Category Archives: Gratitude
A few little things went wrong in my life this weekend. Nothing major. Just petty little annoyances.
It was gorgeous and sunny in Ottawa, but I felt yucky and didn’t want to move from the couch. Our friend’s dog that we were looking after for the weekend caught a nail on our heating grate, hurt his paw and bled all over our kitchen floor. (You can imagine how awful we felt about that.) And the curling team that I was pulling for at the Tim Horton’s Brier didn’t win. (Brad Gushue, you were so close.)
Little things added up until I collapsed on the couch and said, “You know what? I’ve had better days.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to be at peace with minor inconveniences. It’s an even greater challenge to accept major upsets that come along. Sometimes it’s even a challenge to allow ourselves to savour fun events or people that crop up on our life paths.
We spend so much time evaluating whether something is “good” or “bad” we never arrive at accepting what is. And appearances can be deceiving. Events that appear catastrophic at first glance often lead to unforeseen good fortune. Other events that strike us as lucky turn out to be anything but.
All of us would love to have 100 per cent control over what happens in our lives, but we don’t. Even as we lay track toward our goals, unexpected events blindside us and derail our plans.
When that happens I try to remember to rise above all the things going on around me and survey them as if I were an impartial observer. I try view whatever comes—no matter what it is—as a big, welcome surprise. “So THAT’s what happens!”
This attitude makes it easier to be at peace with life. Stuck in the slow line at the grocery store? So THAT’S what happens! A winning goal for your hockey team in overtime? So THAT’S what happens! You’re fired? So THAT’S what happens!”
It’s easier to be at peace with life if all the petty disagreements, unforeseen twists of fate, illnesses, riches, journeys, friends, deaths or births become big, welcome surprises.
So THAT’s what happens! Surprise! I wonder what happens next?
If you want to spend your day in despair over the state of humanity, the fastest route to that sentiment is through the comments section on YouTube or any other internet site.
Comments sections put the meanness, pettiness, ignorance, judgment and narrow thinking of some members of our society on full display. I simply cannot read them, or I have to spend time after giving myself a chin-up pep talk.
Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest we might be able to enhance our tendency toward kindness. All it takes is some meditation, some training and some practice.
Participants in a study worked at building their compassion “muscle.” Those who did responded to others in need with caring and a desire to help. They became more altruistic.
Goodness knows we need more people like that.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is not the first to propose physical, spiritual, mental and emotional benefits of meditation; it has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase serotonin levels, reduce pain, and increase creativity and mental sharpness. Their study adds another motivational level to begin the practice.
Okay everyone? Let’s change some brains.
I wrote this post three years ago, but I decided to post it again as we wind down our holiday preparations. A reminder of what is really important at this time of year.
Correspondence from an earlier time helps us to gain perspective about our own circumstances. These letters, written by my husband’s ancestors, span the years between 1928 and 1936. The mood changes from comfortable and optimistic, to worried, to discouraged, to desperate.
In 1928 times were good. People had no inkling of the challenges to come. They proudly made use of electricity as they gathered around their radio in the evenings.
By October 1930, people had started to feel the pinch, but hope did not elude them. Reading this now, we know the long, lingering hard times that lay ahead of them—the Great Depression and then World War II—but back then, they were certain it was a short-term dip.
In 1933 many people were out of work. Lay-off notices were dreaded but common. Without a social safety net, no work meant no food or shelter. This lay-off notice came just before Christmas.
At Christmas 1934, this letter was sent: “. . . we find that it will be impossible to send any gifts this year, and therefore we would rather not receive any gifts this year.”
By comparison, we are wealthy beyond all imagining. Our social safety net is not perfect, but it helps.
Rest easy. Enjoy our luxury. Happy Holidays.
In a conversation at my office, one co-worker shared a story about his son-in-law who was born in England but has been in Canada for the past ten years. My co-worker reported that when his son-in-law returns to Great Britain now, the people tell him he speaks with a Canadian accent, even though his accent sounds decidedly British to Canadian ears.
As he spoke, he turned to another man who came to Canada from Beijing. He asked him, “When you return to China, do people say you sound Canadian?”
The man thought for second and then said, “No, they don’t comment on my accent, but I do find myself saying ‘Sorry’ a lot.”
Our compassion is contagious. It makes me proud, and not the least bit sorry.
Once again, the insights of author Paulo Coelho inspired my writing.
During one Christmas Eve dinner, he spent time complaining about something that was not perfect in his life. His thoughtful wife pointed out the beautifully illuminated Christmas tree nearby with one burnt bulb among the brilliantly shining ones.
“It seems to me that instead of thinking of this year as dozens of enlightened blessings, you chose to look at the one light that did not glow,” she said.
What is the ratio of enlightened blessings to burnt bulbs in your life?
My eyesight is not good. Most days I don’t consider this a blessing, but at Christmas I do. When I take off my glasses, a Christmas tree looks star-filtered to me. The lights lose their sharp edges and take on a starlight glow. When I admire a Christmas tree in that soft focus I think about how lucky I am to see a Christmas tree in a way that my sharp-eyed friends can’t.
Best of all, when I look at a tree that way, I couldn’t possibly pick out any burnt bulbs.
This month, whether you enjoy Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the solstice, or any other celebrations, may you bask in the glow of so many enlightened blessings that you don’t notice any dark spots.
Read Paulo Coelho’s post here: My wife and the burnt light
“Imagine, adorable, if we were walking through a beautiful field, in a beautiful day and suddenly a storm fell over our heads. How wonderful! Is there greater emotion than seeing the elements producing wild power and energy? Let’s go to the fields, Mary, and seek the unexpected.”
—Khalil Gibran, from a love letter written to Mary Haskell, May 24, 1914
Imagine, readers, if we were walking through a beautiful field, in a beautiful day with a person we love and suddenly we decided to celebrate the “wildly ever after” instead of the “happily ever after.”
Is there a greater achievement than successfully withstanding the wild power and energy produced by the elements?
Forget the fairy tale and the happily-ever-after ending. How dull! (And unrealistic.) Look with delight upon the storms that fall over your head and the wild power and energy of the elements.
Go to the fields and seek the unexpected.