The Grateful Book

September 21, 2015

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For several years I was mired in grief as I struggled to come to terms with those feelings of loss we all have when someone close to us dies and we either ignored the signs or felt helpless through the process that, in many cases, lasts for years.

As my grief cycle lost some of its hold on me I started reading again in my search for stepping stones to help me rise from a serious depression to a brighter life. I also turned to friends and relatives and my new boyfriend and they have all stood by my side as I slowly beat back the viny tendrils of my own mind that were trying to hold me back.

One of the suggestions I came across was called The Grateful Book. That’s not the name of a book, but is an exercise to help turn the tables on the mind and it has been of immense help to me.

The premise is simple

  1. Buy a brand new spiral notebook and a pen that you can keep by your bed.
  2. Each day, either before turning out the light at night or before rising in the morning, write down 10 things you are truly grateful for. (For me, this usually takes up most of a page so I just use a new page for each day.)

The page of my book from this morning follows as an example. However, to give you a better understanding of WHY I write what I do let me tell you where I live and what I saw yesterday.

I live in an apartment in a barn. The apartment was converted from a farm manager office with the horse stall next to it remodelled into a bedroom and the storage room behind converted to a bath room.

There are three other 12′ x 12′ ‘apartments’ in this facility that do not have bathrooms or windows, but there is a common kitchen and a toilet in the office in the second barn. The people in the other apartments bathe late at night, with a hose, outside in the dark. There is no hot water.

In comparison, my 700 sq.ft. apartment is the Taj Mahal. I have two window air conditioners, a small window, a real stove and refrigerator, and a full bathroom with hot water as well as my bedroom.

Yesterday, the woman who lives with her husband in one of the rooms proudly showed me their home. It was spotless, smelled of cleaning products, and had a dresser, a mattress on the floor, and storage bins stacked in one corner. There was a coffee pot on the dresser and it must have been over 100 degrees in the windowless room. She had a big smile and was so happy to show it to me.

So, here is this morning’s page from my Grateful Book:

  • I am grateful every day that I have a boyfriend who is a good man and cares about me.
  • I am grateful every day that I have a kitchen with all the appliances I need and extra ones that are convenient.
  • I am grateful every day that I have running water and a functional indoor bathroom where I can privately bathe.
  • I am grateful every day that I have lots of clothes for any weather condition.
  • I am grateful every day that I have boxes and shelves of books to read about a variety of subjects from humor to self improvement and education to science fiction.
  • I am grateful every day that I wake up each morning to the sounds of life all around me.
  • I am grateful every day that I can watch the sunset from my front door.
  • I am grateful every day for the incredible beauty I see in clouds, water, trees, flowers, animals and the faces around me.
  • I am grateful every day for my functioning brain and the creative thoughts I have as well as all the memories of my life.
  • I am grateful every day for the taste of clean water, the smell of coffee, the sounds of birds, the sight of growing things and the touch of others.
  • I am grateful every day for the lifetime of hugs I have received and for each one I will get in the future.

Sometimes I have a particular person or event on my mind and what comes to mind is all the things related to that. Many themes repeat, like my boyfriend, my sister, my friends, adventures and travel I have enjoyed, moments I remember, my animals, vehicles that are old but functional, my job, educational grants I’ve recieved…

At first it was hard to think of a single good thing to be grateful for. Then, as I got into the thought patterns of actually seeing what is around me, it became easier and easier to be grateful for everything.

IMG_2056It’s hard to believe, as I sit here inside a solid building and type on my computer that is connected to the rest of the world through the internet while a cool breeze from the air conditioner wafts the warm scent of toasting cinnamon English muffin through the air and a little black and white cat stretches in contentment and companionship next to me, that there are places in the world where bombs are falling, homes are being invaded, women are not allowed education or employment. And that my very neighbors don’t have bathrooms.

How can I NOT be grateful for what I have and where I live?

Sometimes I write a comment in response to someone else’s comment and it has so much content that it really should be a post of its own. This is one such comment with….hmmm….a few modifications.

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Photo complements of The Body Consultants.

I know!

I KNOW!!

But being macho is not just a male trait, I’m female and am just as guilty.

I don’t want to be seen as a ‘WUSS’ or have the label ‘HYPOCHONDRIAC’, but that’s no excuse for dancing all night on a broken foot and boasting about it to the technician putting the cast on at 2:00 am.

The truth is that the nagging messages we get from our bodies are pleas for help.

backache (1)

Thanks to Lotus Love for this image.

Years of masking acid reflux with a bottle of Tums…a lifetime of drinking Coke even when it will melt a nail overnight…a nagging headache that just won’t go away…shortness of breath after climbing the stairs each night…

My body speaks to me constantly, begging for mercy, but I’m so busy I deliberately tune it out. I’ve become entrenched in the habit of ignoring the messages and it’s more comfortable to live in pain than to make an appointment with a doctor.

My suffering has grown to status symbol importance, like MacDonald’s golden arches, and I constantly remind all within hearing that “My Back is KILLING ME!” when, in truth, it is me killing my back.

abdominal pain

Complements of UCMP Helathbeat

And, all the while, my body has been building a backlog of stress from the pain and is reacting by dumping more acid into my stomach, increasing my heart rate, and keeping me awake at night so I can’t heal.

Then…when something breaks and can’t be fixed I proudly say such things as, “I haven’t been to the doctor in 30 years! Never been sick a day in my life! How could this happen to me???” It would be more truthful to say, “Why didn’t I pay attention to the signs and take care of this before it reached epic proportions? I guess I brought this all on myself.”

MamaCatThe funny thing is, although I feel that I can’t afford the time or expense for my own medical issues, I take my pets to the vet if they don’t eat right for a few days, or they mope around like they don’t feel well. But I never consider the owner of the pet. What will happen to them if I can’t get up at feed time or take them out?

I know maintenance is necessary for other things so I take my car to the shop if the engine sounds funny or the brakes don’t work, or the windshield wipers make noise. But what about the driver of the car. How difficult will repairs be when I have a stroke while driving? And what about that family in the  minivan next to me?

 Why do I always feel that I am invincible?

NaPoWriMo8
Diversification Cooperation

We move through life
bodies and brains,
minds and hearts.
Co-operation.

Bodies are wonderous
shells for our souls,
tools for our lives.
Transportation.

Brains work tirelessly
seek endless knowledge,
correlate facts.
Education.

Minds soar freely
encompass all,
traverse the universe.
Imagination.

Hearts hone perception
revel in love,
define our meaning.
Salvation.

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