I lived in a very dark place several years ago. A place in my mind that was angry, scared and confused. Clinical depression and an anxiety ‘disorder’ are not something I like to associate with my path in life, but they are pieces that have helped shape who I am today. These bits are ones most people knew nothing about, but they aren’t anything I’m ashamed of. Rather, I like to use them as notes to help life myself up when I need a boost.
I took medication for several years after a pretty tumultuous time in my life left me unable to cope. They helped and I started to feel somewhat capable of continuing, but somehow I hated being dependent on them. I took myself off medication, against the doctors recommendations, and have fought an uphill battle since. The first few years were rough, I”m not going to lie, but then one day in a yoga class, the instructor gave me a precious gift. It was the self-awareness that comes with gratitude and intention in life. I wish I could remember his name, but that was a long time ago. His words are still here with me and I couple those with my life experiences to bring about a sense of understanding about myself on a daily basis.
It’s not about having what you like, it’s about liking what you have. That’s gratitude. I fell off the bandwagon with this a while back but I’ve begun making it a part of my day for the past few months and everyday I feel stronger and happier. It’s kind of like meditating and getting that feeling of calm and appreciation. When I meditate I often try to roll around my senses and focus on mundane things. The wind I’m hearing in the trees, the feel of the breeze across my skin, the slight smell coming from the eucalyptus boxes nearby. Mundane, but really, something to be grateful for. I’m alive and I can feel and smell and hear. I can love and laugh and be. Focusing on small things makes the bigger picture more clear in the long term. Once you have smelled the fresh clean air on a crisp autumn morning, and been thankful for not only it’s presence but for your own ability to appreciate it, you start feeling something new. You start feeling gratitude. You become truly grateful for life, for your life.
Every morning I wake up, tired and sleepy, as most people do. As I get into the shower I smile. Not just any smile, but a big gleeful smile. It sets my intention for the day. I smile to lift my spirit and send endorphins running through my body. Then I say a “I am thankful for…”. Sometimes its simple like: “I’m thankful for clean water to shower with.” or “I’m thankful for the sturdy walls of my home.” I always say it out loud, sometimes I even say it to myself in the mirror, just to make sure it sticks. If I’m feeling sad all morning, I might say things in real time in the car, like “I’m thankful for a safe car to drive, or money to put gas in that safe car.” I really believe that bringing these bits of thankfulness to the surface reminds me daily that I really do have things to be grateful for. They might be menial but they are reasons to be happy nonetheless. Life is not one big happy but, well, the whole is equal to the sum of it’s parts.
I have a bit about intention too, as I feel it’s often something people roll their eyes about. Have you ever woken up in a sour mood? Then you stub your toe on the way to the shower, drop your toothbrush on the floor, pour coffee down your shirt…all the while getting more and more angry and frustrated? The more you stew, the nastier your day becomes. Ever been in one of those moods and someone gives you a compliment, or smiles at you, or you see a cute puppy? That brief moment can suddenly change how you feel. It made you smile, and it literally changed your body chemistry. Before you were filled with Cortisol, the stress hormone, and suddenly you’re being infiltrated with endorphons. Magic. I always think to myself, ” Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I want the world to be a happy place, where people care about each other and work together. Therefore, I do my best to be happy, and to be that person in others lives who is kind and helpful. If my smile can help pull someone else out of a bad mood, then that makes one more happy moment in life for us both, and remember..the sum of it’s parts. I admit that no mater how hard I try sometimes I just can’t be happy, but often that fades when someone else, usually Marcus, brings their happiness to me. A hug, a conversation, sometimes a piece of pie will change my perspective and give me something to be grateful for. Intention and gratitude work very well together for me; each compliments the other.
Gratitude and Intention aren’t just about being happy though. While for me they may have started that way, I’ve seen them morph into something far more amazing. They have given me the ability to see my life outside of myself. I can use these tools to shape every aspect of my life from the friendships I cultivate to the foods I eat, to the impact my words have on those around me. It’s really endless how much more aware I have become about my space in humanity. I’m not saving the world or anything but I am creating the life I’m living instead of letting the life I’m living create me.
Everyone has dark patches in their lives, but so often we are told to be ashamed and hide those pieces. Our lives are like a quilt, with the dark fabric pressed up against the light, encircled by the abstract and intersected by the exciting patterns. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make the quilt without all the pieces, so why not use those pieces to make a stronger quilt, one reinforced with love and possibility? Use a stronger thread to bind them together, and be thankful for those dark pieces, for they fill in the holes. Best yet, use the tools you have to arrange your quilt of life into exactly what you dream of. You have that power, we all do. I’ve decided to harness my power, will you?