Monday 17 June 2013

On Being Grateful

Hey.  Thanks for checking out my blog.  I'm somewhat noncommittal when it comes to things like this, but since I'm about to embark on a crazy-amazing adventure to West Africa with the love of my life, I should have a lot to share in the upcoming year.  For now, here's a practise blog post to get my feet wet.   I think it's important that you know I'm not a writer.  I am a high school English teacher who has an average ability to write and a strong desire to be better at it.  This is my attempt at doing something I've always wanted to do and sticking with it.  So if you're interested in little old me and my adventures, I hope you enjoy this blog.  If not, thanks for stopping by and have a super day.

Today I'd like to write about Gratefuls.  

Gratefuls is not something new or a particularly novel concept.  I've known of gratefuls for most of my life - they just weren't called "gratefuls", and I wasn't really someone who paid much attention to those kinds of things, because it was usually authority figures insisting I be more grateful, and I typically don't enjoy being told what to do.  But when I met my good friend Dean in 2011, I was struck by his infectious positivity and upbeat personality.  For reals - serious happy, optimistic vibes radiate from this guy.  He's a completely awesome force of nature.  After getting to know Dean more, I realized that Dean's happiness is created by himself.  He surrounds himself with awesome people (I'd like to think I'm one of those awesome people); makes choices that he knows will make him feel good, healthy, and fantastic; and he spreads kindness and laughter to others.  

And he's grateful. 

Every. Single. day.

It wasn't until I met Dean that I really thought deeply about being grateful.  As I got to know Dean more, I learned that each day, Dean considers the things he is grateful for in his life.  He transfers his gratefulness from his thoughts to paper - sticky notes, to be specific, which he then posts on the wall in his bathroom, so that every day when he looks in the vanity mirror, he is reminded of all the incredible things, big and small, in his world.  Not a bad way to start the day.  Any meal I've ever shared with Dean is preceded with a moment of gratefuls, which, I must say, is a way better and more preferable alternative to saying Grace.  I was definitely down with what Dean was doing. 

It's a cool concept, but it's not really something I began to practise immediately.  In fact, I've only just recently started to think about all of the things I'm grateful for.  My life has been in an upheaval in the last ten months, what with entering into a long-distance relationships with its own unique challenges and efforts, travelling to Ghana for the holidays (a bit of a process, what with visas, immunizations and such, but more than worth it!), an intense school year with heavy responsibilities as a professional educator and colleague, and maintaining my sanity while balancing work and trying to pack up/sell/give away many material possessions, finding a long-term bunny-sitter, and storing the rest of our things while I moved out of my previous residence.  Oh yeah, and mentally and emotionally preparing for a big move and a big adventure!  

As you can imagine, so much change in my otherwise predictable, comfortable, ambling life was something I'd never had to deal with before.  I've definitely learned a lot about myself this year.  For example, I learned that when I'm overwhelmed, like, REALLY overwhelmed, it turns out I simply shut down.  I abandon responsibilities and withdraw into a void of Reddit, movies, and video games.  And I began to feel…not empty, exactly, but like something was missing, just out of reach, and I couldn't quite put my finger on what, exactly, that was.  But I knew it was not cool.

After a few weeks of burnout, emotional self-loathing, and managing to pass by with the bare-minimum, I decided I needed to get my s** together.  After all, I'm awesome, and I know I'm awesome, but I wasn't feeling awesome.  So it was time to do something about it - I had to channel my inner-Dean - starting with gratefuls. Oh, and a new journal, because not only do I LOVE buying new journals, I had just lost my previous one somewhere.  I chose to start with gratefuls after listening to a TED talk from Shawn Achor, which reminded me of another keynote presentation by Dan Tomasulo, which I had seen at the STA Convention in  August.  Both presentations centred on positive psychology and the science behind positive thinking.  Apparently it takes THREE positive thoughts to negate ONE negative thought, so I was going to have to start with a long list of gratefuls in order to reconnect with my awesomeness.  

It's been about two weeks since I've tried being more mindful and grateful for the little things and for the big things.  I write a minimum of three gratefuls a day. Here are a few examples of some gratefuls that I've written down:

Teacher health plans

Mark Boots, my co-captain on the ship of life, and my best friend who is encouraging, supportive, fun, and totally inspiring!

Starbucks vanilla blonde roast

Pens that write smoothly and vibrantly

My fantastic mom, who's undying love and nurturing have helped me become almost as cool as she is.

My gratefuls, while initially superficial, are starting to focus more on the people in my life, and the things I've learned, and the things that I take for granted.  I mean, I'm still incredibly grateful for that vanilla blonde roast - it's amazing.  I'm supposed to enjoy the tiny things, too.  The more I etch my gratefulness into the pages of my fabulous new journal, the better I feel about myself, my day, and my life. It sounds cheesy and dramatic, but it's true.  I have more motivation, more energy, and more desire to be a better version of myself everyday.  Sometimes Reddit wins out, but not as often as it used to. (If you don't know what Reddit is, do yourself a favour and NEVER check it out.  It's a time-vampire.)  As I begin to prepare for a new chapter in this amazing life, I'm becoming even more appreciative of the things I'm leaving behind for a year: family, friends, amazing colleagues, and incredible students who, on most days, inspire me and keep me young at heart.  But it's only a year, and while I will miss Saskatoon and all the people I'm attached to here with all of my heart, I can hardly wait to fill the pages of this next chapter in my life with gratefuls, new experiences and a whole lot of growth. 

Thanks for reading, 


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