I grew up in the Mormon church singing hymns like Count Your Blessings- even after years away from Church, I can remember almost every word. So, you'd think I'd know exactly what to do when things aren't going well. Truth is, there were plenty of times I did think of this song. I'd be running through my list of grievances, catch myself, then kinda begrudgingly, start running through the other list- the gratitude list. I didn't like doing it though- I'd think, "can't I be grateful AND still want things to be different in my life?!"
A couple of years ago I ran across a 30-Day Abundance Quest with daily affirmations, famous quotes, thought provoking questions, and of course, an empty five-point list to fill in with thankfulness. It wasn't about 'getting rich in thirty days', but about changing your mindset to recognize abundance in everything so you feel rich and happy regardless of whether or not your ship comes in. It was a simple enough program (and free!) so I decided to commit to it (twice!). It felt like preventive medicine- like building up immunity to an "attack of grievances" before it took hold. I sent my answers and gratitude list to a few friends (who probably thought I was nuts) just to keep myself accountable, and looked forward, every morning, to the thoughtfulness and reassuring messages that sustained me through the day, and eventually, set me on a whole new course.
The other day, I was trying to get home from my brother, Lane's, show in Portland, Oregon to set up for a big event of my own; a Vintage Holiday Shopping party that involved an open Home Tour of my house, food, and herding shoppers to my favorite vintage stores in town. My dad (also out visiting for the show) had overslept which sent me rushing out for a cab to the airport. At check in, I found that I'd made a mistake on my return date which cost $375 to fix. On board the plane, the pilot first announced a small mechanical problem that needed more paper work than repair, then after a 2 hour delay and take off, he announced that due to bad weather we were flying in a holding pattern over Point Reyes. Landing nearly 4 1/2 hours later (this is usually a 1 1/2 hour flight), a parking voucher I was given (when long-term parking was full) wasn't working which resulted in a $70 parking fee and a refund form.
I was taking it all in with "survival mode" calm until I reached the grocery store (straight from the airport) to find seven brands of napkins- none from recycled paper. My calm wearing thin, (hello! my event was about using what you've got, shopping vintage, and having an eco-friendly holiday, dammit!), I grabbed a few other things knowing I'd have to go hunting for recycled or cloth napkins on top of everything else. I told the cashier (with the last of my friendly attitude) that there really was no reason to have "new" paper napkins anymore- that carrying them only continued the problem. To my surprise, the bagger chimed in emphatically, "wow, you're right! I never thought of it that way, but it makes so much sense!" I was so taken by his enthusiasm that I didn't notice him packing everything else in a- you guessed it- plastic bag! As I plopped in my car, I noticed I was carrying this plastic bag with an additional empty bag flapping from the top.
I lost it.
The attack of grievances came rushing in and I called my friend, Krista, as I cracked under the expenses and pressures of the week. But then it happened... Mid-cry I thought about my dad wanting to do something nice and spend time with me, the agent who got me on an overbooked flight, the pilot and crew determined to keep us safe, the safe flight!, the parking agent who jumped out of his booth to push the call button for me and explain my situation so I could get out of the garage, and this sweet young bagger who opened his eyes to something new when he could've just rolled them at me.
There it was, hanging sweetly in the back of my mind... count your blessings, name them one by one...
It's not about waiting until everything sucks that you reach out for the rescue, it's about setting your mind at the beginning of every day on faith, hopefulness, and gratitude. It's about noticing that you woke up that day, that you have warm socks, or a loving companion, or a friendly driver who lets you in the lane, or the turning leaves on the one beautiful tree on the block, or the little one laughing with his mom, or the helpful ticket agent... it's about everything being really, really good just because you're there to notice it.
This was the first Thanksgiving in a very long time- maybe ever- that I felt humbled and happy that we set aside this day to be grateful. Sure there's the sordid past of how this day really came about and there's all kinds of things to be cynical about. Hell, Thanksgiving is the day many people 'decide' to get stressed for this and the rest of the Holidays! I know- I've done it myself many many many times.
Earlier this year though I heard another old song in a new way. Sung simply by Sufjan Stevens, I started thinking about Thanksgiving, the Holidays, the year so far...I felt humbled to hear such a beautiful old tune and knew I'd have a good Thanksgiving long before that feast would be cooked. I felt grateful to Edward Mills for thinking of his Abundance Quest, for the opportunities I've had to change my life, for the people I've loved deeply, for those who've loved and helped me the same, for my home, my warm socks... ah, this is what it means to be rich.
Thank you, Everyone, for reading my blog, for helping me Make Room for More, for enjoying my home and creative ideas, for sharing your ideas and responding in such sweet and supportive ways. I'm really, really grateful.