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The Enchanted Outlook

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gratitude

Practicing Gratitude for Growing Older

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No, you didn’t read that title wrong. Yesterday was my birthday and I’m very grateful to be another year older.

A friend of mine in her sixties was getting some dental work done recently. “Maintenance,” she said with a sigh. “It’s just part of growing older.”

I’ve spent a large part of my career with women around twice my age. They are always trying to warn me of the perils of aging. They warn me of how terrible it is and how I really need to appreciate being young. Perhaps these were lessons that never sank in when they were younger. I just smile and nod.

My mother died of cancer at age 49 and my aunt at age 55. They both had a genetic mutation that made them predisposed to the disease. I also had two cousins who died in a car crash when they were in college. For my family, death has never been too far away.

 

I spent about fifteen years not knowing if I had the same gene mutation that killed my mother and my aunt. This meant that I was very unclear on my risk for early mortality. On the one hand, this encouraged me to eat healthy, to get plenty of sleep, to live in the now, and to never take my time for granted. On the other hand, it cast a large question mark over my life.

For some reason, I was never able to find an OBGYN who was willing to do the genetic testing until about a year ago. When I finally got the tests done, I found out that I didn’t have the gene. I was the first woman in my extended family to test negative for it. Suddenly, the second half of my life opened up. I could stand to wait a few years to have children without raising my risk of cancer. I no longer felt silly putting money away for retirement. I could dream about what I might like to do in my golden years. I could count on with a bit more certainly all those milestones of life that others take for granted.

What a lot of women fear in growing older has become for me a blessing for which I am continually grateful. Bring on the achy muscles and creaky knees. Bring on the forgetfulness and the hot flashes and the wrinkles and saggy places. I am ready for all of it because I never knew if I would be able to have those years at all.

Believing from a young age that I could die young had another added benefit: every day counts. Life needs to be lived with no regrets, because we really don’t know when our time will come, and with gratitude, since every day we are alive is a gift. It is not some privilege that life is obligated to give us.

So I have a small request for the young and old. It is good and well to feel what we need to feel and complain when we need to complain. Bad days (and months, and years) happen and are a part of living. But if you can, remember from time to time that the days we have on this earth are a gift. Do it for all those young people who did not have the blessing to be alive today. But more importantly, do it for yourself, because nothing is more nurturing to our own happiness than taking a moment to appreciate the simple act of living and all the wonders it entails.

So this birthday, and every birthday, I am taking a moment to practice gratitude that I was given another year of living. And, I’m thinking of how to squeeze the most magic out of the next year of my life, one day at a time.

In the Present Moment

Happy Travels


This week, a lot of us will be traveling to visit family. Travel can be stressful during the best of times. During the holidays it can be a nightmare. I have a few suggestions as to how to make the trip a little more enchanted.

  • Start before you leave. Plan ahead. Pack only what you know you will need. Take your time. Take a little breather once you have finished packing so you won’t  start your travels feeling rushed.
  • Practice mindfulness. Try to be present. Notice the scenery around you. What would you do differently if you were driving or riding or flying for the sheer enjoyment of it rather than as a means to get from here to there?
  • Use the opportunity. Is there a book you have been wanting to read or listen to on tape? Maybe a favorite magazine you don’t usually indulge in? An album of holiday music to put you in the mood?
  • Look for opportunities to practice kindness. If you are looking at big crowds and long lines during your travel, perhaps the opportunity will arise to give someone a hand, hold a door, give a smile, or strike up a nice conversation with the person waiting next to you.
  • Remember gratitude. It’s not always easy during this stressful time, and it is certainly okay if you are feeling stressed as well, but you may find that practicing a little gratitude can lift your mood. Maybe for you it is gratitude for the meaning behind the holiday you are celebrating, or the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, or simply having the means to travel.

What do you do to make your holiday season a little more enchanted?

Daily Gratitude: Integrity

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I have grappled a lot this week with the direction I want this blog to go. When I revamped my blog, one of my main goals was to “stay on subject.” With that, I didn’t want this to become one big political platform. However, this week has been, in no uncertain terms, unusual circumstances.

Here’s the thing. This IS a blog about finding life’s magic and so much of finding life’s magic is about finding the good in life, standing up for what is right, and defeating our monsters, whatever they may be. So much of fantasy, and of happiness, is rooted in adamant beliefs in the importance of altruism, open-mindedness, interconnectedness, and the seeking of truth.

I woke up very clear-headed this morning and the anxiety I had all week was replaced with a dauntless integrity. I made some promises to myself, to my readers, and to the world at large. Some of them were hard to make but I will try my best to stick to them. They are as follows:

1. I just subscribed to NPR and plan on making a donation to them as well. I am going to do some hard research into various news sites to make sure the information I consume and share is reputable, truthful, well researched, and supportive of diverse opinions and contrasting views.

2.I will continue to engage in respectful discourse with those who have opposing views than mine because that is the only way we can all move forward. I will try my very best to listen. I will continue to try my best to support the rights and interests of all Americans regardless of political affiliation, so long as those interests don’t infringe upon the inalienable rights of others.

3. I promise to try my best to vote with my dollars, to support local businesses, to support fair trade, to put my money where my mouth is.

4. I promise to stand up for the safety of my fellow Americans from all walks of life regardless of their political views, sexuality, skin color, or gender. Provided the American government also stands up for these inalienable rights, I promise to support them as well.

To these promises I would kindly ask my American readers to consider doing the same because the only way we can all move forward together is with integrity, empathy, understanding, open-mindedness, and in being as informed on the facts as we possibly can be in an era of media misinformation.

Tomorrow, I will go back to “programming as usual.” Today, I faced my greatest monster, my own uncertainty, and I can now put my sword back in its sheath, sling my shield on my back, and walk away in good conscience.

Daily Gratitude: Being Alive

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Yesterday, I was one of the people reported as deceased on Facebook and my page was briefly memorialized. Apparently, this was due to a glitch in Facebook’s programming. Some people found it funny, but I found it disturbing for two reasons:

First, because I knew that Facebook friends can report you as deceased and I fully believed that something about the election I had said had caused someone to lash out in a very cruel way, and I was extremely upset and hurt.

Second, because as I mentioned in a prior post, I am still waiting on the results of an important medical test, and while it’s far from imminently life or death, seeing “Remembering Stacey… We hope people who love Stacey will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate her life” was…disturbing. It was certainly an odd way to end a very upsetting week.

Today, though, I’ve had a lot of perspective on a lot of things. I am alive. That’s a good thing. I am driven to try to live the fullest, most honorable life I can. That’s also a good thing thing. I still have the chance to see Hamilton live and get one of those German advent calendars with the little chocolates in each window and wear that pretty turquoise dress I keep putting off wearing because it hasn’t been right for any outing this year and figure out why the restaurant down the street stopped giving out the yummy appetizer crisps and asking them where I can get some because they were my favorite part of the whole meal.

So, maybe digitally dying was the best thing to happen to me this week. It reminded me to live.

 

Daily Gratitude: Sadness


Yesterday, I was struggling to make a daily gratitude post because I was sad.

I was sad as a woman who has been groped and called derogatory things and followed late at night and intimidated and talked down to.

I was sad as a person in an inter-racial marriage, who has dealt with ignorant and sometimes judgemental comments.

I was sad as a person currently waiting on the results of an important medical test, the outcome of which may now determine whether or not I can get insurance in the future.

I was sad for all the people I know who now fear for their own wellbeing and even their lives.

I was sad as a lover of fantasy literature, which endlessly echoes the mantra that love, kindness and goodness prevail.

I was not feeling grateful. But then, I realized, ironically, that I am grateful for sadness. I am grateful that I know and understand that holistic mental health doesn’t just consist of positive emotions. I am grateful that I am able to feel and express a variety of emotions. I am grateful for a country where I have the freedom of speech to express those emotions. I am grateful for my writing passion which gives me an outlet to express those emotions.

Gratitude is important to happiness. But, so is sadness, and so many other feelings. Most importantly, being honest with ourselves and acknowledging the validity of our own feelings is vital to the human experience. It doesn’t mean that we are bitter or hateful or disrespectful. It just means that we feel sad.

So today, I am grateful that I don’t have to feel grateful. That can wait for another day.

Today’s Gratitude: Peace of Mind

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I just voted and I already feel a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders. One thing I learned from working in crisis intervention was that when we are in crisis and the brain is not “in equilibrium,” so to speak, making a decision in and of itself can resolve the crisis. In other words, the process of making a decision often feels more stressful than the actual decision, even if the decision we make is the wrong one or leads to more stress in the long run.

I do feel that I made the best decision I could, and truthfully, it was a decision that I made in my head a long time ago, but I didn’t get to act on it until today. I know a lot of Americans have felt stressed and out of sync lately, and with the exception of those who voted early, today is the one day we get to really, truly, take action about it. That is a beautiful thing, because it puts the control back in our hands. Obviously I will be watching with baited breath to see the outcome, but for me personally, I feel a great sense of relief in knowing that I put in as much effort as I could to make the most informed decision I could, and that there is nothing further I can do. I am also grateful for the opportunity to play my own very small part, and grateful for the women who fought so hard for suffrage so that I am able to have my own very small piece of democracy.

What are you grateful for?

Daily Gratitude: Mondays

Okay, I know. Appreciation for bad weather is one thing, but being thankful for Mondays is just blasphemy. Truth be told, I don’t like Mondays any more than anyone else does. In fact, I may like them even less, since I work with clients with mental disabilities and schedule changes, like the weekend, can be confusing for them.

I was thinking, though, that Mondays are special not so much because of what they are, but because of who we are. On Mondays, we are our bravest. We face down our week, reluctantly, but confidently. We look it in the eyes and say, “I got this.” Mondays are the day we get to strap on a metaphorical sword and show our mettle. Life is often hardest on Mondays, which is why I believe that Monday is the day we are truly living on the edge, and thus are the most alive. So go on, you rock star, you, and get out there. You got this.

What are you grateful for?

Daily Gratitude: Yucky Weather

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It is such a beautiful day today where I live. The air outside is apple crisp, the mountains are painted red, orange, and green, and a light breeze is making the fallen leaves dance, as if they are enjoying the weather, too.

I was going to write about how grateful I was for beautiful weather. But then, I thought, I wouldn’t have appreciated a day like today if it weren’t for the bad weather we had been having: the unusually hot days for late fall, or the torrents of rain, or the week the temperature randomly dipped and it was super cold. Every day has its own special gift, but if every day were just as beautiful as today, I wouldn’t appreciate a day like today for what it is. So today, I am thankful for all the yucky days that made me sit back today, take a deep breath, drink some eggnog, and enjoy.

What are you grateful for?

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