Butch, our 70-something year old very hip yoga instructor and cancer survivor, was talking about life and how we tend to drudge through, dragging ourselves around without much thought and just putting one foot in front of the other day after day. It’s a miserable way to go through life and yet we all seem to do it at times. Some blame their circumstances (Life dealt me a bad hand) while others blame those around them (It’s not my fault I’m so unhappy) and some people just accept the misery (It is what it is). We carry on like soldiers walking into battle, worn and tired, holding tightly to our emotions stuffed into the invisible backpacks we hoist onto our shoulders every morning when we rise from our beds. We remind ourselves how many more days until the weekend or our next vacation or some random time in the future where we think we will find contentment, peace or happiness. We go through life, through the days, and through the moments. And then sadly, one day, we die.
I am guilty of handing the wheel over to Auto-Kelly. She gets up every morning, does her hair and puts her make-up on, takes her daughter to school, goes to work, stops at the grocery store, comes home to cook dinner, reads her emails, pays bills, blah blah blah. On a good day I hit the gym or take a yoga class or walk my dog. It’s too easy and it allows me to just get through the day, coasting with my head down and eyes half closed. I am guilty of being a passenger in my own life.
What Butch said struck home: what if we didn’t just go THROUGH life but we actually went TO something? What if we looked at our purpose, our passion and our potential and we changed our thought process, followed our heart or set a goal for ourselves? What would happen if we turned off auto-pilot and started driving our own bus in the direction we wanted to go? What if we decided what we wanted and we set out to achieve it, regardless of how old or weathered we think we are?
Butch woke me up. In the class he even said “Hellllo McFly”. No joke.
All day I asked myself: What do I want to go TO? Where am I headed? The question bothered me because I didn’t know the answer. Wait, aren’t I supposed to have an answer for everything– I am a therapist. We help people find their answers, their truths and their direction. And yet, I blanked on what it is I want to go towards in my life that would wake me up and set me straight.
I woke up in the middle of the night and it hit me. Another “Hellllo McFly” moment. The Slap.
I didn’t have a big epiphany of a career change or taking my family on a year long trek across different continents exploring the world or selling all my belongings and moving into one of those tiny houses you see on TV that people say will allow them the freedom to explore or live life the way they want. (Side note: Tiny houses scare me and personally, I like my space and need a big spacious bathroom in order to have peace and happiness.) It wasn’t a profound goal or unanswered prayer that changed the direction of my life or made me do some drastic u-turn from where I was headed – instead it was simple. It put me back in the drivers seat, straightened the wheel and reminded me to shed the backpack. I realized I wanted to go TO a place of gratitude, appreciation for where I AM and enjoyment in the day to day things I get to do.
Gratitude is a very cliche thing these days. I blame Oprah. Everyone talks about it like it’s some holy sacred temple you get to visit. People speak it, live it for a brief time and then go back on auto-pilot. In all honesty, it’s an overused and underappreciated word. It is so much more than just an attitude, it is a complete change in thought process . It requires you to stop, slow down and find the good. Some days, this is hard, especially when you question your meaning and value to this world. But it is possible to go to a place of gratitude, even on dark days when nothing seems to be going right. Finding gratitude means showing up and being accountable to see what you have instead of what you want. It means finding value in those around you instead of seeking new people to fill old wounds. It means hitting the reset button and taking the blinders off. It means to stop comparing ourselves, our lives and our flaws to others. It means less under the microscope and more wide lens.
I am grateful I’m lucky to do a job I love and going to work is not a chore, but a privilege. I have an imperfect family but they are mine to love and they love me unconditionally, mask off. My kids drive me crazy, stress me out and cause me question my parenting skills but I am grateful they also have good moral compasses, love their grandparents and hug me nightly before they go to bed. I am reminded that my husband, who puts his dishes in the sink instead of the dishwasher or doesn’t pick up his clothes off the bedroom floor, is also the man who tells me I am beautiful when I feel fat and ugly, writes me poems every Christmas and encourages me to have wine night with the girls because he knows how much I need and treasure women friendships. I am genuinely grateful for him because I know he is genuinely grateful for me. We aren’t perfect but we make it work and for that, I am grateful. I don’t have a vacation house but I have a cozy home that my kids like to be at and while I don’t travel as much as I would like, I have saved for my kids college and my credit score is pretty darn good. I realized that while I could be skinnier, have less wrinkles or a flatter tummy, I am grateful I am healthy and my body does a pretty amazing job every day carrying me around. I realized that gratitude isn’t a place I am going to but rather a place I am already at.
I don’t want to just go through the days and forget the moments because I had my head down and my backpack on. I want to open my eyes, trust my skills, throw the backpack out the window and take the wheel. There is always something to be grateful for. There is always something to appreciate about my life. It is not happy people who are grateful. It is grateful people who are happy.