“This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” -Maya Angelou
In honour of the American Thanksgiving weekend, I thought I’d write a bit about gratitude. (notice how I spelled ‘honour’ the Canadian way though? sneaky, right?)
I was in Ottawa for Canadian Thanksgiving, visiting my guy’s family. It was a beautiful weekend full of love, laughter and fun. We visited the Parliament Buildings (a first for me) and I was struck by the beauty and majesty of our nation’s capital. I also felt an unusual feeling…..might it be….a tiny bit of patriotism? gasp!
Canadians aren’t really known for being patriotic. We see Americans as the ultimate patriots…proud, fiercely protective of their country, flying their flags and wearing the stars and stripes. I lived in the States for a few years, and I was amazed at the level of passion I witnessed for their country. (especially on football game days).
Canadians, however? We’re a bit… meh.
Not all of us, I’m sure. Growing up on the west coast, however, the culture is very laid back. Easy going. Yeah, we love our country, no doubt. But all out, full on, patriotic passion? Not so much.
Here’s what I’m noticing though. We just had an election. A big one. A brand new Prime Minister, a Liberal majority, and lots of change already. And – Canadians are talking. About politics, about our country, about what we want to see change, what we are hoping for.
I see what is going on in the world – the crazy, scary, messed up stuff that is happening – and I feel overwhelming sadness for our planet. It’s an uncertain time for everyone, and a downright terrifying and life threatening time for others. There are a lot of debates about what should be done, how much we should get involved, and who should do what.
And at the same time, I look around me at the wide open spaces. The trees covered in a light dusting of snow. The sun slanting through the clouds and illuminating the distant mountains like a flame dancing on the breeze. The children walking home from school, bundled in coats and toques (that’s a hat for all you non-Canucks) and mittens, laughing with cheeks rosy from the cold. The coffee shop where I love to sit with my Americano and talk for hours.
And I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. For where I live. For how I live. For whom I love, and who love me. I feel the surge of hope that fills me up when I focus on what I’m grateful for.
And it got me thinking.
Gratitude is a practice for me. Not that I used to be ungrateful, I just didn’t focus on what I was grateful for. I kept my sights fixed on what was wrong. Not rich enough. Not thin enough. Too cold. Too hot. Too bored. Just not…..enough. It kept me in a negative state of mind, a constant mental barrage of what wasn’t working, or why I wasn’t happy.
And it worked. I walked around feeling grumpy, hard done by, or downright miserable. The world was against me. I was stuck. No choices, no options. Just….meh.
I heard all the ‘gratitude’ messages, just like all of you. ‘Have an attitude of gratitude.’ ‘What are you grateful for today?’ And Oprah’s voice in the back of my mind telling me to write down three things I’m grateful for every day.
I ignored it all.
Until one day, when I woke up to the truth. I had a shitty attitude. And the reality was, I had a great life. An amazing life. A super fantastic, glorious, shiny, sparkly life. I just wasn’t paying attention. Not that everything was perfect, mind you. All the things I had been miserable about were still there, for the most part. I just changed my focus. And little bit by little bit, I started focusing on what I was thankful for. The sunset. My kid’s laughter. That I had money for gas and food that week. My favourite song on the radio.
And….woah. I had a whole lot to be thankful for!
The key for me, was to take the word ‘gratitude’ out of the over-used, cliched, meaningless box that I had placed it in, and put my own fresh spin on it. Breathe new life into the word. Make it real. We all have something to be grateful for, even if it’s just that we managed to have a shower this morning or it’s a new day that we are still alive on this planet, or that we have breath in our lungs or a hug from a child.
There’s always something.
And here’s the cool thing. It starts to change stuff. Little by little. Bit by bit. Turning our focus from what’s wrong to what’s right, or from what’s meh to what’s beautiful, changes everything. It turns life from something to just get through, to something that’s an ever-changing adventure, a thrill ride, a gift.
Gratitude is talked about a lot over Thanksgiving. It’s something we are ‘supposed’ to do, be, talk about. What if we tried doing, being, and talking about it every damn day? What would change?
I’ll tell you what will change.
You will change. You will transform. You will notice what’s right there in front of you…..the tiny gifts, the big wahoos, the beautiful nuances of your life that are just waiting for you to notice. Like I said, I’m practicing gratitude. Some days I focus on what’s not working in my life and…..bam. I’m back in the meh. Other days I stay present and allow the magic of this world to get inside. Allow the magic of me to get outside. That’s when I know that this gratitude thing really works.
Try it. Not just this weekend, but every day. Notice. See. Feel. Be thankful. Come on, I dare you. Then….pay attention to what happens. Because I promise you, something will start to change.
What will change? Not your circumstances (Although that will most likely happen too. Gratitude is that freakin powerful). You will change. You will be smack dab in the middle of your life, your country, your world, and you will change. The meh will fall away, and magic will be with you everywhere you go.
The magic is already there. Right there, inside of you. Gratitude is the key that unlocks it and sets it free. And here’s a thought. Imagine if it unlocked the magic inside each and every person on this planet. If we all walked around feeling grateful for this one life we’ve been given. It might be the key that transforms this world. One person at a time.