About a year ago I pulled myself out of a toxic relationship, with the help of close friends & family, sobbing & having panic attacks all along the way, and eventually found myself in a a roommate situation- a small loft/ attic-ish space. It’s tiny and some days I can’t believe I’m utilizing the space for fabric cutting, sewing, & production, but amazingly I’m doing it.
Of course, not without moments of intense frustration & harsh critical inner dialogue:
Why am I 38 and can’t even afford my own apartment?
Why did I choose Library Science as my degree when libraries are going under & there is no work?
Why do I have to suffer being single at 38 in a city where everyone is married?
And the ‘lack’ would go on & on…until I discovered a tool to transform it. I started practicing gratitude. It is changing my life, my thoughts, my moment-to-moment reality. I’ve become such a believer in it that today I’m sharing a few lessons so that you might benefit like I did.
Gratitude requires surrender.
‘Surrender’ simply means to stop fighting. In your mind, stop fighting the present, the nature of reality, the way things are being revealed to you, what your life looked like today when you woke up, the hand you’re currently dealt.
When first adjusting to my little loft, I fought hard. In straight denial, kept telling myself get out of here! get a job! make more money! get away from this situation! Well, 20 resumes & a handful of interviews later nothing had changed. The universe was trying to communicate a different message but I wasn’t listening.
Finally, I stopped fighting. I began praying, journaling, meditating, crying more intentionally (Amy Scher, author of “How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can” calls this ‘graceful begging’) and pretty soon noticed a shift in my thoughts:
Ok, maybe I will be in this tiny loft for a while- but I have the warmth of roommates’ company, it’s quiet up in my loft, & there are nice places to walk to in the neighborhood.
Ok, maybe the part-time nonprofit job I already have isn’t so bad- I get PTO, paid holidays, & a nice office- not to mention my afternoons FREE!
Ok, so maybe being single at 38 is a gift- I have lots of free time & there’s momentum to try new things, volunteer, meet people & develop my creative business ideas.
Gratitude happens when you change your perspective.
When I accepted the situation as it was, I began to see it as something entirely new! Months ago it was: I’m broke, gonna be a sad old maid, can’t even score a full-time job in my degree, why am I even starting a creative business?
Now it’s completely changed to:
There are SO MANY free resources on the internet, so much I can learn, other entrepreneurs to meet!
Time is a resource and I have a LOT of that!
Being single gives extra momentum/ opens possibilities for being a creative entrepreneur- I have FREEDOM!
I love my little loft & conversations/ shared time w/ roommates!
I’m so lucky!
So, keep aware of your perspective. Once you start practicing gratitude you might notice a lot of things you bitched about in the past look pretty amazing to you!
Gratitude requires humility.
Recently I watched “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama’ in which the filmmaker asked His Holiness why when traveling he noticed more smiles on the faces of people living in poverty than the richer class. The Dalai Lama said the poor people knew contentment because they only had daily necessities to fill. He said the rich were ‘mentally poor’ because they lived in a state of greed.
I remember when my ego was stuck on getting a salaried 9 to 5 career/ office job that fit my degree. Throughout the whole time I was frantically applying & interviewing my roommates casually mentioned that a small health food store was hiring. My ego resisted it hard…at first.
Then, I humbled myself. And it turns out, working in a health food store is just what I need. Amazingly, I watched the thoughts shift AGAIN:
ego: “Ugh, a grocery clerk…the pay is too low, it’s not a respectable career job, you have to punch in, no office, no way.”
humble self: “Wow, finally, a chance to meet people and not be behind a desk all day. Standing/ moving at work is healthy & strengthening for the body. You get a discount on food. You get to help people & connect with them. There are opportunities for growth, management, good pay & travel. Did I mention, you get to meet people?”
So, next time you’re cringing at the thought of something, ask if it’s really you or your ego(?) Remember that there’s a lot more to the story of cultivating happiness than ‘acquiring more’, and when you humble yourself that’s when all the doors start to open- the creativity, the joy, the gratitude.
Hope these lessons help you in developing a gratitude practice. Now I’m off to go make some scarves!