On gratitude…

Let’s talk gratitude.

The holidays are the time of the year when we’re supposed to focus on being grateful. It’s nearly an obligation. We give thanks for all the things we take for granted at all the other times. We’re thankful for our friends and family. For our health and happiness. We pause to connect to a different portion of inner selves and remember how blessed we truly are.

In theory.

In reality, the holidays are probably the busiest and most stressful times for most of us. Whether it’s struggling to knock off a ridiculously long gift list, or planning how to travel to see the same family members we’re obligated to be taking the time to be appreciative of, or even if it’s just working full time and trying to maintain a semblance of treading above water and being a good employee and a good person. It’s overwhelming, to say the least.

I’ve never had trouble recognizing gratitude for the big picture things in my life. Despite the heartaches, I had a privileged childhood where education and achievement were drilled into my very being. I’m thankful to graduate from veterinary school and complete a residency training in my area of specialty. I’m thankful for my family and my husband and my friends (though I’ve moved so many times, I’ve lost touch with so many people over the years – not an intentional aspect of my life at all.) I’m happy I finally have a job I love and to be living in an area where I truly and finally see myself building a life. I could continue this list indefinitely. However, that’s not what’s prompting me to write today.

I’m feeling a compulsion to take time to acknowledge the little “happys” I seem to forget to pay much attention to on a daily basis. And what that translates to, is missing out these aspects of my life for weeks, to months, to eventually years on end. It has really hit me today that someone out wishes they could have all the things I take for granted. And that’s making me unhappy on the eve of the day I’m supposed to be most appreciative.

My tendency is to propel myself towards each “next best thing” once I’m able to check off a big-ticket from my life list of “things to do”. While not necessarily a bad trait, it doesn’t leave much for the in between time. I’m constantly concerned with the next goal or task – always looking ahead on the calendar and feeling consistently behind where I should be. It also means I’m disappointed. A lot. Because how often do I truly accomplish those big-ticket things? I fail to achieve the lofty goals I set far more often than I succeed. In the meantime, I tend to forget all the “goodies” that make it work waking up each day.

So today, I’ll choose to be thankful for those little things. I’m thankful for a sunny day that’s over 60 degrees. I’m happy to know I have a few days off work where I’ll be able to spend time just being me. I’m happy to have a working body that carries me to all the places I want to go. I haven’t had a good hair day in a long time, but the next time it happens, I’ll be sure to spend a bit more time dwelling on it. I’m not sure it will make a difference, but I’m willing to take a chance and see if spending time on the small things make the bigger things sweeter. Worst-case scenario, I’ll exponentially increase my mindfulness. Best-case scenario – we will have to see!

So are you in with me? Can you rejoice in finding that ten-dollar bill tucked in your coat pocket you forgot about from last winter? Will you spare a minute to take in the changing colors of the leaves? If you’re stuck in rush hour traffic and your favorite song comes on the radio, will you think about smiling? What little thing can you do today, and each day, to force yourself to find gratitude in the routine portion of your life? Consider if my challenge to you this holiday season. I promise I’ll keep challenging myself right there with you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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