over for a few days so I could stay drugged up and get through the most painful hump of recovery.  The people who did know kept offering to bring food, take my kids, sit with me and wipe the drool from my mouth, anything.  L came home from picking the kids up from school that day and said, 'Jeez, everyone there is SO nice!'  Because it's true.

And as much as I said, 'Please, I'm on an Ensure diet anyway! Don't bring me anything!' I kept getting stuff:

Pumpkin bread and Juice So Good... my new favorite thing!

Beautiful flowers

Nie Nie's delicious soup

A woman in her thirties knows enough about the world to know that this doesn't happen everywhere. My surgery ended up being MUCH better than we'd anticipated (hooray!), and I was reminded yet again of the generosity of the people I'm surrounded with.

A few days after this, while I was still recovering, the news of a dear neighbor's grave condition started filtering through the neighborhood.  She had been battling cancer for some time, and as the end drew near, the neighbors all rallied.  Visits to hospice, lots and lots of food deliveries, flowers, cards... Her funeral was Friday, and as I sat in my pew next to another set of neighbors we really truly couldn't live without, I was overcome with appreciation for where I live.  That afternoon, as we hand-delivered our Christmas cards...

I talked to Anna about how lucky she was to live here. She, of course, had no idea what I was talking about...

... and neither will her brother, at least not until they go out into the world and see it for themselves.  So until then, I will just have to eat my cake (or pumpkin bread, whatever) and appreciate it for them.