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Guidepost #4 - Cultivating Gratitude and Joy

Gratitude is not a thing you have, it is a thing you do.  Without doing, it doesn't exist.  It is a bit like all the wool in my cupboards ---bags of it. I would say I am a knitter---but if I don't actually DO it ---can I claim I am a knitter?  
I read Simple Abundance and kept an Abundance Journal when I was off work like this many years ago.  It felt silly at first.

I am grateful for the blue sky today. 
I am grateful for more green lights than red on the way to the grocery store. 
I am grateful I found one cold soda at the back of the fridge when I thought we were out. 

But instead of being silly, it made me mindful.  It caused me to seek out the good things in my day...and the act of writing them down gave them life.  There is something about taking a thought in your head and transposing it to paper.  It makes it real.  It becomes important.  And the more you do it, the more gratitude you find.  It is like when you zone out at during a boring movie and then Ka-POW something happens and suddenly the colors are bright, the sound it loud and you completely engage in life (even though they were there all along--you were probably texting and didn't notice).  And with cultivation and practice, gratitude can turn into joy. 

Joy is different from happiness.  Joy goes one step beyond.  Happiness is often tied to an event, whereas "joy is tied to spirit and gratitude". (p 79)

Joy is also an intense emotion and opening up to it means leaving yourself vulnerable to fear.  So someone like me, with anxiety issues might find this very difficult.  As a mother, I have looked upon my sleeping child with such intense Joy...stroked his hair...felt his warm cheek against my lips.  But in a split second, fear of what might happen to this love of my life strangles the Joy.  Such intense Joy, such vulnerability is too much.  In my mind I can hear the sound of his neck snapping as he falls over our too low railing when he gets up to use the washroom in the night.   I can see him fall.  There is nothing I can do to stop it.

I got up the courage to share this horrible, awful, image with my good friend M.  She looked at me and burst out ---I do the exact same thing!!  It's awful!  It was so freeing to know I was not alone.  Brene Brown talks about this exact same thing in this chapter on Joy and gratitude and so if it happens to her too--I am in good company.

It feels like instead of practicing Joy and gratitude, I can sometimes get stuck in fear. Fear of losing it all..when in  reality...practicing Joy and gratitude will be the things that will sustain me through the tough times.  Because rest assured---shit happens!  That was one of the Ka-POW moments for me in the adult day treatment program.  The first thing I needed to accept was problems occur, shit happens, plans will be disrupted, you are NOT in control of everything.  So get used to the idea.  You only cause yourself misery if you think that life will always work out the way you think it should.  Accepting "shit happens" allows you to adjust your expectations. Not to say you should expect things to never work out....just try to step back from the moment---take a breath and realize that shit. happens.  So fix it, adjust it, try something else, give up for the day and try tomorrow.  Just don't get bogged down in the shit!

What is in this chapter that helps is the concept of sufficiency.  Instead of starting my day with the "one foot already in the grave" mentality of "I haven't had enough sleep", followed by a long list of other things I am not, have not, should be, don't have and ending my day condemning myself for what I didn't get done.  It is stepping back to look at the bigger picture of your day and finding a way to say you did enough. 

I feel like this time has allowed me to get back in touch with Joy and moments of gratitude---the warm breeze, rainbows, a mouse in our composter, the gorgeous spider in our garden (even though I am not a FAN of spiders) ---I pause in wonder of these things and am grateful they are in my path to remind me to be present---to be here.  The fear associated with Joy still tempers my experiences.  How do I enjoy this time off work when all I can think about is someone telling me I have to go back.  If I enjoy this will be cut short.  I should suffer during this time to show I need it.  I "should not" enjoy it because at any moment it can come to an end. 

When I had my last visit with my therapist she said to me---"Enjoy your summer off with your boys".  The first words out of my mouth were "Does that mean I am going back to work in September??"  These were words of panic.  I like to know the plan. 

Since then I have begun to let go.  To not think about when...and have been challenged now to think about what my heart wants.  Not what my head says. 

I have been accepted into an 8 week program MAG (mood and anxiety group) and I look forward to the structure and challenges I will face as I meet a new group and tackle assignments and homework.

As always, I am a Work in Progress.


  1. This is one of my favorite posts of yours. I can definitely relate to a lot of what you say here.


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