I have a tendency to wait too long. Whatever the word is beyond “procrastination”—that’s what it is. Sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes I just don’t want to do what I know is ultimately good for me. Gratitude works a bit like that in my life. Whenever I’m struggling with feeling overwhelmed by work, the kids—life—I know that taking a minute to write down or say out loud what I’m thankful for will help me shift to a more positive place. And yet, there are still times I just don’t take the time to do it.
Tonight, someone I know is in labor. I have three kids of my own—two born at home—so I have a little experience with the child birth process, at least from one perspective. Yes, not the perspective, but let’s not get into that here.
Child birth wasn’t just a life-changing event, but it totally changed the way I saw the world entirely. Everything came into focus; all of sudden, everything made sense. Even with the second and third one, I gained so much (besides the obvious). It wasn’t just “same old, same old.” In fact, I know now that no child birth is exactly the same, except for one thing: there’s always something. It’s such a crazy process—whether you do it naturally or there’s an emergency or you do a c-section—that there’s bound to be some aspect of the birth that tests the very core of your being, even if you’re not the one expelling the being from your core.
Today I received a Thank You out of the blue. It came from a young woman that lost her wallet two years ago just before Christmas. I had found her wallet outside a gas station in Folsom (a few hours from where I live) on my way home from celebrating Christmas at my aunt’s house. It was late and after glancing at the contents in the wallet, I decided I didn’t want to risk just leaving it with the gas attendant.
When I got home I found her on Facebook and messaged her to find out where I should mail it. I wanted to be sure I mailed it to her most current address. We connected, I dropped it in the mail, and all were happy. I expected that to be the end of it.
Maybe this is a shallow post, or even a selfish one, but in these fading moments of Christmas, I find myself missing new toys. When I was kid I loved getting into that new toy, the one that I was especially excited about. I would carefully open the package so I could read all the details later, then explore every nook and cranny, seeing what it did, and launch it into my imagination. I remember often falling asleep content, knowing that the entire next day would be filled with as much time as I wanted playing with my new toys.
Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.
I have come to learn that this is simply true. And although I’ve accepted this as true, it’s amazing how often I still fall prey to this old habit of creating and holding onto expectations. Part of my work with acceptance and gratitude has helped me improve how I look at and deal with life, and another big piece of “project self-betterment” is trying to eliminate those damned expectations.
There are two practices that solve nearly all my problems and because today is in fact Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to focus on one: Gratitude. The other is being in the present moment, and without going into that too much, I think you’ll see how one compliments the other for me.
Obviously the concept of gratitude isn’t a new one to me, but it has taken on a whole new level of importance in my life this past year. I have to thank my wife for really introducing this practice into my day-to-day and making it something that I do, not only daily, but especially when I’m struggling throughout the day. When I’m disappointed, fearful, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed—you name it—I simply have to take a breath and refocus on what I’m thankful for. It can be people in my life, circumstances, and even things—but not long after I start thinking about what I’m thankful for, my entire mood and outlook changes.