Gratitude is a muscle

So like most of the people I know, I started the year with a new planner. I didn’t plan on getting the Starbucks one, but circumstances (hanging out at the hospital everyday at the end of the year for my dad’s gall bladder surgery) had me complete the stickers. I had a bullet journal with me, though, so the planner wasn’t exactly going to be useful to me.

But since I chose grateful as my 2017 word, and I missed being all artsy~ in my planners, I eventually figured it out. I got the idea from a friend, who used her planner as her gratitude journal, and I thought that was a great idea and decided to do it.

So January came, and I took the time every night to fill the day with something I was thankful for. They were usually simple things – easy commute to work, waking up on time, good breakfast, getting some time to exercise. Or sometimes, something special, too:  my two-year anniversary at work, crappy first drafts, finding dresses and discounts for weddings, going to musicals with friends. And some days, I wrote about the bad things, too: falling into sin again, worry about changes at work, annoyances.

I kept it up for a month or so, with the examen at the end of the day to help me keep still. I thought, “Hey, this is actually fun and easy, I think I could keep it up until the end of the year.”

The last time I touched my planner (other than this week) was February 14.

Of course this would happen. It always happens. I’ve noticed this in the past three years or so that I often lose track of my word and my theme sometime after January. What happens is this: I get distracted, I get a disruption in my schedule (in this case, it was the trip to Iloilo for the SFC conference), and then I find it hard to get back into the groove because life just got busy.

You’d think I’d be ready for these things, you know? Or you’d think I’d be ready to at least fight for what I’ve been trying to do a little. But I don’t.

Now we’re almost halfway to June, and I’m in kind of a funk. I’m not sure why or how or when it started, but I found myself complaining more, or ranting more, or just becoming cranky and impatient toward other people. I feel a little troubled with this, especially when I found myself dreading weekdays, and finding the days just passing me by without finding anything meaningful to make them count.

Have you ever felt the same?

Then I remembered: gratitude, just like prayer, faith, joy, courage, and love, is a muscle. You need to choose to practice it actively if you want to grow into that kind of person.

And I remembered, too, the blank pages of my planner that I didn’t fill with things and people I was grateful for.

And because I needed to do something about this, I thought: let’s exercise that gratitude muscle.

It’s simple: I’ll open my planner and write the things I’m grateful for everyday, again. But instead of just looking into me doing this until the end of the year, I’ll give myself ten days.

Ten days of gratitude.

Ten days of writing it down, of being mindful and intentional about being grateful.

I digress, sort of: when January rolled around, I told myself that I was going to change my physical fitness goals, because the “lose # lbs” wasn’t working for me anymore (did it ever?). I decided to change my “KPI,” and instead of counting the pounds, I decided to count the number of workouts I did in the week. That’s something within my control, and easier to track. My goal was to hit at least 3 workouts within the week.

And you know what, that worked. Granted, I didn’t hit the 3 workout counts every single week, but it changed my priority and made me less frustrated when I go for my monthly measurements. I knew that I wouldn’t see any changes if I didn’t work out a lot, and vice versa. It made me more accountable, and it made going to exercise more enjoyable, somehow.

So just like exercising my actual muscles, I’ll go exercise my gratitude muscle. Just ten days. That shouldn’t be hard, right?

I’ll be back to write about it again. If you want to do this with me, comment below? I’d love to hear your journey, too. :)

Gratitude, Again

Let me take this moment to breathe a sigh of relief and say: Thank God April is almost over. Whew.

It’s not that April was a completely horrible month. It was more of April kicking me in places that I didn’t know even really existed. I wasn’t particularly sad, but it felt like there were too many things this month that had been pulling me down. It was harder to be happy and stay happy because I was worrying about a million and one things, I was busy with a thousand and probably paranoid about a hundred things. Almost everything is getting into my nerves. I was hardly calm, and even when I find a sense of calm sometimes, something happens (or I do something stupid) that knocks me off balance again and I go back. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But April is also good, in a lot of ways. I surfed. It was our book club’s anniversary month, so we had a ton of activities here and there — book covering for hours and hours, my first outreach event, our first (real) pool party, and a road trip across the city to watch a movie that is showing everywhere but we wanted to watch it there just because. There were phone conversations, assurances and things to remind me of who I am, of what I am capable of, and people who are willing to stay up to 2 in the morning talking to me because I feel unsettled. There were lots of laughter. And hope. Lots of hope.

So while April is busy kicking my butt, it’s also busy trying to teach me a lesson. Or several lessons. Most of them are too lengthy to blog about — patience (as always), balance, trust, friendships and relationships, graciousness. And just recently: gratitude.

Remember how at the end of March, I was so grateful for all the things that I was given during my favorite month? How all I can say was thank you, and my heart was bursting with gratitude because it was such a beautiful month? I wanted so much to get into that state again in the midst of April, to be grateful for the good things again because it’s easy to be thankful then. It’s easy to go back to those happy moments and say thank you. But when things aren’t going my way? I can’t even say thank you at all.

However, I have learned that gratitude isn’t exclusively for the good things. Gratitude applies to good and bad things. It takes a lot of maturity and courage to give thanks for the bad just as you say “thank you” for the good. It’s all about perspective, they say, and that’s true. I just forget it too easily.

Image from we heart it
Image from we heart it

April is ending, whew. I am happy it is, and thankful for all the lessons it has taught me. I’m pretty sure it’s far from over, but thank you anyway, April. I won’t miss you, but thank you. For May…

…I pray for the strength and courage to be truly thankful, even when everything feels like they’re falling apart1

…I pray for grace and peace for the moments when I worry, cry and complain, so I can just be grateful for being where I am.

…I pray for the trust that even if things aren’t going my way, I will remember that I am blessed and say thank you.

We’ll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need.2

(more…)

  1. Often, they’re not. I just feel like it does, sometimes. []
  2. Gratitude, Nichole Nordeman []

Thank you, October

Also known as: A little thank you. And a cute sunflower. :)

Image from we heart it

October was…crazy. Crazy busy. I wanted to blog more, really, but in the past month, I’ve come home from work just wanting to sleep, and not even read much or write. I find it funny how there were so many things that seemed to spill over from September to October, just how July spilled over to August and August to September. Ah, everything’s connected for real, I guess.

But…October has been nice, too, despite all the craziness. I know, it’s strange. But I’m really not complaining.

I know this is utterly cheesy, but if you would ask me how my heart is this month…I would use that sunflower photo above. No, I do not have a sunflower for a heart. Remember how I said that sunflowers are my favorite flowers because they’re really awesome and cheerful and they follow the sun? My heart feels like that now — like it’s…bursting. With light. And it’s looking at the sun, even if it’s night time.

I don’t know if that made sense. But allow me to be cryptic on my blog for now.

So. If you were a part of my October…thank you. If I saw you in the past month or talked to you, or we did something together or something like that, then this post is for you. :) Thank you for making my raging October brighter. Despite all the stress, despite the lack of sleep and despite everything that has happened to me and will happen, I will always remember all those bright moments in the past month and keep them in my heart. :)

Happy November, everyone. :)