G is for Gratitude #AtoZChallenge

My friend suggested I write about why I chose to use gratitude as my theme for the challenge. “Do a deeper dive,” she said, “and explain why it means so much to you.”

It wasn’t that long ago that I spent most of my time focusing on what I didn’t have or how I wished my life were different. And because I was a student at the school of Oprah, I would suggest people do gratitude journals and such because she said they worked even though I didn’t really know why.

In the past few years, I have learned that gratitude is an important part of my life because, much like acceptance, it keeps me focused on the present and helps me to shift my thinking so that I see all that is good and right around me–even when it feels like everything is going wrong.

Gratitude as I practice it is, in short, keeping the focus on what I do have and what is going right in my life instead of focusing on what’s missing or wrong.

For example, one time I ran over the curb and blew my tire. This was not a good thing that happened. It was inconvenient, I don’t actually know how to change a tire, I knew it would cost money to repair/get a new tire, etc.

However, in that same day, I found a lot to be grateful for:

1. The blowout happened at the grocery store, which worked out perfectly because I had to pee so bad. Soooo bad. Like, I didn’t even care that much that the tire was blown out at first because I had to pee.

2. I bought what I needed from the grocery store and, as I was checking out, the cashier asked how my day was going, and I told her not great because of the blowout. I hadn’t even noticed, but standing in front of me at line were my friend and her husband. “Do you need help?” they asked.

3. My friend’s husband changed my tire. While he was working on it, a guy from a restaurant who ran to the store to get syrup saw my friend’s husband changing the tire and gave him some tool thing that made it easier. (Also, two or three other people asked if he/we needed help.)

4. I, of course, had no money to buy a new tire. I went to Sears and because I had such good credit, I was able to get a store card to put the tires on (all of my tires actually needed to be replaced). Not only were they having a special on the tires, but I was able to get them with 0% interest for 18-24 months.

Now, old me would have bitched about the fact that my tire blew and now I had this new bill. New me was able to see all of the good things that happened to me that day even while I was dealing with something that was a hassle.

Here is another, more personal, example of gratitude working in my life:

I hate Father’s Day. (I also hate Mother’s Day, but for different reasons, but that’s a discussion for a different time.) I mostly hate it because my (step)dad and I did not have the best relationship while I was growing up, and my biological father is an absentee deadbeat. There are other reasons for my dislike of it, but you get the gist.

One particular Father’s Day, I was feeling especially resentful and angry that the day existed. But I had learned to try gratitude as a countermeasure for those feelings. So rather than revel in my rightness at how I was done so wrong by these men, I got out pen and paper and started writing a list of all of the good things my (step)dad had done for me.

After I wrote the list, I felt so much better and I was so much less angry. In fact, I appreciated my dad and all that he had done for me. I acknowledged that he wasn’t perfect, but he also wasn’t all terrible either.

In less than thirty minutes, my whole attitude had changed–and all because I practiced gratitude.

I wasn’t planning to do the A to Z Challenge this year. But ever since the election, things have been rough. The news has been terrible. It feels like the world is falling apart. Or at least that’s how it feels when I watch the news or I’m on Twitter. And that may be so. However, every day, all around me, small miracles are happening if I pay attention to them. And that’s why I chose gratitude as my theme for the challenge. Because I wanted to spend the month of April focusing on all that is good around me to counteract the large scale attention that all that is bad attracts.

Blogging from A to Z is a challenge that runs through the month of April.

For the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year, my theme is gratitude. Every day, I am going to post about something I am grateful for. Tune in Monday to see what I pick for H.